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As UN Dining Workers Face Oct. 29 Layoffs, Launch by Taylor Swift, Aramark's Prerogative

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 18 -- Workers in the UN's Delegates' Dining Room face layoffs and furloughs on October 29, when the facilities is slated to close for all except special events. On October 18, Inner City Press asked UN Under Secretary for Management Angela Kane about the layoffs. She ascribed them to the contractor Aramark, and added that only events with “over a certain number of people” will be able to use the space going forward.

Ironically, on October 18 the DDR has every table in use, with a South Korean food promotion including -- full disclosure -- free lunch for journalists. The shinsunro spicy seafood soup was particularly good. But from Ms. Kane, no reprieve.

Aramark signed a contract with the UN to run these facilities. That they can modify it with so little fanfare is surprising.

Ban Ki-moon and Angela Kane, workers at UN facing layoffs not shown

 While Ms. Kane and various UN spokespeople all claim to “hope” Aramark treats its workers fairly, it appears that no one is even seeking to enforce the contract.

On October 15, the space was also full, for an event thrown by Saudi Arabia's mission to the UN. On October 25, the UN Delegates' Dining Room is being rented out, ostensibly with no control or review by the UN, for a “launch” by music personality Taylor Swift, first questioned by Inner City Press.

When Inner City Press asked who has approved this commercial venture, the response was that Aramark has the right to rent the space out. Why retain that right is Aramark is closing down its service to the UN and laying its workers off? Watch this site.

Footnote: Angela Kane is rumored to be heading to Geneva to replace the former chief there, who has moved on to Vienna. Last week when asked, Kane called this just a rumor. We'll see.

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At UN, Ban Meeting with Sudan Archbishop Excludes Press, No Answers on Debt

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 11 -- The UN says that the situation in Sudan is of much import to it. But then the UN refuses to answer questions, and refuses to let the Press cover what the UN is doing about Sudan.

  The October 11 schedule of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon included a 4:30 meeting with “Sudanese Church Leaders.” Every other appointment continued the name of the counter-party.

  Usually such meetings begin with a photo opportunity. This one was no different -- except only UN Photo and not the Press was allowed to photograph the meeting.

  Inner City Press asked the UN Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit if it could photograph beginning of the meeting. It was confirmed that UN Photo was going; the staged handshake would take place. But “Farhan” -- on information and belief, acting Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq -- said no, Inner City Press could not attend the already scheduled photo op. No reason was given.

  Nevertheless, Inner City Press went to the North Lawn building, two stories below Ban Ki-moon's office. Francis Deng, the Sudanese advisor to the Secretary General on Genocide, went up, stopping to confirm to Inner City Press that he was attending the meeting. Then a UN Photo staffer went up. But Inner City Press was not allowed.

  After the meeting, Inner City Press waited and spoke with the Episcopal Archbishop of Sudan, Daniel Deng Bul. He told Inner City Press that everything must be done to ensure an on time and peace referendum, that was the only way to protect the churches in North Sudan.

  He told Inner City Press: "they have to push to have a peaceful Sudan, the referendum [in time] - once done, you've brought a peaceful country."

  But few whom Inner City Press spoke while covering the Security Council's four day trip to Sudan were hopeful for an on-time much less peaceful referendum. And the demonstrators in Khartoum on October 9 were saying that only unity could bring peace.

   Inner City Press asked about resource sharing, Abyei and oil. The Archbishop said the CPA contains the mechanism: 50 / 50. But even now the mechanishm is hardly working.

Salva Kiir of South Sudan and Archbishop, Ban and UN protection not shown

 Archbishop Bull and his delegation -- Inner City Press also spoke with Caritas' Permanent Delegate to the UN -- have other meetings set up. Let's hope those are more transparent, and that those met with can bring more to the table. Watch this site.

Footnote: also at the UN on Monday, Inner City Press directed a question about Sudan's external debt to Eckhard Deutscher, Chair of the Development Assistance Committee of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development: would OECD countries be willing to forgive some of Sudan's $37 billion in debt, as a way to sweeten the pot, or make the loss of oil revenue more palatable?

   Mr. Deutsche responded with platitudes, about the IMF's good programs. But a Permanent Five ambassador on the Sudan trip told Inner City Press that Sudan (and South Sudan) are not eligible for the HIPC program. So what is being done?

* * *

As Sudan Intimidates Darfur IDPs Who Spoke to Council, UN Has No Comment

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 11 -- The day after the Sudan trip of the UN Security Council ended, the UN in New York had no answers to issues that arose on the trip, including the reported questioning and intimidation by authorities of Internally Displaced Persons who spoke to the Council, and the destruction of the village of Sora in Eastern Jebel Marra.

When Inner City Press asked these two questions -- there were more questions to ask, including about the dismantling of the Kalma IDP camp in Darfur and the UN's Lear Jet for Ibrahim Gambari -- UN Spokesman Martin Nesirky said by rote, “we'll look into it, next question.” (He was equally dismissive or evasive on two questions about the Congo.)

But the questioning of the IDPs was reported a day ago, and the destruction of Sora was tucked in a report by OCHA's Georg Charpentier, but apparently not raised by him to the Security Council Ambassadors when he briefed them.

In Abu Shouk Oct 9, IDP & Amb Churkin, subsequent intimidation and UN community not shown (c) MRLee

  Inner City Press asked two Permanent Five members' Permanent Representatives about Sora, and the dismantling of Kalma Camp, in the Dubai airport. Neither was aware, and now Inner City Press has asked if Sora's destruction was by ground or aerial attacks.

Meanwhile Nesirky in the opening of his briefing recited verbatim a piece of UNAMID good news or propaganda, about the UN's role in an agreement signed in Nyala between the “Rizeigat and Fur tribes.. easing years of ethnic tensions.” We'll see.

* * *

In Darfur, Gambari Criticizes Nur & Inner City Press on Video, Transcription Here

By Matthew Russell Lee

DARFUR, October 8 -- Peacekeepers were sent to Darfur after reports of a brutal campaign by the government of Omar al Bashir against opponents of his regime and civilians perceived as supporting them.

Now top peacekeeper Ibrahim Gambari, as shown by documents leaked to and published by Inner City Press, is near to turning over five supporters of rebel Abdel Wahid Nur to that same Bashir regime, in exchange for a promise by Bashir to commute any death sentence his courts impose.

Several members of the UN Security Council, which ostensibly oversees Gambari's actions along with the African Union, expressed surprise to Inner City Press once they saw the leaked documents, consisting of a draft letter and “Additional Terms” from Gambari to Bashir's foreign minister Ali Karti.

On the UN plane Thursday to El Fasher from South Sudan, US Ambassador Susan Rice told Inner City Press that she intends to inquire into Gambari's offers about the Kalma Camp Five while in Darfur. This echoed a statement of intention previously issued by another Permanent Member of the Council.

After a closed door meeting with the visiting Security Council members, Gambari and two of his military officials, in uniform, came to see the Press. Gambari called Inner City Press' publication of his draft documents “reprehensible” and told Inner City Press to “be careful... lives are at stake.”  Transcription below.

  Yeah, a witness to Gambari's statements later said, the lives of the Kalma Camp Five are at risk if the UN turns them over to a strongman already indicted for genocide and war crimes. “Is this what the UN should be doing?”

Gambari, Lyall Grant, Susan Rice, Churkin- oversight not seen? (c) MRLee

  Gambari's statements to Inner City Press were caught on video and will soon be published online as such. For now, here is a transcription, prepared late Thursday night at a guest house in El Fasher outside of Gambari's UNAMID compound:

Inner City Press asked Ibrahim Gambari, “What's happen with the Kalma Camp Five that you are considering turning over to the government... or that documents indicate you are considering turning over?”

Gambari answered: “Here is the situation. We have these five sheikhs who have been accused of some very serious offenses. We have no means as UNAMID to try them... Down the line if ever there was a death sentence, the President has the prerogative of mercy. All has been discussed confidentially. I want to say how reprehensible it was that somebody leaked the confidential communication of the government of Sudan...endangering the lives of those in the camps. The recipient of such a leak I think should also think twice about what they do considering that they are endangering the lives.. We've lost 27 peacekeepers between UNAMID and UNMIS, I mean AMIS.”

Inner City Press asked about Abdel Wahid Nur saying that if the Five are turned over, it will make UNAMID complicit in genocide, and that his group would not cooperate with the UN any more.

Gambari responded, “you quote words Abdel Wahid was supposed to have said... I met Khalil Ibrahim yesterday, asked how about how someone said JEM wants Gambari to resign for Tarabat Market. [He said he] ever said that, never authorized this... I want to hear from Abdel Wahid. I've been to Paris twice, I went to Tripoli...What happened in New York I condemn it. Matthew I have known you a long time, you should be careful... You are a recipient of a leaked document... Journalism also is a responsibility. I regard you as a friend, I used to, I regard you as a friend, I am admitting that.”

Of Abdel Wahid Nur, Gambari said: “He wants all issues resolved almost before he comes.”

“Matthew, I'm very angry with you , what are we supposed to do, keep people indefinitely?”

Inner City Press said, “Several Security Council members, when they saw the leaked documents, said they were not aware that you or UNAMID were in such discussions, and some expressed worry. How much is this Mission overseen by the Security Council?”

Gambari said “Ask them. Ask the S-G. I am responsible to two masters. You have the AU and you have the UN. The unity of the international community is key to finding a solution.”

Inner City Press said, as Gambari backed out the door toward his vehicle, “Transparency you can always say is dangerous, but I think it's probably a good thing.”

“No,” Gambari said. “Believe me, lives are at stake.”

Or maybe jobs, a witness to Gambari's statements later said, adding that the lives of the Kalma Camp Five are at risk if the UN turns them over to a strongman already indicted for genocide and war crimes. Among other lives put at risk, without oversight, transparency or explanation. “Is this what the UN should be doing?” Watch this site.

Footnote: it's worth noting that even before Inner City Press obtained and published Gambari's draft letter to Sudan's Ali Karti, Gambari had already expressed anger at Inner City Press' publication of other leaked documents concerning his time as UN envoy to Myanmar.

  That time, before the UN's September 24 high level meeting on Sudan, Gambari didn't argue about lives being at risk. He claimed the documents were “old” (2009) and not newsworthy. “Just leave me alone,” he said, having in the past declined to respond to questions sentto his UN e-mail address by Inner City Press. Now, the claim that lives are put at risk. Is it just opposition to transparency?

Watch this site, follow on Twitter @InnerCityPress.

 Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

* * *

These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

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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