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Obama Ends AGOA Benefits for South Sudan & Gambia, "Not Making Progress"

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 23 -- A year into the new civil conflict in South Sudan, US President Barack Obama on December 23 issued a statement declaring the country, along with The Gambia, ineligible for continuing benefits under the African Growth and Opportunities Act, starting January 1, 2015:

"4. In Proclamation 8921 of December 20, 2012, I designated the Republic of South Sudan (South Sudan) as a beneficiary sub-Saharan African country for purposes of section 506A(a)(1) of the 1974 Act. In Proclamation 7657 of March 28, 2003, the President designated the Republic of The Gambia (The Gambia) as a beneficiary sub-Saharan African country for purposes of section 506A(a)(1) of the 1974 Act.

"5. Section 506A(a)(3) of the 1974 Act (19 U.S.C. 2466a(a)(3)), authorizes the President to terminate the designation of a country as a beneficiary sub-Saharan African country for purposes of section 506A, if he determines that the country is not making continual progress in meeting the requirements described in section 506A(a)(1) of the 1974 Act.

"6. Pursuant to section 506A(a)(3) of the 1974 Act, I have determined that South Sudan and The Gambia are not making continual progress in meeting the requirements described in section 506A(a)(1) of the 1974 Act. Accordingly, I have decided to terminate the designation of South Sudan and The Gambia as beneficiary sub-Saharan African countries for purposes of section 506A of the 1974 Act, effective on January 1, 2015."


 When the UN's Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator Kyung-wha Kang took questions about South Sudan on December 4, Inner City Press asked her about Juba's role in restricting humanitarian flights, in challenging the flow of funds from Oslo to aid groups.

  Kyung-wha Kang acknowledged some restrictions and some talk that the SPLA-Juba has a right to control the funds committed to in Oslo.

  After the briefing Inner City Press provided her office with such a report and was told it might be better to asked the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations. But that is dubious, given that its chief Herve Ladsous on the same December 4 would not answer a simple question about the UNAMID mission covering up rapes in Darfur. YouTube video here.

  Still, Kyung-wha Kang is better in that she answers questions and seems genuinely interested in hearing where the UN could do better. This makes reports that the top job in OCHA could go to a FOC - Friend of Cameron - Andrew Lansley all the more troubling. Inner City Press and the Free UN Coalition for Access, which push for transparency, are on this. Watch this site.

 Back on October 22 after the UN's envoy to South Sudan Ellen Loj spoke to the Security Council on October 22, she came to take questions from the media.

  Inner City Press asked Loj to explain two separate lines from her statement to the Council, and one thing that was not mentioned: the deadly downing of a UN helicopter on August 26, allegedly after the UN was told by rebel Peter Gadet that it would be shot down.

  The first line Inner City Press asked about was Loj's statement that "UNMISS is looking into ways to support the efforts of national authorities to end the violence." Inner City Press asked, would the UN provide the Salva Kiir / SPLA forces military support?

  Loj asked to be shown the line, coming out from behind the UN microphone stand to take a copy of her own statement from Inner City Press. Video here.  Finally she said this might involve UNMISS conducting its own street patrols -- why would that be "supporting the national authorities" as opposed to the opposition, where it controls the streets -- or setting up a rape-help desk in police stations.

   When Inner City Press sought to remind Loj of the second line it has asked about, two national staffers "detained" since August, the moderator attempted to move the questioning on. Loj still replied that the UN doesn't know who has these two national staff members detained.

    On the helicopter, Loj said that a UN Board of Inquiry was in South Sudan last week and she doesn't know the outcome. The helicopter was shot down on August 26, and transcripts of taped called between Gadet and UN officials have emerged. We'll have more on this.

    (A Voice of America scribe tried to take the first question, and then after a softball question made social banter with Loj to the side of the stakeout.)

      Back on October 20 when Sexual Violence in Conflict expert Zainab Bangura spoke about South Sudan, Inner City Press asked of her meeting with Riek Machar and whether she thinks he controls Peter Gadet, under sanctions by the US and suspected of shooting down a UN helicopter. Video here.

  Bangura called her talks with Machar "decent" including "very detailed information on where he is in command." Apparently, Machar is responsible or accepts responsibility for Gadet. But where are the results of the helicopter probe? Another UN cover-up?

 Inner City Press also asked Bangura of the 130 rapes in Minova by the DR Congo Army in November 2012, after which only two soldiers have been convicted while UN Peacekeeping under Herve Ladsous continues supporting the rapist units.

  Bangura said she couldn't speak to that part of the UN, and linked the lack of justice for Minova to the government's delay in investigating. Video here. But doesn't the government, and Ladsous' DPKO and MONUSCO, know which DRC Army units were in Minova during the rapes, and who was in charge of them? Impunity continues.

  While South Sudan President Salva Kiir was in New York, he did not attend the UN's “High Level” event about his country on September 25.

A Senior US State Department Official, speaking on background, said that “there was a lot of disappointment expressed in the meeting that Salva Kiir who is here in New York did not attend the meeting. He sent his Minister of Foreign Affairs and some of his ministers to the meeting and several of the attendees made a point of noting that Salva Kiir was not at the meeting.”

Inner City Press asked the Senior State Department Official if the US know who was behind the recent shooting down of a UN helicopter, if it could confirm that forces under the control of Peter Gadet, already under US sanctions, did it.

The US official said “we know that the UN is investigating it, we are waiting for the results of that investigation. Gadet has been put on the sanctions list even before that happened.”

The official called the shoot-down “evidence of how difficult it is to work in South Sudan,” and added that South Sudan's foreign minister had said the government is committed to not blocking NGOs and the UN from providing aid. “We have to hold them to that commitment,” the official concluded, “people are suffering.”

Background: back on May 6, 2014, when the US imposed sanctions on Gadet, Inner City Press asked:

MODERATOR: Great. Thank you. Our next question is from the other Matt Lee, Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Great. Thanks a lot, [Moderator]. I wanted to ask, there was a – it was said that in Security Council consultations at the UN that senior government officials were named in a radio broadcast prior to the attacks in Bor on the UN compound in killing the civilians. I just wonder if you can say are these people – is that the case? Do you know the names of people that sort of called for that attack, and in which case, why aren’t they on this list?

And I also – this might for Senior Administration Official Number Two. Secretary Kerry was talking about a legitimate force to help make peace. And I just wanted to know, is the UN – is the U.S. thinking of that as part of UNMISS mission or as the IGAD force? And if so, would it require a Security Council approval? Thanks.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: On the first, I mean, we typically do not comment on actors against whom we are – we have not yet – we have not yet acted, a clunky way of saying we don’t comment on those who are not part of our designation. But anyone who is contributing to the violence, whether that’s by directing violence, whether that’s by funding it, fueling it, contributing arms, can be a subject of designation in the future. And I’ll leave it to my State Department colleague to answer the second question.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: Yeah. On the question about the regional force and on UNMISS, we – it is something that conversations and discussions are ongoing between countries of IGAD, with New York, with ourselves and others on how best to create this additional force presence that we are working very much with UNMISS and see this as part of the same effort. But we do think it’s very important that the regional forces are able to join this effort in larger numbers and appreciate the efforts of, particularly, the governments of Ethiopia and Kenya, who are leading the mediation and who are seeking to work with UNMISS in this regard.


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