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US Power Answers Press on South Sudan into 28 States, UNMISS Reporting

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 2 -- The UN Security Council met about South Sudan, amid reports of ceasefire violations and unilateral moves to re-divide the country into 28 new sub-divisions, on December 2 and afterward US Ambassador Samantha Power, president of the Council for the month, emerged to take questions.

  Inner City Press asked Power about President Salva Kiir's move to establish 28 states in South Sudan.  Power responded that the proposal has given rise to strong views in the country and said diplomatically that it was a decision that should be taken by the Transitional Government, not before. Video here.

 From the US Mission transcript:

Inner City Press: I wanted to ask on South Sudan Ė Mr. Ladsous mentioned it Ė but I wanted to know I guess if it was discussed in consultations and if the U.S. has a position on President Salva Kiir proposing to divide the country into 28 states, which some people have said would change the kind of balance that was agreed to. Does the U.S. think that that should be rolled back? And also what is UNMISSís role in terms of reporting ceasefire violations? Iíve seen some situation reports where theyíre aware of things that they donít announce. Is it up to them to say when civilians are killed or when the ceasefire is violated, or is there some other mechanism thatís not reporting? On Friday in Mundri they said that 14 people were killed, they were going to check it; and they never came back. Was this discussed and what do you think they should do?
Ambassador Power: Well we certainly got a rundown of ceasefire violations from the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in our briefing just now. I would imagine if we were in Juba we would be getting regular updates, and certainly our team has constant communication with folks on the ground in UNMISS but also through DPKO here. You know this is a very large country and it is not an enormous peacekeeping mission Ė itís a larger mission than it was when it first came into existence in a very different set of circumstances Ė but I suspect the reach that UNMISS has to be able to identify ceasefire violations, report them back, verify them, et cetera, is not exhaustive or is not universal. And this is one reason, as you know, that we have supported also their request for unarmed, manned vehicles so that theyíll have more scope to know whatís going on in parts of the country that they canít access Ė either because their access is being physically blocked, or because of bad roads or poor weather conditions.
Your first question Ė oh, yes. So the UNís position on this Ė which youíve probably heard articulated Ė is that this is an issue on which people have very strong views across the country. Clearly President Kiir has his own view. It is essential that the transitional government Ė which now needs to be embarking on a whole series of executive decisions and executive measures to bring the country together to try to forge unity Ė that it be involved in deciding how the country is structured. Now, that is a polarizing issue; it is an issue, again, in which there will not be rapid consensus, but we think itís extremely important that the transitional government take up its position and that issues like the demarcation of states be addressed by the new body, rather than having facts on the ground prematurely created by a government that is itself going to be absorbed into a transitional government."

  While Inner City Press has repeatedly asked the UN Spokesperson's Office to confirm from its podium ceasefire violations which are confined to internal UN Mission situation reports that Inner City Press obtains, Power said that in the closed consultations UN envoy Ellen Loj had detailed many such violations.

 In the past Loj spokes in the open Chamber, and herself took questions at the media stakeout afterward. This time, only Herve Ladsous spoke in the Chamber - and refused questions on the way in and on the way out of the Council - and Loj took no questions. Ladsous was scheduled to take questions across the street from the UN, including about the Central African Republic.

   Power began her stakeout with words about the then-ongoing shooting incidents in California, and with words of remembrance for Sandy Berger. On whether the next meeting on Syria might take place in New York on December 18, she said that the date and venue were not yet known. For now, Periscope video here.

On December 1 when US Ambassador Power held a press conference about the Council's work in December, when she will be president, Inner City Press asked her about two items on her Program of Work: the use in Yemen of troops from Sudan.

 Inner City Press also asked Power about one item not yet listed on the month's Program: the twice-delayed UN report into how allegations of rape by peacekeepers in the Central African Republic were handled by the UN.  Video here and embedded below.

  Power spoke with passion about the latter topic, saying that during her recent trip to India she devoted a third of one of her speeches to the topic. Power said that the UN must repatriate accused troops, and that the troop contributing countries, including where applicable the US, must investigate and prosecute the allegations as if they had taken place in their own countries, against their own citizens.

   The report on CAR was announced on June 22 and was supposed to take ten weeks. Then it was delayed past the General Assembly high level debate week into November, then delayed again into December. Power said the US would like it taken up in the Security Council, whether considered in connection with CAR in the December program of work, or in January if it is not released until then.

   On the Saudi-led coalition's use of troops from Sudan in Yemen, Power said that it had to be acknowledged that Sudan's military violated the laws of war in South Sudan, in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, and in Darfur. She said the Saudi-led coalition was asked to be discerning. Inner City Press didn't have time to ask, but there are increasing reports that the United Arab Emirates is employing mercenaries from Colombia in Yemen.

We'll have more on this. For now, below is a fast transcription by

Inner City Press: I wanted to ask you about two things. On the program of work you have Yemen, and you also have Sudan ICC, so I wanted to ask about something that brings them together, which is, the use of Sudanese troops in Yemen by the Saudi-led coalition. Some people have said itís sort of strange, given their record and the fact that the government of Sudan is under ICC indictment, for the use of these troops in Darfur; it seems like a funny part of the coalition in Yemen. So I wanted your thoughts on that.

And also, during the month of December, the long-delayed report on sexual abuse in CAR is supposed to come out. Do you think the Council, given the importance of this issue of peacekeepers and accountability, will the Council take it up? And what do you think, either personally or nationally, should happen?

Ambassador Power: On the issue of sexual abuse and exploitation, I did travel all the way to India and did give a speech, a third of which was dedicated to that topic because it is clear that whatever the notional zero tolerance policy that exists here, the spate of allegations is extremely disturbing and the loss of trust that results when civilians who are counting on the UN for protection begin to view them as predators, cannot be overstated. I think the Secretary General has taken a series of steps now that are aimed at filling some of the gaps that have existed. Fundamentally, if we donít do what I sought to do on my visit overseas, and what we are now talking about bilaterally around the world, which is elevate the issue of accountability in capitals, every capital, including if US personnel were accused of carrying out these kinds of abuses. Where the accountability needs to exist in the first instance is of course at the UN, individuals need to be repatriated and an investigation needs to be launched. But fundamentally it is the member states that are going to need to take ownership of what their troops are doing in other countries, as if it was happening in oneís own country.

I donít really have a comment on CAR. I donít yet know in terms of how we will take it up. We do have, as I mentioned, a lot happening related to CAR. Itís possible we could combine discussion of the report. I think it depends on the precise timing. But if it isnít in this month, it certainly is something that the United States will support discussing at the earliest possible occasion.

On Sudan and Yemen, first of all underscore that under the leadership in Khartoum the Sudnaese government has fought in a manner, whether it was against the South Sudanese people for many many years, or in Khordofan or Blue Nile over the last couple of years, God knows in Darfur, the manner in which Sudan has employed force has consistently ignored or violated international humanitarian law. Thereís just no way around it. It is the use of indiscriminate weapons of war, and seemingly scant regard for civilian life. So we would be very concerned that any units that were involved in the kinds of atrocities we have seen in Darfur, on the ground or from the air, or those in other parts of Sudan, if they were involved elsewhere, and have encouraged the coalition to be extremely discerning and to make every effort to ensure that anything they are doing in Yemen is in compliance with IHL." [International Humanitarian Law]

   On Syria, Power said among other things that there are procedures in place to adjudge which groups are terrorists and which are not (State Department deputy spokesperson Mark Toner earlier in the day twice said that Al Nusra is a terrorist group).

  On North Korea, Power said that as much light as possible should be shed from outside the country. One wanted to ask, what could a trip by Ban Ki-moon at this time accomplish, but time did not allow.

   Inner City Press has been reporting extensively on Burundi, and on this subject Power said that a Security Council trip is still in the planning stages, but is unanimously supported by the Council's members. Yesterday Inner City Press reported, based on sources in the Council, that Angola expressed the position at least that a visit in December might be too soon.

Power answered about her trip to India, and mentioned her visit to Sri Lanka which came after that. Inner City Press hear from Lankan sources that a film crew accompanied Power into certain meetings; one awaits the broadcast.

  On behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access, as it did with last month's president Matthew Rycroft and his predecessors, Inner City Press asked Power to hold question and answer stakeouts after Council closed door consultations, ďso we can learn what went on inside.Ē Power quipped that it is not all that interesting, which may most of the time be true. But at least we can ask. And we will. Watch this site.


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