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In Darfur, UN Has No Answer on Militia, Only Whispers of Bombings

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 24 -- Darfur must be mentioned alongside the UN's failure in Eastern Congo, where peacekeepers under the command of Herve Ladsous did nothing as the M23 mutineers took over Goma and now other towns.

The UNAMID mission in Darfur has been left with only an interim leader for months now. It issues good news and spin as new militias form, bombs drop, and civilians are killed.

On November 23 Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's three top spokespeople to "please state UNAMID's / DPKO's knowledge of and if applicable action on allegations that North Darfur Governor Osman Youssef Kibir is forming a private militia."

More than three hours later, it was Ladsous' spokesman Kieran Dwyer who purported to respond. But on this, all he said was "I am looking into this." And in the twenty hours since, no information has been provided.

In the interim, the Sudan Liberation Army-Abdelwahid Nur say they have taken over an army base near Kebkabiya, 150 kilometers west of El Fasher where UNAMID's headquarters are. So far, nothing from the UN about it.

Back on November 22, Inner City Press asked the UN another Darfur (or South Sudan) question:

Inner City Press: South Sudan is saying that Sudan has bombed its territory, it’s been brewing for a couple of days where Sudan said that it was going to bomb a rebel group that set up shop, they claimed it is in Sudan, in Darfur, and South Sudan says it is in its territory. Since there is two peacekeeping missions there — UNMISS, double S, and UNAMID — did this bombing take place? What is the effect of the bombing and where did it take place?

Deputy Spokesperson Eduardo Del Buey: Well, from what I understand, the bombing, if it took place, it took place outside of the zone where UNMISS is, so we have no comment on that. We have no information.

Inner City Press: in South Sudan or…?

Deputy Spokesperson: I don’t know. I don’t have… I have seen the report you have seen, but from what we have here… let me just check and see, one second, we may have something here — I believe that the information that I have is that it was outside of the zone where UNMISS is mandated to act, and therefore, we don’t have anything to say on it.

Inner City Press: UNMISS covers all of South Sudan, I don’t think that there are zones that they don’t go to in South Sudan.

Deputy Spokesperson: Well, I’ll have to get that information for you, Matthew.

[The Deputy Spokesperson later said that the bombings reportedly took place in the north of the disputed 1-1-56 boundary. That's why we can't comment. It is out of our area of operations and that's why we haven't been able to verify.]

   This answer, referring to one of the two missions controlled by Ladsous, was only inserted into the transcript of the briefing -- it was not emailed or otherwise provided to Inner City Press, which asked the question.

  Perhaps it was read out over the UN's "squawk" system which is piped to the cubicles assigned to correspondents -- but this during a day of repeated Security Council meetings on Gaza and the Congo, which Inner City Press covered not from cubicle but from Security Council stakeout, asking questions to the Ambassadors of India, Israel, Morocco and the United States.

   At the Security Council stakeout, on basic questions about the UN's failure in the Congo in the face of the M23 mutineers, Ladsous refused to answer any Press questions, and his spokesman Kieran Dwyer openly directly UN personnel not to give Inner City Press the microphone to ask, "Would the UN defend Bukavu?"

  This is the UN of Ladsous, and ultimately Ban Ki-moon. We'll have more on this.

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