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On Sudan, As US Says No Abyei Referendum Jan 9, UN Silent, on Darfur Killings Too

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 8 -- On Abyei, the day after US State Department spokesman PPJ Crowley told the Press “we have a recognition that that referendum will not go forward on January 9th,” the UN on December 8 declined to join in the recognition.

  Inner City Press had asked Crowley about Sudan, including the referenda and bombings, regarding which the SPML has asked for an investigation by the UN Security Council, led this month by the US.

  Crowley did not answer about the bombings, but called the South Sudan referendum among the most important issues of the first half of 2011. He added on “the situation on Abyei... we have a recognition that that referendum will not go forward on January 9th, but we continue to encourage the parties to work on a solution to Abyei.”

  At the UN's December 8 noon briefing, Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Martin Nesirky if the UN and its Mission in Sudan UNMIS agree or disagree with the US assessment.

  Nesirky woodenly repeated that Abyei is important to the UN, just as he has repeated platitudes from the UN Mission in Darfur, UNAMID, about looking into Khartoum's actions and statement, in order to speak with the Bashir government behind the scene.

   In fact, the lone Darfur rebel group which signed a deal with Bashir has now broken it off and had its offices raided. UNAMID won't confirm this. Inner City Press is informed that when asked for the results of its inquiry into peacekeepers' inaction while civilians were killed in Tabarat near Tawilla in early September, UNAMID said there is no report for public dissemination.

  Nesirky on Wednesday called this a "long question" -- it has been a long story, including a claim by Ban Ki-moon himself that he was taking the killings and protection of civilians by UNAMID seriously, ending in a whimper: no public report.

  Also, the US Mission has still not answered questions put to it last week and on Tuesday about murder and bombings in Sudan, including a call by the SPLM for a Security Council investigation...

US' Crowley, Abyei referendum not shown

Here is the US' transcript of December 7 Q&A with PJ Crowley on Sudan (and Yemen) --

Inner City Press: Thanks a lot. Matthew Lee, Inner City Press. I wanted to ask about Yemen. You were asked, I think back on December 15th, if the U.S. was involved in any military operations in Yemen. And you said no. And obviously, the cables have sort of confirmed air strikes at least as early as December 17th. I understand maybe you’re going to say that you – the question was only about the Houthis. Can you just say – I guess is it –

MR. CROWLEY: Well, in fact, the question was about the Houthis.

Inner City Press: Does that –

MR. CROWLEY: I went back. I was asked about this earlier, and I went back to the transcript of last year. And the question started with the Houthis claiming that the United States had bombed them, and the answer to that question was no. Remember, in Yemen, there are multiple conflicts, and thankfully, at least for the moment, the conflict between the Yemeni Government and the Houthis has been resolved – or not resolved, but it has been arrested. But there is a conflict between the Yemeni Government and al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. If you go back to a number of cases where we have been asked about particular issues, we have given a different answer that the United States supports Yemen’s counterterrorism efforts without being specific. So I understand that there is some confusion over how I answered that question, but I answered that question in the context of whether the United States was involved in the Yemeni action against the Houthis, and the answer to that was and remains no.

Inner City Press: And also on Sudan, I wanted to ask you – there’s some who are saying that the government started bombing – has been bombing in Darfur for some weeks and has actually now twice bombed South Sudan. So some people are wondering why the U.S. – obviously, the focus is on the CPA and the referendum, but is the U.S. thinking of naming an envoy, as some of the activists and NGO groups have said? What is the U.S. view of – are things going – what’s this bombing mean? Does it mean that the government is trying to stop the referendum? And what does – during your Security Council presidency?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m delighted that you brought up Sudan, and I think probably working off of the question of accomplishments in 2010, we can look to probably what might well be the most significant story that we face in 2011. We are now 30 days away from a referendum about the future of Sudan. We are encouraged by the voter registration that has been ongoing in preparation for that referendum. And we have made it clear to the parties that their future relationship with the United States depends on working cooperatively towards a successful and credible referendum on January 9th.

And secondly, depending on the outcome of that referendum and the will of the people of South Sudan, who through the CPA have earned the right to have a voice in their future, we have made it clear to leaders in Khartoum and Juba that they must cooperate in the post-referendum phase. And should the people of South Sudan vote for independence, it’ll be incumbent upon them to work effectively and cooperatively leading to the creation of a new nation of South Sudan next July.

This is arguably the most compelling – one of the most – if not the most compelling story that the world will face in the first half of 2011. And we understand the risks quite compellingly that if this goes well, it has the ability to transform and have a very positive effect on many challenges around the region, not the least of which is the situation in Darfur. And if it goes badly, we understand that there is a significant risk of a return to civil war. We are doing everything in our power, working, again, cooperatively with the international community, to try to make sure that the referendum on South Sudan moves ahead constructively.

We continue to press the parties with respect to the situation on Abyei. I think we have a recognition that that referendum will not go forward on January 9th, but we continue to encourage the parties to work on a solution to Abyei. Our Special Envoy Scott Gration has just – is returning to the region today and will be engaged over the next several days in Khartoum, in Juba, in Darfur. He will also be in Doha where the Qataris have led a very effective process to garner international support for this effort. So this is something that we have been committed to since the Obama Administration came into office, following up on the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that was negotiated during the last American administration, and we are committed to do everything in our power to see this referendum come off peacefully and credibly.

* * *

On Sudan, UN Won't Confirm Darfur Attacks, US Still Nothing on 12 Murders in Unity

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 6 -- As the Darfur Peace Agreement unravels and the pace of death escalates in South Sudan the UN, and surprising to some the US are slow and reticent to investigate and comment.

On December 6, Inner City Press asked UN spokesman Martin Nesirky about Omar al Bashir's targeting of his one ally in Darfur, Minni Minawi:

Inner City Press: in Sudan over the weekend, the President [Omar al-]Bashir Government has raided the offices of the transitional Darfur regional authority and has said Minni Minawi’s faction is now a target, a military target for the Government, if previously they were an ally of the Darfur Peace Agreement, and that they’re going to the South and will now be fighting. What is the comment of the UN on the total unravelment of the Darfur Peace Agreement?

Spokesperson Nesirky: I have seen the reports. I don’t have any specific comment at the moment. But I know that my colleagues are checking with the Mission on that. But we’ve certainly seen the reports.

Inner City Press: Okay. And they’re going to try to verify this raid on the transitional Darfur regional authority?

Spokesperson: I’ve heard what you’ve said, and certainly we’ll try to check on that.

Hours later, there was no confirmation. On December 3, the UN belatedly confirmed to Inner City Press the death of 10 SPLM soldiers and two civilians in South Sudan:

Sudan authorities riding high, UN confirmation and US comment not shown

Inner City Press: there is a report that the SPLA [Sudan People’s Liberation Army] is saying that 12 of their soldiers have been killed in an ambush by government-supported militias in Unity state. So, it seems like it’s a pretty high number in a big clash. I wonder if it’s something the UN has heard of and can confirm or deny or is going to go verify it.

Spokesperson Nesirky: Well, what I have been told is that we are aware that an SPLA truck with approximately 35 soldiers and their families was reportedly ambushed by an unknown group around 8 o’clock. This was on 1 December between Tamoa and Tubarit in Unity State, as you said, while traveling from Mayom to Bentiu — excuse my pronunciation of these places — a joint monitoring team that comprised SAF [Sudan Alliance Forces] and SPLA and led by the UN Mission in Sudan that went to Bentiu hospital where most of the casualties were brought by an SPLA truck. And the first report by that monitoring team confirms that 11 people were killed on the spot. And then one died in the hospital I just referred to. Ten people were wounded. However, the identity of the attackers is still not known. The team, I mean, the monitoring team, will be conducting patrols to the incident site and will meet with SPLA commanders and local authorities to try to further investigate this. That’s what I have for you.

Inner City Press: But does, I mean, I guess without knowing, the SPLA has said that they believe it’s a government-backed militia, and I just wonder, does the UNMIS [United Nations Mission in the Sudan] see any connection between this and the upcoming referendum? Is this viewed [inaudible]?

Spokesperson: As I’ve said, they’re investigating it.

  After this at least partial confirmation, Inner City Press on December 3 e-mailed the US Mission to the UN, this month's Security Council presidency, to ask both for US comment on the killings, and if the Council would take them up. As of the close of the Council's business on December 6 there was no answer. Watch this site.

 Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

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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

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