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After S. Sudan Bloodshed, Briefing at UN, Rice Says Cattle Rustling's "No Joke"

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 3 -- After the bloodbath in Pibor, the UN Mission in South Sudan was criticized by Murle clergy and members of parliament for not having protected civilians but only government buildings in the center of town. Inner City Press asked the UN Spokesperson for comment on Monday, without response.

  In front of the Security Council on Tuesday, Inner City Press asked US Ambassador Susan Rice on her way in if the events in Pibor would be the subject of a briefing of the Council, as predicted here earlier in the day.

Ambassador Rice on her way out, after meeting with this month's president of the Council Baso SSangqu of South Africa, said "probably yes." Inner City Press asked her about a mock cattle rustling demonstration she and some other Council members saw in Malau in South Sudan during their trip there on May 24 of last year. [See photo below.]

  Rice said it was "not just cattle" but also "children being abducted" that leads to inter-communal instability. She said the demonstration was change to see the issues "first hand," but that only half of the Security Council members went, with others staying behind in Juba.

  "I wish all had a chance to see it," Rice said. "Some thought cattle rustling was a joke. It's not a joke."

  From Juba on Tuesday UN official Lise Grande briefed the Press, acknowledging that the "southern flank" of Pibor had been left unprotected. She said that before Luo-Nuer fighters arrived, "ninety to ninety five percent" of the Murle residents had left and were "out of harm's way."

  Inner City Press asked her about reports that the Murle were "slaughtered" once they left Pibor -- after being "urged" to leave by the UN -- and about what if anything the UN is doing to try to avoid further cattle rustling reprisal attacks like the one directed at the Luo-Nuer in August 2011. Video here, from Minute 14:05.

  Grande said that UNMISS' mandate is to provide early warning, to support the government of South Sudan and only step in when the government is not able to protect civilians. Did that happen here? And did the UN urge the Murle to flee, as it were, the frying pan for the fire? These questions should be answered.

(c) UN Photo
Cattle rustling theater for UN in Malau May 2011, Pibor 7 months later not shown

  UK Permanent Representative Mark Lyall Grant told Inner City Press he favors a briefing "this week," adding that while some people might think it is not a matter of international peace and stability, it can have impacts. With UNMISS "involved," he said, "it will be useful to get a briefing." Watch this site.

Footnote: Inner City Press asks asked Grande if UNMISS has yet gone to the town of Jau, which South Sudan said Khartoum's forces invaded.

  After some back and forth, Grande emphasized that UNMISS is in the Yida camp to the south, saying that the border is not demarcated, not agreed to be the parties. By the UN Mission not going, it seems like UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous did to be saying that Jau is in north Sudan.  We'll see.

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

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

Click here for Sept 26, 2011 New Yorker on Inner City Press at UN

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