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Of UNAMID's Absurd Nov 9 Denial of Darfur Rapes, US Has Complained

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 4, more here -- Ten days after after the UN issued a statement on its internal investigation into charges it covered-up attacks in Darfur, its UNAMID mission there on November 9 issued a statement that "village community leaders reiterated to UNAMID that they coexist peacefully with local military authorities in the area" and that no evidence of mass rape in the village of Tabit was found.

   Not said in UNAMID's November 9 press release was that each interview was supervised and watched over by the Sudanese security forces, and even video taped. Inner City Press has repeated asked the UN to explain its November 9 "whitewash" press release and whether UN Peacekeeping under Herve Ladsous reviewed it before it was issued. No answers.

  Now on December 4 Inner City Press is informed, on the record, that this problem has been raised.

  US Ambassador to the UN David Pressman, whose nomination we initially reported here, told Inner City Press on December 4, on the record, that "we have raised it at very senior levels here in the Council, and with DPKO," UN Peacekeeping.

  There was a Security Council closed door session on December 4, about Darfur and about the "cover up" report. The "Press Elements" read out afterward by the Chadian president of the Security Council for December did not mention the cover-up report.

  When Inner City Press asked how UNAMID can be the one to re-investigate what it covered up on November 9, the Council president emphasized that the call is for a "credible" investigation. Here's hoping.

 On December 4, Inner City Press asked Ladsous, Why did UNAMID not say on November 9 that it was surrounded by soldiers? Video here, and embedded below.

  Ladsous did not answer on December 4, even with his UN Peacekeeping under fire for cover-ups. Previously, he refused Press questions for months about rapes in Eastern Congo in Minova by DRC Army units his UN Peacekeeping supports: video compilation here.

  On the morning December Ladsous said to the Security Council that UNAMID's findings were "inconclusive" due to army presence. But UNAMID's press release whitewashed the situation in Tabit and did not mention the army presence.

 On November 25, a wide range of groups in Darfur petitioned the UN Security Council about UNAMID's malfeasance. Inner City Press that morning obtained the letter (h/t) and put it online in full here, and below.

 While UN Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric, when Inner City Press asked at noon, said he had not seen the letter, by 6 pm when Inner City Press asked November's Security Council president about the letter, he confirmed receipt.

  Quinlan said he had circulated the letter to the other 14 Council members -- as of 3 pm, one of them had not yet received it -- and that he expects the issues to be considered when the Security Council takes up UNAMID "next week, under Chad's presidency."

 (On November 26, the UK Mission to the UN"s Arran Skinner told Inner City Press, "I can confirm that we received the letter indirectly. In terms of contents, on alleged rape cases, the Security Council issued a press statement calling for a full investigation. The UK initiated the call for a press statement and so agree that this issue needs to be looked at.")

  On Ban Ki-moon's report into UNAMID under-reporting attacks on civilians and even peacekeepers, Inner City Press asked and Quinlan repeated it should be taken up soon, the question is finding the right, credible (or disinterested) briefer. Watch this site for that. Here is the letter:


Dear Gary Quinlan, Australia's Permanent Representative to the United Nations,President of the United Nations Security Council, November 2014

United Nations

New York, NY

c. Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General
Valerie Amos, Under-Secretary-General for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Hervé Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General of the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations United Nations

Dear Ambassador Quinlan,

As Darfuris in the diaspora, we have watched with great sorrow and growing anger the plight of our people in this ravaged region of Sudan. Darfur at one time commanded considerable attention in the United Nations, but no longer.

The international community in general has drifted into an acceptance that somehow the UN/African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) is an adequate means of protecting millions of vulnerable civilians. It is clearly not, and the recent mass sexual assault on women and girls in Tabit, North Darfur, makes this all too clear.

But the disgraceful "investigation" by UNAMID of events in Tabit should be the occasion for our remembering that this is, in fact, a UN-authorized mission; it has UN Chapter 7 authority; it is deployed with a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) negotiated by the UN and African Union (February 2008), even as the agreement is now simply a travesty, violated at will by the Khartoum regime. It is not, however, simply the failing of UNAMID and the African Union that must be reckoned with. It is the Security Council, the Secretariat, and UN Department of Peacekeeping Affairs (UN DPKO) that must accept responsibility for a failing mission; and it is UN DPKO that must do most to explain what it will do in light of this failure.

It is in this context that we demand that the following questions be addressed forthrightly and expeditiously:

[1] UNAMID, even if augmented and re-directed along the lines recently suggested by Secretary Ban Ki-moon, cannot provide adequate security for the people of Darfur. We demand that plans be made immediately for an UN force that can adequately take on the "responsibility to protect" civilians at risk, per the September 2005 UN World Summit Outcome Document (§38, §39).

[2] We demand that the Security Council and UN DPKO confront the Khartoum regime over its countless flagrant violations of the SOFA.

[3] We demand that UN DPKO undertake a full review of UNAMID's performance to date. The context here should be the fact that more than 2 million Darfuris have been newly displaced since UNAMID took up its mandate in January 2008; we would remind you of how closely violence and displacement have correlated over the past decade of conflict. Moreover, insecurity has increased steadily for more than two years—this on top of the insecurity that prevailed so widely in earlie years.

[4] We demand that UN DPKO, in consultation with the Security Council and the Secretariat, formulate plans to provide adequate protection to the civilian population of Darfur. This must include contingency plans for a very rapid acceleration of what is already unacceptable insecurity for civilians and humanitarians.

[5] We demand in particular that UN DPKO ensure that UNAMID is prepared to provide adequate protection to the people of Tabit, especially girls and women, from retaliation by Khartoum for having had the misfortune of making clear to the world just how brutal this regime is.

[6] We further demand that UN DPKO instruct UNAMID to provide all necessary protection to humanitarian efforts to reach Tabit. Many residents have been badly traumatized and injured.

[7] We also demand accountability from those who are responsible for the failures that led to the brutal crimes at Tabit, and so many others over so many years. Accountability must extend to the leadership of UNAMID and the African Union Peace and Security Council, as well as to the UN DPKO. As part of this assigning of responsibility, there must be a full and competent investigation, authorized by the Security Council of how this atrocity crime was essentially white-washed by all parties, most notably UNAMID. But we must emphasize as well that we are deeply troubled by the silence of UN DPKO.

[8] We demand that UNAMID be guided by the "rules of engagement" for UNAMID in Darfur that have been previously negotiated. UN DPKO must ensure that these "rules of engagement" are widely understood and dictate the actions taken by UNAMID personnel.

[9] We demand that UN DPKO assess the possibility that insecurity is now so great that there will be an exodus of international NGOs providing critical relief aid to Darfuris. Many INGOs have expressed their deep concern for the safety of their workers in Darfur, more than 95 percent of whom are Sudanese nationals. The safety of these workers must not be discounted because they are African and Khartoum permits no news coverage of Darfur and no human rights reporting presence.

Would relief workers similarly threatened in other parts of the world be regarded in the same light as Sudanese relief workers?

[10] We demand that UN DPKO communicate with the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in order to ascertain when a continued humanitarian presence by the UN might become impossible for security reasons.

[11] We demand that UN DPKO assess the implications for future UN peacekeeping missions if

UNAMID is allowed to continue to fail so conspicuously. The events at Tabit and the performance of UNAMID investigators bring this question into high relief.

[12] Most generally, we demand that UN DPKO speak forthrightly about its understanding of the limitations and weaknesses of present peacekeeping in Darfur and the provision of civilian security.

We remain troubled by the comments of the Under-Secretary General for DPKO when in spring 2012 he declared that security "conditions on the ground" had improved sufficiently that UNAMID could begin to draw down its forces (a figure of 4,000 personnel was promulgated at the time). This ghastly error in judgment was never acknowledged, even as by July of 2012 we saw a tremendous upsurge in violence, especially in North Darfur. How can we trust statements from UN DPKO when egregious errors are not acknowledged?

[13] We demand that the United Nations collectively develop an effective response to the gross deficiencies of UNAMID in protecting civilians and humanitarians. UN DPKO in particular must develop benchmarks for assessing UNAMID's performance and formulate emergency contingency plans in the event of a massive and precipitous withdrawal of humanitarian personnel.

These are matters of the deepest concern to us; to date, there are far too few answers from UN about why the Darfur genocide continues more than a decade after it began. We demand clear evidence that the people of Darfur will not be further abandoned.


Darfur People's Association of New York

Darfur People's Association of Maryland

Fur Cultural Revival

Darfur People's Association of Houston

Darfur People's Association of Dallas

Darfur People's Association of Illinois

Darfur Human Rights - USA

Massalit Sons' Association - USA

Darfur Rehabilitation Project

Sudanese Revolutionary Front

Sudanese Opposition Forces- USA

Broad National Front

Justice & Equality Movement - Sudan

Sudan Liberation Movement - MM

Sudan Liberation Movement - Wahid


Umma Party


Sudanese Marginalized Forum - USA

Sudanese National Democratic Forum - California

National Sudanese Alliance - Philadelphia

Peace & Democracy Center - New Jersey

Democratic Alliance, USA

Federal Democratic Alliance

Sudanese Front for Change

Kush Liberation Movement

Democratic Unionist Party

Activists without Borders

Sudanese Congress Party

Darfur People's Association of Boston

Darfur People's Association of Indiana

Darfur People's Association of Utah

Darfur People's Association of Nebraska

Darfur People's Association of Seattle

Darfur Son's Union of Greater Washington DC

Darfur People's Association of Iowa

Darfur People's Association of Arizona

Darfur Women Action Group

Darfur Association of the United States

Darfur Self-reliance Organization - San Francisco, California

 Inner City Press on November 21 asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric to explain UNAMID's November 9 press release in the context of the internal memorandum, put online here, that UNAMID knew Sudanese security was filming the interviews, had even put together a "committee" of Tabit residents to speak to UNAMID. Video here.

  Dujarric said he wouldn't start now to comment on leaks.

 On November 11, Inner City Press asked UN Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq about it:

Inner City Press: I wanted to ask again about the allegations of rape in North Darfur.  Radio Dabanga there has not only questioned, you know, the UNAMID [African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur] press statement but has interviewed both victims and has quoted a local community leader in Tabit, basically threatening people that if they spoke on the rapes to UNAMID, they would face the consequences.  So I wanted to know, now at this remove… yesterday the President of the Council spoke about it, at this remove, what is UNAMID going to do to get to the bottom of it?  And also, the reporting to Ms. Aicha Elbasry’s allegations, who would brief the Security Council on that?  He said yesterday, the President of the Council, that they are looking to take it up and are looking for the right briefers.  Does the Secretariat have in mind either the author of the report or who would be the appropriate briefer?  Thanks.

Deputy Spokesman:  As the Council President informed you, they'll be looking at briefers, so we'll work that out with them.  Regarding your initial question, yes, we've been in touch with the UN-African Union Mission, UNAMID, who have informed us that security personnel were in fact present during UNAMID's mission to Tabit.  The African Union-UN Mission in Darfur will continue to look into the rape allegations in the area of Tabit, North Darfur.  As reported to the Security Council yesterday, the findings of the UNAMID team, which was granted access to Tabit on 9 November, are inconclusive and need further investigation.  UNAMID remains committed to this and it will revert with any additional findings that might shed light on these allegations.

Inner City Press:  [Inaudible] I just wanted to ask you again if there's been any reflection again on that line where it says residents… and I'm going to paraphrase it, residents said that they get along fine with the military.  Just seemed the line was such a clunker, basically, it was totally inconsistent with other reports…

Deputy Spokesman:  I'm not going to second-guess how my colleagues write press releases.  Different press releases are written by different people at different times.

Inner City Press:  Who wrote this one?

Deputy Spokesman:  Someone from the Mission.  The point is: you're writing, trying to get all the information out as best you can in the circumstances you have.  What I have been able to say right now is that we are aware that security personnel was present during UNAMID's mission there.

  We'll have more on this. Later on November 11 Inner City Press asked International Criminal Court prosecutor Fatou Bensouda if she had seen the whole UN report on allegations of cover-ups by UNAMID, or only a summary. She said only the summary, and only the day before. We'll have more on this too.

  On November 10,  Inner City Press asked UN Security Council president for November Gary Quinlan of Australia about the UNAMID press release, and if and when the Security Council will act on the "cover-up" report, including requesting the full report from the Secretariat, which to date has provided only a summary. Video here. From the Australian transcript:

Inner City Press: Sure, thanks a lot. I wanted to ask on Darfur. Thanks for what you said about what Ms Bangura said. There’s a press release put out by UNAMID that has this line in it: “Village community leaders reiterated to UNAMID that they co-exist peacefully with local military authorities in the area.” The press release doesn’t mention at all the military presence. So I wanted to ask you, one, if you could comment, what do you make of this press release by UNAMID? And two, does the report by the Secretary-General on allegations of covers up by UNAMID of attacks on civilians and on peacekeepers, where does it stand? He said that the, the Spokesperson said that an executive summary of the report went to the Council. Is the Council going to have a meeting on it? Are you going to have a full report?  And are you satisfied with UNAMID’s press release on these allegations of rape?

AMBASSADOR QUINLAN: Matthew, on the second part of the question. Members of the Council are very concerned on this whole question of UNAMID and UNAMID reporting, but also what UNAMID is doing. And one of the big issues there is the denial of access and restrictions that are imposed largely by the Government of Sudan, with whom UNAMID has a formal arrangement on access. But also, of course, by armed opposition groups and that is inherently more difficult sometimes to get the access that’s needed.

That report has not yet been discussed by the Council. I expect that it will be over the next couple of weeks. A number of members of the Council are extremely interested in it. We want to be sure that we’ve lined up the briefers from the Secretariat to have a proper discussion of that report.

Secondly, in relation to the UNAMID press release, I think the key is that they’ve indicated that they had access but it was the first time since November 4, when they’d been seeking access. And they had proactively been seeking access to be able to undertake investigations. That’s a long period to have access denied, by the way, in a circumstance like rape. You really do need, as Ms Bangura reminded us, to have access straight away, for obvious reasons. So that’s one point I’d make. The second point is UNAMID has made it extremely clear in its press release that it will conduct further follow-up actions, including possible further investigations and patrols and that they will do that in cooperation with the Government of Sudan and other parties. We have confidence that that will happen. SRSG Bangura is making this a top priority for her and so is the Secretariat itself and we were reassured about that this morning by ASG Mulet. So I think that’s basically it.

  We'll continue to follow this -- but how can a peacekeeping mission already accused of covering up for the Sudanese government say, today, that "village community leaders reiterated to UNAMID that they coexist peacefully with local military authorities in the area"? To some, this is shocking - and indicative of problems in today's UN Peacekeeping.

Inner City Press on November 7 asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric about the challenges to the UN's statement it couldn't and didn't access the site of mass rapes in Tabit in Darfur. Video here; transcript:

Inner City Press: there are witnesses in Darfur who actually say that the UNAMID investigators, rather than being stopped outside Tabit went inside and interviewed four people and after that they were spoken to by Sudanese military intelligence.  And so these are credible people that have been reporting on Darfur for some time and see the reports being issued by UNAMID although as a reaction to the quote “cover up report” as not being accurate.  And I wanted to know, can you check with them to be sure that the UNAMID investigators didn't in fact enter Tabit Tuesday at 5 am and whether they were spoken to by Sudanese intelligence and decided to say that they hadn't been able to enter the town?

Spokesman Dujarric:  I'm not going to judge the credibility or lack of credibility of people who have been reporting on Darfur.  I mean, they report.  What I can tell you is the Mission clearly stands by its reporting.  They've sent us a bit more detail, said the verification patrol comprising of military police and civilian personnel on Tuesday, 4 November, that it was sent on Tuesday, 4 November, from Shangil Tobaya to Tabit to 14:50 hours,  I assume local time.  The patrol was denied access at the outskirts of the town at a Sudanese military checkpoint.  Attempts to negotiate access to Tabit were unfruitful and the team returned to the base in Shangil Tobaya.  We've repeated… the Mission's leadership has repeated its call to the Government to grant the UN, to grant UNAMID unfettered access to the whole of Darfur and obviously especially in areas where we're trying to investigate horrendous reports of mass rape.  So that's a longer, a long way of saying that the Mission stands by its reporting.

   But if UNAMID and UN Peacekeeping was just outed for under-reporting attacks, how it is now automatically credible? On November 6, Inner City Press asked Dujarric about similar cover-ups in Central African Republic, exposed by an Amnesty International report about that country.

From the UN's transcript:

Inner City Press: I'm sure the Secretary-General has seen the Amnesty International's report today about the peacekeeping mission in Central African Republic.  They basically, I mean, they say a number of things.  Maybe you have some kind of response to it.  But, I wanted to especially ask you about the reporting aspect of it they describe a number of killings and attacks that have taken place in Dekoa, Bambari and elsewhere in [the Central African Republic] about, which, at least being here every day, I've heard nothing from this podium.  So, I wanted to know both substantively what's the response of UN peacekeeping to not protecting civilians and in terms of communications and transparency the response to what appears to be an underreporting similar to that analogous to that in Darfur?

Spokesman Dujarric:  Sure.  Obviously, a big part of the Missions' mandate is the protection of civilians.  The Mission, its peacekeeping forces, its formed police units, are doing that to the best of their ability.  Obviously, it's a very challenging situation.  It's a challenging terrain in which they work.  And there is, obviously… one could always use more troops and more police.  I'm not sure they're up to their mandated force as of yet.  As far as reporting goes, you know we report from here whatever we receive from the Mission.

Inner City Press: Because of the Darfur thing, I wanted to ask:  Their report is very detailed.  The report, it says names of places, number of people killed.  Maybe, first of all, does the Mission send it to [the Department of Peacekeeping Operations] in New York and they're supposed to give it to your office?  At what point has this information in the Amnesty report, has it reached New York before or is it a surprise to UN?

Spokesman:  I can only speak to what I receive from the Mission

Back on October 29, Inner City Press asked if the full Darfur report will be released, at least to the Security Council, and about under-reporting of attacks in the Central African Republic. Video here.

  Dujarric said that even before the summary was given to the Security Council members -- so that is apparently all that has been given to them -- UN missions were told to be sure to report attacks. He said he reads out what the missions sent him.

  So has the UN mission in CAR, MINUSCA, simply not send in reports about killings in Bambari and elsewhere? We'll see.

Despite a request from Inner City Press and the Free UN Coalition for Access the UN will not release the report. Back on October 29, Inner City Press asked, given that even the sanitized statement says information on attacks was withheld from the media and UN Headquarters - at its request? - who is responsible? Video here.

  We'll be following this. Watch this site.


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