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Rich Williamson, Candid Critic of UN Peacekeeping in Sudan, Has Died: RIP

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 9 -- Rich Williamson, the US envoy on Darfur in 2008, has died. While at the UN, Williamson was frank. On June 17, 2008, he came to announce that Khartoum had been asked for permission to open up six additional routes for humanitarian convoys to Darfur.

  Inner City Press had asked if the UN peacekeepers stationed in El Fasher should rather be deployed to protect at least some of the World Food Program trucks which have been subject to hijacking. Williamson agreed there should be "more activity from the UN." Video here (old UN Real Media).

  Down in the UN basement in a conference room that day, Williamson painted a fuller picture of UN inaction, of UNMIS peacekeepers sitting in their base while, he said, 25 feet away Sudanese homes were being burned and looted in Abyei.

  "We pay one billion dollars a year for UNMIS," Williamson said. And yet they stood by while 52,000 lives were shattered and nearly 100 dead.

UN Photo: Williamson and Ban Ki-moon, condolence to be added if issued

Six weeks after Williamson's candor, the Security Council went late before renewing the mandate of the mission in Darfur, complete with high school antics captured here. Williamson did good work, including on Darfur. Rest in Peace.

UN Photo: Williamson & Mia Farrow at UN

Footnote: Also on June 17, 2008 but still relevant today, some of French Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert's sudden standoffishness with the press during the Security Council trip to Sudan and Chad which Inner City Press covered became more comprehensible.

  Sources told Inner City Press that it was only on the trip that Ripert learned that he would not be getting the job of head of UN Peacekeeping. At the last moment, these sources say, the Ban Ki-moon administration because concerned that Ripert's constant references to Bernard Kouchner might create a problem of split loyalty. And so France was asked for another name, and forwarded that of Alain Le Roy.

   Turns out that Herve Ladsous was considered and rejected at that time, as he was before Jean-Marie Guehenno was selected. He finally got put into the job in 2011 after the UN chose then un-chose Jerome Bonnafont, and Sarkozy administration jammed Ladsous through. He has refused to answer Press questions, video here, UK coverage here. We'll have more on this.


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