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On Sudan, UN Can't or Won't Confirm Bombs, Was Silent on Journalist's Arrest

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 25 -- Between Sudan and South Sudan the UN has three peacekeeping missions and one additional envoy, Haile Menkerios, who has been urged to move to the region to better mediate between the two Sudans, and to save the UN money. But the UN in New York has no answers.

All week Inner City Press has asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokespeople about reported bombings and even an overflight of Juba, about the arrest of a journalist in South Sudan, and the recommendation that Menkerios move to the region.

After days of saying "we'll get back to you," on Friday the UN did, thusly:

Subject: Your questions on Sudan
From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply [at]
Date: Fri, May 25, 2012

1) Regarding your question about the reported aerial bombing of Bahr-e-Ghazal, UNMISS is in the process of verifying the reported bombings.

2) Regarding your question about the ACABQ’s recommendations concerning Haile Menkerios, the fifth committee & budget discussions are still ongoing. At this stage we cannot comment on ongoing discussions between the General Assembly and the Secretariat - especially as decisions have not yet been made.

3) As for whether UNMISS is commenting on the arrest of a journalist a few days ago, UNMISS is aware of the arrest and has alerted the authorities. The mission is closely monitoring this case to ensure that freedom of expression and human rights principles are respected.

On the first, it is amazing that a UN mission as expensive as UNMISS cannot confirm or deny such bombing, even four days later. Inner City Press' question about a white Antonov reportedly flying over Juba is not included in, or answered by, the response.

  UNMISS silence is pervasive: despite assurances from its chief Hilde Johnson, it has still not released its estimate of the number of people killed in Pibor at the cusp of the year. Inner City Press asked again, and DPKO spokesman Kieran Dwyer replied

"On South Sudan and the report on Pibor, the mission will release the comprehensive report on this matter when the full process is completed. We will not be releasing information in a piecemeal manner before then."

   The deaths were months ago.

   On the recommendation by the UN's own Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions that Menkerios move to the region, one would expect Ban's Secretariat to have something to say on why he has not.

(A separate answer confirming Inner City Press' exclusive story that Darfur envoy Ibrahim Gambari spent over $600,000 on a house in El Fasher for himself and four guards said that the information was given to ACABQ in April - but it not in ACABQ's April report, inquiries are being made.)

On the case of journalist Ayak Dhieu Apar of Radio Rumbek FM 98, arrested on May 14, UNMISS and envoy Hilde Johnson said nothing publicly in defense of the journalist.

  Meanwhile at UN headquarters four days after Reuters stole an exclusive report by Inner City Press that US official Jeffrey Feltman would replace Lynn Pascoe as the head of the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's Department of Political Affairs, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky about its due process rights in the face of a spurious complaint by Reuters' UN reporter Louis Charbonneau. See Charbonneau's complaint to the UN's Media Accreditation & Liaison Unit, here.

   Nesirky replied that this should be "dealt with off camera."

   Inner City Press followed up asking if journalists at the UN have the right to see such complaints or files maintained about them by Ban's Media Accreditation Unit.

  Nesirky responded that there are "rules and procedures," but wouldn't say what these rules are. For the record, Nesirky proudly lists that he used to work for Reuters. He said he was "fully aware" of the situation and that "we'll deal with it separately." Who's the "we"?  Watch this site.

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Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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