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As Wittig Takes Abyei Question Ladsous Refused, DPKO Tries Edit UNTV

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 28 -- The dispute between Sudan and South Sudan about Abyei has been the subject of UN talk and spending at least since the time of the defunct Peacekeeping mission UNMIS.

   But on September 27, when Inner City Press asked "on Abyei, what is the UN's role?" the chief of the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations Herve Ladsous refused to answer.

   On September 28, after belatedly obtaining a response to the same question from outgoing Security Council president Peter Wittig, Inner City Press learned that Ladsous' DPKO had hit a new low.

   DPKO asked to get even Inner City Press' question about Abyei removed from the UN webcast archived video.  That is the strategy: to censor or modify the UN's video production to make it appear that no question was even asked. A new low.

   But here, even if this new low for the UN is achieved by Ladsous and (at least) three spokespeople he has debased is successful, is YouTube video of that Abyei question stakeout. Video here.

  And German Ambassador Wittig, while seeking to focus on the congratulatory aspect of the UNSC Press Statement he read out, said that the Security Council will meet again about Sudan and South Sudan, and Abyei, and get a briefing from envoy Haile Menkerios. Apparently, the bi-weekly meetings on the Sudans will continue.

  But what of Ladsous and his refusal to answer Press questions about his job, and then attempts to get even the questions censored or edited out of the UN's webcast video? Who is hurting the UN's credibility?

  On Thursday evening, Ladsous' spokeswoman told the UNTV boom microphone operator not to give the mic to Inner City Press, and tried to convince the two other correspondents present to ask questions. But there were no other questions. Ladsous walked away from the microphone as Inner City Press asked the Abyei question. Now DPKO has asked to have the question edited out.

  Ladsous is hitting a new low. Beginning in late May, after Inner City Press ran an exclusive article about Ladsous' proposal behind closed doors that DPKO use drones, Ladsous had refused to answer any Inner City Press questions, no matter how simple.

Inner City Press asked Ladsous why his Department flew Congolese military officials to a meeting to recruit the Mai Mai militia to fight another group, the M23. Ladsous refused to answer.

But on Sudan and South Sudan, on which the member states which pay Ladsous' tax-free salary have spent billions, after millions of people have been killed, Ladsous' refusal to answer the basic question -- "on Abyei, what is the UN's role?" -- is particularly troubling.

By contrast, at the very same stakeout area earlier on the same day, Inner City Press questions were taken and answered by the foreign ministers of Jordan and Italy, Australia and the Netherlands. But Ladsous, ostensibly an international public servant, won't answer.

  A fish rots from the head, as the old saw goes. And this old saw, more than one diplomat has said, should go. Watch this site.

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