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On Slow UN Response in S. Sudan, US Rice Slow to Criticize, Vietor UNclear, Reforms Uncertain

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 17, updated below -- The day after UN Under Secretary General Susana Malcorra acknowledged to Inner City Press that the UNMISS mission in South Sudan had been unable to transport to Jonglei state "lethal assets to dissuade" the ongoing bloodshed there, Inner City Press asked US Ambassador Susan Rice what she thought of the Russian helicopters not flying, and the UN's actions.

  Rice answered more cagily than usual, directing Inner City Press to ask the Russian Mission and DPKO [UN Peacekeeping] about the reasons for not flying, thanking Russian for its previous service in North Sudan, and saying that the Security Council is working to ensure UNMISS has the air assets it needs. But how?

  Inner City Press understands that in exchange for filling in for the Russian helicopters, the Bangladeshi unit in the DR Congo wants to have at least a one year contract, rather than the much shorter period the UN has put on the table.

  The Ethiopian helicopters at UNISFA in Abyei wanted to be based in Juba, not in the more primitive conditions in, for example, Wau.

   Rice and the US Mission were appropriately quick to criticize UN peacekeepers in the DR Congo who failed to recognize or respond to mass rape in Walikale. Here, perhaps because as the Russians complain the US blocked a Security Council statement in November 2011 about attacks in South Sudan on Russian pilots, Rice has not unleashed the type of criticism used in the DR Congo.

  Another explanation is that since the incident does not reflect well on US ally South Sudan, the less said the better.

  The entire helicopter incident, first reported by Inner City Press, has brought up the need for reforms, starting with arrangements for "inter-mission cooperation" that can be put into place while a bloodbath like in Jonglei is actually taking place, and not after.

(c) UN Photo
Rice & Russia Churkin, blocked statement & helicopters not shown

  The Security Council members want the power to control the size of each Mission; the troop and equipment contributing countries want to know where they will serve, and under what terms.

  But how can the UN and the Security Council's mission pretend to be ready to protect civilians if they allow helicopter contracts to lapse, go weeks with no helicopter coverage, and then are still unable to mobilize even nearby helicopter assets, being paid by the UN, to come and transport "lethal assets to dissuade" attacks on civilians? Watch this site.

Footnote: Inner City Press three times asked the US Mission to the UN's spokesmen for Rice's or the Mission's comments on the UN's response in Jonglei, without response. Nor was the spokesman going to permit it at Tuesday's stakeout on Sudan. Rice to her credit pointed and took the question.

Update: Seven hours after Ambassador Rice's stakeout, the administration sent this out:

Statement from NSC Spokesman Tommy Vietor on Violence in South Sudan

...We also note the mandate of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) with respect to conflict prevention and civilian protection, and call upon the South Sudanese government and the UN to continue working closely together on this vitally important mission. We further call upon the UN to provide any additional support that is needed by UNMISS to carry out its responsibilities in South Sudan.

So the UN is reminded it's supposed to protect civilians? And the UN is supposed to provide helicopters, belatedly? We'll have more on this.

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Click here for Sept 23, '11 about UN General Assembly

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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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