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In Darfur, UN Council Was Told Not to Visit Shangil Tobaya IDP Camp by Authorities

By Matthew Russell Lee

KHARTOUM, October 9 -- Sudanese authorities blocked the UN Security Council members from visiting Shangil Tobaya Internally Displaced Persons camp in Darfur on October 8, a Council diplomat told Inner City Press on Saturday in Khartoum.

Speaking to the Press before the Council flew back to New York, the diplomat said the Council was monitoring cooperation with the UNAMID peacekeeping mission. Inner City Press asked what had been raised or accomplished on the freedom of movement of peacekeepers.

Last month, UNAMID peacekeepers in Tawila did not go to the Tarabat market site where 47 people were killed by janjaweed until three days after the relatives of those attacked had made the request.

The Council diplomat, insisting on being identified as such, said that the authorities' claim that 90% of Darfur is peaceful was “not what we heard in Darfur” from IDPs. The Council diplomat continued that “the IDP camp we originally were thinking of going to considered was considered too difficult because it wasn't under government control, and it wasn't far from El Fasher.”

Kids in IDP camp with peacekeepers, UNSC not shown (c) MRLee

  Later Inner City Press asked the diplomat point blank if the reference was to the Shangil Tobaya camp. Yes, the diplomat said.

Inner City Press asked, who told you not to go -- the government or UNAMID itself?

The Council diplomat said, “Both... after consultations between the two.” But wasn't that true of the failure to get to the Tarabat Market? And if the Shangil Tobaya camp is safe enough for children to live in it, the Council members couldn't visit, with all the armed guards they had?

This seems to sum up the situation in Darfur, and the Security Council's visit. Watch this site.

* * *

In Khartoum, As Demonstration Opposes Secession and ICC, UN Council Avoids It

By Matthew Russell Lee

KHARTOUM, October 9 -- In downtown Khartoum on Saturday morning, a raucous crowd of several thousand demonstrated against the separation of Sudan. Their signs said it was colonialists drawing lines again on Africa, asked International Criminal Court prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo why the US is not a member of the ICC, which has indicted President Omar al Bashir.

  Groups of men in white turbans shook green treelike plants and women in bright orange robes stopped for Inner City Press to photograph their banners, many with English subtitles thanking Bashir for “stopping the long war in the South.”

  Sudanese jazz played from a bandstand, toward which people continued to stream, past Omdurman National Bank under reconstruction.

  The background, Inner City Press is told, is that Southerners rally on the 9th, in the run up to the secession referendum scheduled for January 9, 2010. Unity supporters also now gather on the 9th, though most of them won't be eligible to vote. There were reports of a pro separation rally at the University of Juba campus in Khartoum.

Khartoum demo Oct 9, UN Security Council not shown, (c) MRLee

  Inner City Press visited the headquarters of UNMIS, near the airport. UNMIS has taken over a police hospital, across a dirt street from “Judges' Home.” Inside, some of the offices had no electricity on Monday. The walls have photographs from Juba and Abyei. If there is a war, Inner City Press was told, it will probably start in Abyei.

  The UN Security Council, meanwhile, met in the basement of the luxury hotel the delegation stayed in with the members of the South Sudan Referendum Commission. There was a photo “spray” at the beginning, then the Press was ordered out. There came word of the demonstration, first a false rumor of one in front of UNMIS, which happens not infrequently, then the transfer to downtown.

  The crowd was still gathering when Inner City Press rushed to catch up with the Security Council which had moved to a meeting with Sudan's Foreign Minister Ali Karti. We will report on Karti's speech, and UK Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant's response, in a separate piece.

  After the two speeches, the UN rushed the press corps back to the hotel, taking care to entirely avoid the growing area taken up by the demonstration. Would the Security Council likewise avoid the demonstration? Watch this site.

* * *

In Darfur, UN Council Plays Mother Theresa, Dodges on Inaction of UNAMID

By Matthew Russell Lee

KHARTOUM, October 8-9, 2010 -- Why did the UN Security Council trip to Darfur feel so docile, so distracted?

   Or perhaps perfunctory: the 15 Ambassadors were driven around in a convoy of some 40 four wheel drive vehicles, from being protested at the Wali of North Darfur's compound to the Abu Shouk Internally Displaced Person's camp to a hospital to the airport, where UK Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant took and largely dodged seven questions and then got on the plane.

  Such a program implied that the UN Security Council is Mother Theresa, that its main work is humanitarian. That the Saudi Hospital in Al Fasher is unsanitary, as one Permanent Five Council member emphasized to the Press -- what exactly is the Security Council going to do about it?

  Meanwhile things much more directly in the Council's jurisdiction like the host country Sudan's denial of freedom of movement to the peacekeeping mission established by the Council, UNAMID, and UNAMID chief Ibrahim Gambari prepares to hand over five supporters of rebel Abdel Wahid Nur to this same government, with a president indicted for war crimes and genocide, seems to have hardly been discussed or even accessed.

  We say seem because the Press was excluded from nearly every stop along the Council member's humanitarian tour. A breakfast with international non governmental organizations was "for Security Council members only."

   At the Wali's house, after formulaic speeches and much conferring with another delegation, Lyall Grant asked the Press to leave. The same occurred at the Abu Shouk IDP camp.

  The Press wasn't allowed for a single second into the Saudi hospital, despite one delegation making various representations about conditions once they had left.

  Rather, the Press was told to sit in a mini bus in front of the hospital. Here, Ibrahim Gambari approached to promise to try to ensure access to the program in Khartoum. He then jumped with armed guards into his four by four vehicle, which drove over and crushed green melons or squash painstakingly planted in front of the hospital.

UN Council members & Gambari, action on UNAMID inaction not shown (c) MRLee

  During the 24 hours the Security Council was in Darfur, two UNAMID civilian staff living outside the Super Camp were kidnapped. Thursday night a UNAMID spokesperson confided coyly that there had been a “security incident” but wouldn't say anymore. He said to Inner City Press, “you'll probably be the one to get the scoop, but I won't help you.”

Later UNAMID fed partial information to a wire service, that one of the staff escaped and another was still missing -- the government of Sudan, the UN said, was helping look for the staff member, who it emerged is Hungarian. Despite Gambari's UNAMID implying that the rebels did the taking, Lyall Grant used the kidnapping as his example of the deteriorating conditions in Darfur.

What about the 47 people killed at Tarabat Market last month while the UN took three days to even go? This appears not to have been mentioned.

  When at the airport Inner City Press asked Lyall Grant about Gambari's proposed hand over of five rebels to the Bashir government, and which it might mean for UN peacekeepers freedom of movement to places like Jebel Marra, Lyall Grant's main answer was that this wasn't in the Council's “terms of reference.”

  Lyall Grant offered nothing but praise for UNAMID and Gambari, despite the latter's closeness to the Bashir government. And on the plane to Khartoum, even an unusable account of the meeting with IDPs from which the Press was excluded was glossed over, with a mention of “ad hominen” attacks by the IDPs but, even in this format, no mention of Gambari's name.

  In Khartoum on Thursday night, things hardly got better in terms of transparency of the Council trip. The UNMIS Mission and its one year chief Haile Menkerios held an event with Council members, which the Press was not allowed to cover or attend.

  When the Council, with different members and Ambassadors, visited Khartoum in 2008, Inner City Press attended and covered the similar event thrown by then UNMIS chief Ashraf Qazi. So are the UN Security Council and UNMIS getting less rather than more transparent over time?

  The people the Council is meeting with on Saturday, it is not clear how and by whom they were selected. Watch this site.

Footnotes: in rare praise of Khartoum, once excluded by UNMIS and the Council, Inner City Press went with hard working Sudan-based journalists to the Papa Costa restaurant in downtown Khartoum, for grilled hamour from the Red Sea accompanied by a jazz quartet. It's not like this every day, one of the correspondent said.

  He pointed to a traffic circle that until recently, and four two years, had Al Qaeda graffiti. Now the government belatedly painted it over -- one tangible effect of the Council's lightening visit.

* * *

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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