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With UN Envoy Johnson Too Close to South Sudan, She Calls Critics Outsiders Waving Whip

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 27 -- The UN in many countries becomes so close to the government that it cannot and does not protect civilians.

  A recent example is South Sudan. Many are understandably excited about this new country and wish it well. But when UN human rights monitors are thrown out, journalists detained and civilians unprotected, the UN is supposed to do more than its mission under Hilde Johnson has been doing.

  Inner City Press has repeatedly asked these questions, about the failure to protect civilians in Jonglei, about investigative reporters and editors locked up, the persona non grata status of even UN rights probers. Johnson is articulate; the head of UN Peacekeeping Herve Ladsous does nothing.

  Ladsous does not have the gravitas to question an official like Johnson, a writer and former UNICEF official.

  More determinatively, as the fourth Frenchman in a row atop UN Peacekeeping he uses this trend of closeness with governments to do his former employer's bidding in FrancAfrique, through Bert Koenders in Cote d'Ivoire and soon Mali, and in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where his role in 1994 as France's Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN defending the escape of Rwanda genocidaires into Eastern Congo is something he still seeks to bury to refusing to answer Press questions.

  So who will critique Hilde Johnson or at least raise the issue? The Dutch NGO Clingendael Institute notes that a "New York-based diplomat of one contributing country remarked, ‘We are spending nearly one billion dollars a year on UNMISS. We can and should expect more.'"

  Johnson can't effectively fight back against diplomats who chose to remain unnamed.

  But the Clingendael Institute itself opines, in its report, that "dealings with the GRSS are perhaps too personalized, and that this could jeopardize her impartiality. Within and outside of the mission, some hold the perception that the SRSG is not being critical enough with government officials. With a leadership allegedly keen on steering clear of diplomatic confrontation, the mission appears to struggle to meaningfully fulfill its role as a 'watchdog.'"

  That hit the nail on the head. And so what did Hilde Johnson do? She ran to Reuters, always hungry for an exclusive even spoon-fed, and willing to play sycophant to the UN to get it, and turned the tables, blaming the contributors for the failures of the UNMISS mission and of herself as Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG).

  Reuters from Juba reports: "'We cannot sustain a presence with the logistical capacity that we have, with the problems we have with air transport and by road. So we cannot protect civilians in big, big, big numbers,' Johnson told Reuters. 'If you come as an outsider with no history, and you come waving the whip, I can assure you that the outcome is not necessarily going to be the most positive one for your cause,' the Norwegian envoy said."

  This last is a direct dig at the Clingendael Institute; Reuters in exchange for being spoken to by Johnson lets her have the last word, establishing herself as an insider and deploring the NGO for using the "whip" of criticism. Or just waving it? Watch this site.

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