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In Darfur, UN Considers Hiring Workers of Expelled NGOs, But Will More Be Thrown Out?

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, March 9 -- As staff members of international humanitarian groups expelled from Darfur arrive in Kenya, the UN's relief coordinator John Holmes told the Press that Sudan's allegations against the groups were "far-fetched and implausible." Inner City Press asked about Friday statements by Sudan's Ambasadador the UN that several groups used their planes to fly witnesses against President al-Bashir to Europe, in the run-up to the indictment of Bashir for war crimes. "I don't know of NGOs with their own planes," Holmes answered. Video here from Minute 40:56.

   Inner City Press asked if the UN could hire the 7000 local workers who the international NGOs are leaving behind in Darfur. Holmes said, if the UN can build capacity, and "if we want to do it," depending on the operating environment for humanitarian work in Sudan going forward. Video here, from Minute 44:04.

  To some, this sounded like counter-negotiation by the UN. The idea is, following Bashir's indictment, he ordered the NGOs out in order to use humanitarian crisis as a bargaining chip to encourage the US, France and UK to agree to suspend the legal proceedings against him. At present, this seems unlikely. Now the UN counters, in this view, that it will not step in to pay the 7000 laid-off Darfuris until it gets some commitments from Bashir's government.

In Darfur, people used as pawns

  This counter-negotiation by the UN gives rise to a question about Holmes' contradictory statements that there were contingency plans in place for the expulsion of NGOs, and that the expulsion was "unexpected." When Inner City Press asked about this contradiction, Holmes said that "private threats were made" but "we had not expected" the expulsion of the NGOs. Video here, from Minute 32:58.

   But former UN envoy to Sudan Jan Pronk has called the expulsion entirely foreseeable.  Just because you planned for something doesn't imply it's acceptable, one wag pointed out. To not have planned, given the run-up to the indictment, would speak worse of the UN.

  But what now, if Bashir expels more NGOs, or the UN mission to Darfur, UNAMID? Watch this site.

Footnote: Strangely, when asked if the UN is dealing with a Sudanese humanitarian minister named Harun, the name of one of the two first Sudan indictees, Holmes said there are two humanitarian ministers named Harun, and the UN is dealing with the one who is not a war criminal. He added that the UN would deal with a war criminal in certain circumstances. What's in a name?

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

Click here for Inner City Press Nov. 7 debate on the war in Congo

Watch this site, and this Oct. 2 debate, on UN, bailout, MDGs

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

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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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