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On Darfur, UN Belatedly Answers on Jebel Marra, Banned from There

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 24, 2014 -- The UN stands accused of a cover-up in Darfur. On June 20, Inner City Press asked UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric two questions about Darfur:

Inner City Press: on Darfur, I have two questions in one location.  There seems to be an Irish aid group that says its workers have gone missing and have been taking in Darfur.  I wanted to know if UNAMID (African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur) or you know about this?  And also, there’s a call by civilians in East Jebel Marra saying that they’ve been bombed so much that there’s now unexploded ordnances all over the place, and they’ve put out a public call for these to be dealt with by UNAMID.  What’s UNAMID’s response?

Spokesman Dujarric:  I’ll… we’ll check with UNAMID on both accounts.

  Three days later on June 23, Dujarric's office had provided no answer at all, including to other questions emailed to Dujarric and his deputy Farhan Haq on June 20.

  So at the June 23 noon briefing, Inner City Press asked again. Dujarric said he thought he had an answer in his office. And after the briefing this was emailed: "Regarding your question from Friday on missing persons in Darfur, we are aware of several missing persons from non-governmental organisations. As it has done in past cases, the United Nations is supporting efforts to locate them."

  There was nothing on ordnance in Jebel Marra. But also: why would Dujarric's office have an answer but withhold it? Why did it not answer Press questions submitted on June 20, while answering others? This last, Inner City Press asked Dujarric on June 23 -- so far without explanation.

  What has arrived, on June 24, is this on Jebel Marra: "In response to your question on East Jebel Marra, please see the below from DPKO:
'Eastern Jebel Mara remains inaccessible for UNAMID Ordnance Disposal Office (ODO) operations. The Mission is unable to conduct verification or clearance exercises due to a lack of security clearance from local authorities. The last ODO request to travel to eastern Jebel Marra was turned down on 8 June 2014. UNAMID continues to reduce the threat posed by explosive hazards in other areas of Darfur, and has cleared 2,841 assorted UXO items in the region since January 2014.'"

 The response being emailed, albeit late, is appreciated, though it comes only after complaints. Why wasn't this done with the aid worker response Dujarric said he had in advance of the June 23 noon briefing?

  On Jebel Marra, when was Herve Ladsous' UN Peacekeeping going to speak about this blockage? Ladsous met with Sudan's Bashir and never explained why. He refuses Press questions. This is today's UN.

Background: After whistleblower Aicha Elbasri further exposed UN Peacekeeping under Herve Ladsous as covering up attacks in Darfur, on June 17 several Security Council members joined International Criminal Court prosecutor Fatou Bensouda in calling for an investigation.

  Inner City Press asked UN deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq if an independent investigation of Ladsous' UN Peacekeeping will be done, and if not, why not? Video here.

  Haq claimed that UN Peacekeeping is already acting on Elbasri's complaints, and that it had been telling the press about it. Inner City Press asked, where have these updates been provided.
  Haq cited a read-out given in March, largely generic; then he said the requests made on June 17 would be studies. We'll be waiting.

  So France, which has appointed the last four heads of UN Peacekeeping in a row, did not directly join in the call for an investigation made by such Security Council members as Argentina and Luxembourg, Chile and Australia.

  Then again, what did France say when Ladsous met with Sudan's Omar al Bashir, indicted for genocide by the International Criminal court, the subject of the June 17 session of the Council?

  As recently as May 29, Ladsous refused Press questions, video here, compilation here.

   Back on April 24 when Darfur as such was the topic of the UN Security Council, three major Darfur rebel groups wrote to the Council to investigate "all reports of the Peace Keeping Mission, including reports presented to the UNSC by [Under] Secretary General for Peace Keeping Mr. Ladous and the reliability of the sources he had relied on."

   But unlike his abortive stakeout on the evening of April 23 about South Sudan, video here, Ladsous did not come out to answer any questions. And at the April 24 UN noon briefing, when Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq for a response to the request for an investigation of Ladsous and his reports, there was none: not one modified or corrected report was cited.

  Instead, from the "holy seat" of the UN Correspondents Association a long time scribe followed up to say that it is not all Ladsous' fault, and to cast blame on the government. (This same dynamic was repeated at the June 17 noon briefing.) This reflexively shifting of blame from the UN to the government, whose new Permanent Representative spoke in the Council on April 24, is in this case particularly absurd: how can the government be responsible for the UN's own reports being inaccurate?

  Those requesting this investigation of DPKO and Ladsous are not the government of Omar al Bashir, which whom Ladsous met in July 2013 without any readout, but rebels Abdel Wahid Mohamed Ahmed Nur, Chairperson, Sudan Liberation Army/Movement (SLA/M-A/Wahid), Gibriel Ibrahim Mohamed, Chairperson of Justice & Equality Movement Sudan (JEM) and Minni Arko Minnawi, Chairperson Sudan Liberation Army/Movement (SLA/M-MM).

  Pending UN answers, again we ask: how can one write about the corruption of a UN Peacekeeping mission, at length, without naming the person in charge? Why would one airbrush that person, in this case Herve Ladsous the UN Under Secretary for Peacekeeping Operations, out?

   The former spokesperson of the UNAMID mission in Darfur quit, spoke out and finally leaked documents. Radio Dabanga as well as Foreign Policy began publishing them on April 7 (FP did not mention Dabanga, and called its back to back  Ladsous-less pieces an exclusive investigation).

  The last piece focused on the US role, all to the good, but not only doesn't mention that the UN's Ladsous met with International Criminal Court indictee Omar al Bashir in July, without providing any read-out, but also omits France's hosting of Darfur rebels, for example.


 Back on March 25, 2013, Inner City Press asked the UN Spokesperson about how the UN Peacekeeping in Darfur could have let a group of Internally Displaced People be kidnapped while they were ostensibly protected:

Inner City Press: there is this incident where IDPs were taken hostage or kidnapped by people that were in Government army uniforms, and somehow UNAMID is saying that they opposed it and they denounced the kidnapping, but some people are wondering how armed UN peacekeepers could have IDPs under their care and they could all be kidnapped. Can you clarify how it took place and how it is consistent with protection of civilians?

Spokesperson: Well, I have asked the Mission for more details on that, and I think if you were listening carefully you will have heard me read out precisely what you just said to me.

Inner City Press: But what I am asking about specifically about how it could take place?

Spokesperson: I heard what you said, and I’ve said that I’ll see if I can find out more, which is what I have already asked the Mission and Peacekeeping Operations.

  Now Radio Dabanga has published a memo by UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous, from April 10, 2013, still saying he didn't know how it happened.

  What is Ladsous doing? Then, and apparently now, he refuses Press questions about topics ranging from Sudan -- why did he meet with International Criminal Court indictee Omar al Bashir in July 2013? -- to rapes in the DR Congo by UN Peacekeeping's partners in the Congolese Army.

  Dabanga to its credit says it is reporting the memos along with FP. The FP story, at least the first one, does not mention Dabanga, nor Ladsous' meeting with Bashir. Previously an explanation was provided for not reporting on Ladsous' extraordinary and public "non-answering," noted from the UK by the New Statesman, here.

  We'll be following this. Watch this site.


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