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Darfur Forgotten Even in UN Council's Goodbye to Khartoum, Rice Fights For $15

By Matthew Russell Lee

KHARTOUM, October 9 -- Not a single question about Darfur was taken at the press conference on Saturday ending the UN Security Council's mission to Sudan.

  In the basement of the luxury Rotana Hotel, the outgoing Public Information Officer of the UN Mission in Sudan chose five questions, all about the North - South referendum, including questions from the UN's own media.

  Inner City Press, which accompanied the Council from the South Sudan government's conference hall in Juba through the UN's Super Camp and an IDP Camp in Darfur to Sudan's foreign ministry in Khartoum, sought to ask what if anything was accomplished about Darfur.

  The spokespeople shook their heads and later stated they were never going to take this question, or questioner.

The delegation including Press was whisked to the Khartoum airport's VIP terminal. (On the way to the flight, $15 had been collected from each passenger as a form of tax.) In the terminal, Ambassadors milled around also apparently unsure what had been committed to about Darfur.

  Perhaps to blow off steam, US Ambassador Susan Rice raised her voice to Sudan's Permanent Representative, complaining about the requirement on her entourage, and even on her, to go through the metal detector, and then with increased vehemence about the $15 fee. [Update: the fee was later returned, although at least one other Permanent Five ambassador said he had not problem paying the fee.]

   A crowd gathered and one wag remarked, if only Susan Rice had been this forceful about Darfur, including the turn over of five supporters of Fur rebel Abdel Wahid Nur to the government of Omar al Bashir by the UN's Ibrahim Gambari.

  This is not to say that Ambassador Rice did not show passion at times during the Council's trip. At the Government of South Sudan's training base at Rejaf, next to the GoSS Minister of Internal Affairs as he praised her and said that independence had been a long time coming, Susan Rice was beaming.

How IDP camp residents in Darfur live, $15 not shown  (c) MRLee

  Moments later, in what another Council diplomat later incredulously called “a political rally,” Susan Rice gave a speech to a tentful of young trainees. “Are you ready for independence?” they were asked. “Yes!” they answered.

  Cynics have said, perhaps for drama's sake, that US envoy to Sudan Scott Gration cares most about Sudan's North - South conflict, while Susan Rice cares about Darfur because, they say, of her action and inaction during the (“first”) Rwanda genocide in 1994.

  But on this trip, to the eye, Susan Rice also cared (much) more about South Sudan than Darfur. Officials of the Bashir regime clearly will pick up on this. Will things get even worse for the people of Darfur? Watch this site

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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.

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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.

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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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