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Spinning UN Negligence in S. Sudan, Ban Won't Answer When He Knew, Rebuffs Africa

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 25 -- Dodging and spinning on the UN's and his own seeming negligence in leaving South Sudan without military helicopters since mid November when the Russians say they told the UN they would not fly, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday again tried to shift the blame to member states.

  But not only was the UN able, after some preventable bloodshed in Pibor in South Sudan, to then too late come up with Bangladeshi helicopters from the UN Mission in the Congo -- on Tuesday the Permanent Representative of a troop contributing country told Inner City Press that the UN has been offered military helicopters "for two months."

  Inner City Press first exposed the UN's "negligence" on January 11, and has been asking Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky for simple facts since then: what did Ban know and when did he know it?

  Nesirky has repeatedly dodged the questions, for example telling Inner City Press it would be answered by UN Mission in South Sudan chief Hilde Johnson.

  But at Johnson's video briefing on January 23, after she said that she was "subsequently" told that the Russians would in fact fly, Inner City Press asked her to name the date of this"subsequently."

  Johnson said she would get back with the information, but didn't. Twenty four hours later on January 24 Inner City Press asked Nesirky for the information, but it was not provided. (Nesirky also again dodged other questions.)

  And so it seemed -- incorrectly, as it turned out -- that at Ban's press conference on January 25 the question could be asked, and might even be answered. But even while not being asked about South Sudan, Ban issued his spin again, blaming member states and saying nothing about his and the UN's role.

  It would seem that a follow up to to Ban's vague statement on this contested point would be allowed, since the question has been asked without answer for two weeks. But Nesirky, who has stonewalled the question when it's been put to him, now didn't even allow it to be asked, saying "last question," and ended the press conference.

Inner City Press tried to get Ban's answer just outside the briefing room, asking as he left, "On South Sudan, when did you know the UN had no Russian helicopters?" Ban merely smiled, waved and left.

(c) UN Photo
Ban & spokesman, spin & stonewalling: what did Ban know and when did he know it?

  Here is the question on this Inner City Press prepared for the briefing:

"In your Responsibility to Protect speech last week, you said you saw the violence in South Sudan coming weeks before but had no military helicopters and, 'at the critical moment, I was reduced to begging for replacements.' But I'm told that the UN was informed in mid November that the Russian helicopters would not fly. Some say the UN, including the Department of Field Support under Susana Malcorra, was negligent in waiting until too late before moving to secure, for example, the Bangladeshi helicopters from the MONUSCO mission. Can you say what you knew and when you knew it, and given that Ms. Malcorra is said by diplomats to be destined to replace Asha Rose Migiro as you deputy, can you ensure that she answer questions before this, and that your USGs in your second term answer questions from the press?

On the question of Migiro, Inner City Press on January 21 exclusively reported that she is out, to be replaced by Susana Malcorra (who has a role in the lack of military helicopters in South Sudan.) On January 23 Inner City Press asked Nesirky about it, but he claimed ignorance. Inner City Press wrote about it again on January 24, after the UN resident representative in Tanzania confirmed it.

And at his press conference, Ban belatedly confirmed it, saying that Migiro offered to leave. (In fact, multiple sources in the African Group at the UN say Migiro lobbied them to try to stay, and say that Ban has again rebuffed the African Group as he has on their demand he appoint a full time Special Adviser on Africa.)

Ban's press conference, and his "State of the UN" speech to member states in the morning, followed by a question and answer with member states that was closed to the press and public, were supposed to be about UN reform. But under Ban, the UN is unaccountable, for example still not even answer questions about the formal claim for compensation for having introduced cholera to Haiti.

Ban's top lawyer Patricia O'Brien has rejected repeated requests to answer press questions; she left Ban's State of the UN session early on Wednesday. This is Ban's UN. But we will not stop asking. 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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