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In S. Sudan, UN Won't Confirm Request to Uganda, or Bor's Fall

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 19 -- In South Sudan, now that civilians have been killed right inside the UN compound in Akobo, belatedly the UN Secretariat is speaking out.

 Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson used his previously-scheduled appearance about the UN's post Sri Lanka failure "Rights Up Front" plan to acknowledge that "lives have been lost" in Akobo.

  Inner City Press asked Eliasson to confirm that the UN has asked Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni to mediate in South Sudan. Eliasson replied that he was not aware of any such request.

(Reuters has run a report quoting Ugandan government spokesperson Ofwono Opondo that "Museveni has been requested by the U.N. to mediate in that conflict." Reuters' UN bureau chief was at the briefing, but strangely did not ask any follow up question to the denial of his own wires' story.)

  UN acting deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq answered about Bor. Inner City Press asked him to confirm the that defectors have taken control of Bor. Haq said he could not confirm that -- which is strange, since he also said UN envoy Hilde Johnson is in close contact with the government, which itself confirmed its loss of control of Bor four hours ago.

  Inner City Press asked Haq to confirm the killing of 16 oil workers in Unity State; he could not confirm that either.

  What explains the UN's initial silence? Part of it is the dysfunction of having atop UN Peacekeeping Herve Ladsous, who has repeatedly on camera refused to answer Press questions, video here, UK coverage here. On December 16, Ladsous briefed the Security Council behind closed doors about UNDOF but didn't say anything to the press as he left, laughing.

  On December 17 it was announced that Ladsous would do a Q&A stakeout. But again he left without doing it. French Ambassador Gerard Araud did a stakeout, but refused to answer any "micro-management' questions about UN Peacekeepers, including if they are combatants and too close to the government (and in Mali, to the French Serval forces).

  That may be among the problems in South Sudan: UN envoy Hilde Johnson is so aligned with the SPLA of Salva Kiir that it appears she has not spoken with Riek Machar; the UN did not say "Dinka are hunting down Nuer in Juba," but used the Lou Nuer tribe name to describe events in Akobo.

When she was last in New York, Inner City Press asked Johnson about a UN staffer in South Sudan having tweeted about tribal trouble in Akobo. That tweet (and account) later disappeared. Johnson told Inner City Press the tweet had been inappropriate. And now?

  Haq said Johnson may appear for a video Q&A tomorrow December 19. Where is Security Council president Gerard Araud? Where is UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous? Watch this site.

Footnote: Reuters not following up on the UN's direct denial of Reuters' story is typical: at least as to the UN, Reuters just reports and moves on. It said Lakhdar Brahimi was a Nobel Prize winner; when disapproved, including by a quote obtained from the Nobel authorities, the reference disappeared but was never explicitly corrected.

 Reuters named as current UN Libya envoy Abdel Elah Al Khatib (instead of Tarek Mitri), when disappeared it - but it still remains online. This would be one thing, except both Reuters scribes at the UN have spied / tried to get the investigative Press thrown out of the UN. including speaking with the US Mission. So it is not OK.


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