Inner City Press

Inner City Press -- Investigative Reporting From the United Nations to Wall Street to the Inner City

These reports are usually available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis

  Search Search WWW (censored?)

In Other Media-eg New Statesman, AJE, FP, Georgia, NYT Azerbaijan, CSM Click here to contact us     .


Follow us on TWITTER

Home -

These reports are usually available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis


(FP Twitterati 100, 2013)

ICP on YouTube
Sept 24, 2013

UN: Sri Lanka


FOIA Finds  

Google, Asked at UN About Censorship, Moved to Censor the Questioner, Sources Say, Blaming UN - Update - Editorial

Support this work by buying this book

Click on cover for secure site orders

also includes "Toxic Credit in the Global Inner City"




Bank Beat

Freedom of Information

How to Contact Us

S. Sudan To Take Bentiu "Anytime," UN Focused on Kiir & Bor, Qs UNanswered 200 Hrs

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 29 -- In South Sudan, in the run-up to to Salva Kiir's army re-taking of Bor, the UN did not call for restraint. Now with the SPLA saying it will re-take Bentiu anytime, where is the UN? Nowhere, it seems. It is heavily focused on discouraging any re-retaking of Bor.  UN envoy Hilde Johnson is a long-time supporter of Salva Kiir, and not Riek Machar.

  Rather than answer actual questions that were posed throughout last week, some below then more on December 26 and 27, the UN Spokesperson puts out press releases, and YouTube video of 72 Bangladeshi peacekeepers arriving from the UN Mission in the Congo. With civilians also under threat in DRC, what's the impact of the transfer? The UN has refused to answer.

 On December 29 the UN was "appalled" at the killing in Darfur of peacekeepers from Senegal and Jordan. UNsaid is that the UN plans to transfer a full battalion from Darfur to South Sudan.

  On December 24 after the UN Security Council voted 15-0 for a US-draft resolution to shift peacekeepers from five other Missions to South Sudan, Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon about Kiir's ultimatum for retaking Bentiu. Video here, from Minute 3:39. From the UN's transcript:

Inner City Press: What about Bentiu? It was said that the Government has given an ultimatum for the rebel forces to leave Bentiu; otherwise they say they are going go into force. What does that UN think of that? Would you call for restraint? What is the role of UNMISS on this retake in Bor and now Bentiu?

SG Ban Ki-moon: There is no military solution at this time. Therefore, I am urging again that the leaders, whatever their differences may be, should start dialogue immediately. I have been speaking with African and other world leaders yesterday and today, with a lot of leaders, so that they could provide necessary assets and resources, as well as demonstrate their influence, whoever they may have [it on].

  Ban used the phrase, "There is no military solution." One hears this a lot these days from the UN -- it was NOT heard when Sri Lanka's government killed tens of thousands in 2009 in the bloodbath on the beach -- but even when said, it does not always mean the same thing.

  It can be said with a wink and a nod, like, just re-take Bentiu as quickly as you can, before the Security Council has to meet again.

 On December 25, SPLA army spokesman Philip Aguer was quoted that "the SPLA forces are in the western part of the state and the SPLA is reorganizing. Definitely they will launch an attack on Bentiu any time." And where is the UN, urging any kind of restraint? Nowhere.

  In Juba on December 24, Kiir-supporting UN envoy Hilde Johnson first postponed her press conference in deference to Kiir's information minister, then held it and praised Kiir's talk of accountability. Perhaps she hadn't read of Nuer killed in Juba under color of state law.

  At least Johnson belatedly took some questions in Juba. In New York, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson Martin Nesirky refused to hold a simple noon briefing on December 23 or 24.

  In lieu of the needed December 24 noon briefing, Inner City Press submitted questions on South Sudan ("what is UN's knowledge of government assault on / re-taking of Bor? What is the level of casualties? Did anyone in the UN system urge restraint?"), on the UN and rule of law, and on the Central African Republic, dysfunctional fighting between "peacekeepers" there - we'll have more on this. Here are some of the pending questions:

December 26: Hilde Johnson "spoke of disarming those who enter UNMISS bases. Please state if this applied to the 27 SPLA fighters whom UNMISS spokesperson Joe Contreras was quoted by Reuters as saying sought shelter with with UNMISS in Rubkona, across the river from Bentiu, and separately state if UNMISS has sheltered SPLA fighters anywhere else in the past two weeks."

"Please describe MONUSCO's actions to protect civilians from (and to "neutralize") ADF-Nalu in Beni and FDLR since mid-December, and state which battalion would be taken from the DRC to South Sudan, and how that would not undercut the pledge to now neutralize the FDLR, and protect civilians."

December 27: "In Bentiu, what medical assistance staff are available now that MSF says it has pulled out? What is the UN's response to the statement by India's PR Mukerji that in UN Peacekeeping, "new brigades could jeopardize the safety of traditional peacekeepers since rebels won’t distinguish between the two when they retaliate and that risks to peacekeepers should be reduced by physically differentiating them from the intervention brigade, through different uniforms." Are there any such plans in DPKO / DFS?

What is UN's knowledge of any planned government assault on / re-taking of Bentiu? Does the SG or anyone in the UN system urge restraint?

Please respond to quotes from diplomats that those with Dinka surnames, regardless of nationality, have difficulty leaving Bor (and Bentiu);

Please state the status / knowledge of UNMISS base in Aweil, and in Kuacjok;

While your Office has said the Secretariat won't get involved in the staff union election the results of which were published on i-Seek, on January 2 which ticket will have access to the Staff Union office in the Alcoa building, in light of Ticket 2's letter to Ban Ki-moon et al? Please confirm that the outgoing president will be recalled to post.

In the Central African Republic, please confirm or deny that Chadian peacekeepers fired on protesters (and that the UN will do about it), and engaged in a skirmish with Burundian peacekeepers.

  The chief of UN Peacekeeping Herve Ladsous, who understated the death toll in South Sudan then disappeared from sight, has a "policy" of not answering Press questions. Video here, UK coverage here.

  Ladsous' UN Peacekeeping, in the midst of all this on December 24, tweeted praise of itself and its mission in Mali, where Chadian "peacekeepers" shoot civilians as they now have in Central African Republic as well, there also throwing a grenade at "fellow" Burundian peacekeepers.

  Amid all this, while refusing to answer written questions on South Sudan, CAR and corruption for 100 hours, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's Office of the Spokesperson has refused to even hold a normal noon briefing today.

   One wonders how this comports with the UN's post Sri Lanka failure "Rights Up Front" action plan, covered here.

  Again, Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson's office STILL not holding noon briefings -- and has left questions unanswered for 100 hours now. The Free UN Coalition for Access @FUNCA_info has protested, again, here.

  On the morning of December 21, Inner City Press asked Ban's top two spokespeople, and then the listed "Weekend Duty Officer," about Ban's proposed shift of assets and the shift's potential impacts . More than four days later, they had not answered.

  Ban took four questions on December 23 but none on this.

  Ban's lead spokesperson Martin Nesirky gave three of four questions to board members of the United Nations Correspondents Association (a/k/a UN's Censorship Alliance), a group which most recently gushed about fashion photos it took with Ban last week. One of these three questions was not about South Sudan at all; another tried to blame everything on Khartoum.

  But what is Ban's position on Salva Kiir, which whom his (or Norway's) envoy Hilde Johnson is so close, threatening to re-take Bor by force? Inner City Press asked the question with Ban still in the room. The response was happy holidays and maybe Hilde will speak later in the week. After Bor is assaulted?

  Ban said, you can get answers through my spokesperson. Well, no. That has not been the case.

  Nesirky's office did not answer a single Press question on South Sudan submitted on December 21 and 22, even after they were re-sent to his office's supposed "Weekend Duty Officer" Eri Kaneko. What is the duty? Where are the answers?

 In the room for Ban's four-question presser was Kieran Dwyer, the spokesperson for Herve Ladsous - he has been allowed by his ostensible boss Ban to have a "policy" against answer Press questions.

  Dwyer and UN Peacekeeping have yet to explain why on the afternoon of December 19 Indian ambassador Mukerji could tell Inner City Press about the killing of two peacekeepers in Akobo while UN Peacekeeping at that time did not know about it. An analysis of UNMISS communications is in preparation.

   Meanwhile Hilde Johnson's deputy envoy Toby Lanzer has issued a press statement, addressing neither issue. It listed two contacts, Tapiwa Gomo and Amanda Wyler, to whom Inner City Press immediately sent questions, three hours ago:

What is the situation in, including humanitarian access to, the Yide / Yida refugee camp?

Please state UNMISS' / OCHA's knowledge of the situation in Yuai. Have all UN peacekeepers been withdrawn? What about the civilians?

What is UNMISS' / OCHA's resonse to Salva Kiir's reported ultimatum on Bentiu, including advising UN and NGO staff to leave? Will OCHA leave (as it did from Kilinochchi in Sri Lanka in 2008)?

What is the situation in Bor? Has the UN evacuated any South Sudanese, or other foreigners?

These questions are directed to you as the contact on Mr. Lanzer's December 23 statement, and cc-ed to Mr. Lanzer as Humanitarian Coordinator.

 Three and a half hours later, no response at all. As to the first question, there's word of killing including of an NGO worker in the Yida camp.

  The UN has now announced that Hilde Johnson will hold a press conference at noon in Juba on December 24 - no word if it'll be webcast; the UN has said that Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will speak to the media at the UN in New York at 12:20 pm on December 23. Ban's office is in the clouds (photo here); the UN Security Council despite all this is dormant (photo here).

  Will Ban answer questions, including on his UN Mission's reaction to Kiir's ultimatum? His head of UN Peacekeeping, Herve Ladsous, does not. Video here, UK coverage here.  And Ban's Office of the Spokesperson has not, since the morning of December 21.

  IN Sri Lanka in 2008, the government told the UN to get out of Kilinochchi, and the UN did. Years later it has issued a post Sri Lanka failure "Rights Up Front" action plan. So does it push back against Kiir's threat to militarily re-take Bentiu? Or is such push back limited to government's the Western Permanent Three members of the Security Council don't like?

  Speaking of the Western P3, when two French journalists were killed in Mali, there was an immediately Security Council press statement. Now, the French NGO Solidarites International says one of its staff in South Sudan was killed, probably"assassinated."

  But with France holding the Council presidency, still, there is not even a UNSC meeting or briefing yet scheduled. Is this based on the identity of those killed? Or of the killers, or their location?

   Rather than explain or answer questions about the UN's pull out -- and shift of assets away from a promised crackdown on the Hutu militia FDLR in the Eastern Congo -- the UN offers mere sound bytes and fundraising appeals.

  But how many have been killed so far in Bor?

   With Bor in South Sudan under the control of Peter Gadet, the UN in New York not answered questions for more than a day. There is a history: back on March 15, 2012 Inner City Press asked UN envoy Hilde Johnson about Gadet being given a role in "disarmament" around Bor. Video here, from Minute 9:35.

  Johnson, a vocal supporter of plans by South Sudan's Salva Kir government, told Inner City Press that it didn't much matter WHO did the disarmament. Video here, from Minute 12:55 (to "us in the UN" who did the disarmament, including Gadet, was "less than relevant.")

  Standing next to Johnson was the spokesperson for UN Peaceekping chief Herve Ladsous, Kieran Dwyer, who would later on video defend Ladsous' refusal to answer Press questions about his UN Peacekeeping partnering with Congolese Army units implicated in mass rapes (or here, for disarmament in South Sudan, with Peter Gadet.)

  Now that US aircraft have been fired at from Bor, and President Barack Obama has told Congress he "may take further action," did and does it really not matter? Where is the accountability? Where are the answers?

  Rather than answer, the UN issues press releases from its envoy Hilde Johnson. Its communications officer for South Sudan Clare Santry has left the country and appeared for a soft two minute piece on BBC, her former employer, appealing for money from donors and insisting, as Johnson did, that the UN is not abandoning anyone in South Sudan.

  Really? Then why did the UN move to pull even its armed peacekeepers out of Yuai? What is the situation in Bentiu, with troubling reports of killings and seemingly a looming battle?

   On the morning of December 22, Inner City Press submitted additional questions to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's Office of the Spokesperson, to the chief spokesperson Martin Nesirky and the "weekend duty officer" Eri Kaneko to whom actiong deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq's email auto-responder directed questions:

On the South Sudan crisis, while still awaiting any response to the questions submitted yesterday, must for now ask a few more:

What percentage of UNMISS personnel is it who are being moved from Bor to Juba? From Juba to Entebbe? How is this different, for example, from the pull out of UN staff from Kilinochchi in late 2008?

Given that the SG said "we are now actively trying to transfer our assets from other peacekeeping missions, like MONUSCO [the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo] and some other areas" --

which assets is he / the UN trying to transfer out of the DRC? How does this relate to the UN's pledge to now move to neutralize the FDLR? From what other missions is the UN trying to move assets?

Who in the UN has spoken to - or even reached out to - Riek Machar in the past days? Has the UN visited, or asked to visit, the arrested former ministers?

  No answer in four hours, on top of the then 24 hours of non-response before. The Spokesperson's office on December 22 has only put out a statement by envoy Hilde F. Johnson: “To anyone who wants to threaten us, attack us or put obstacles in our way, our message remains loud and clear: we will not be intimidated.”

   This in the same statement announcing the pull-out of all "non-critical" UN staff from Juba to Uganda, while the UN and Johnson's deputy Toby Lanzer have not answer what percentage of UN staff are being pulled out.

  How is this consistent with the UN's recent post Sri Lanka failure "Rights Up Front" action plan? In Sri Lanka in 2008, the UN pulled all humanitarian ("non-critical"?) staff out of Kilinochchi -- then concealed its own death counts in 2009.

  As Inner City Press asked on December 19 in the UN Press Briefing Room, is Hilde Johnson too close a supporter of Salva Kiir to mediate? This was not answered. Nor whether in the days since she has spoken with, or even reached out to, Riek Machar.

  As noted from Manila Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he would move "assets" from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to South Sudan.

   Given that the UN has made much of its new focus on "neutralizing" the Hutu FDLR militia in the DRC, Ban's statement cries out for explanation from the UN. Inner City Press was asked, from the Kivus, where Ban said this. It was in his Q&A in Manila, only belated added to the UN website, here.

 But neither the UN, its Department of Peacekeeping Operations under Herve Ladsous with his own history in the Great Lakes region or envoy Martin Kobler has answered this question: which assets would be removed from the DRC?

  So too does the UN Mission in South Sudan UNMISS tweeting it is moving "non essential" staff out of the country, to Uganda, STILL cry out for explanation.

  What percentage of UNMISS would that be? And how is this consistent with the UN's ballyhooed post Sri Lanka failure "Rights Up Front Action Plan"?  Rights seen from behind?

  What about the UN decision to try to pull all of peacekeepers out of Yuai? Was a UN helicopter shot down and abandoned on the way? The UN won't answer on this, or the questions below. But BBC has no analysis of the UN, only of "rebel" former vice president Riek Machar.

  BBC on December 21 showed former US official, now Texas A&M professor Andrew Natsios, who said the ICRC and IGAD ministers were blocked from visiting the ministers arrested by Salva Kiir.

  Natsios suggested the ministers should be turned over to the UN for protection. What -- protection like the abandoned civilians around Yuai?

  One reason the UN does not improvement is that it is not held accountable. Even on Haiti cholera, people make excuses, and those who don't are barely heard from. Shouldn't the UN at least be expected to answer questions?

  Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in from Manila cited South Sudan and Riek Machar. But his Office of the Spokesperson has gone twenty hours without answering basic questions about South Sudan.

  After the UN Mission in South Sudan belated acknowledged on its week-old Twitter account that one of its helicopters "came under small arms fire" on the way to try to remove all peacekeepers from Yuai, Inner City Press asked a question.

   Did the UN copter in fact get shot, emergency land and be abandoned -- that is, get shot down?  Saying "came under small arms fire," in that case, would be an understatement.

  But the UN spokesperson's office in New York has left Press questions about South Sudan UNanswered since the morning of December 21.

  The US State Department has summarized John Kerry's call to Salva Kiir, informing him that US envoy Donald Booth is on the way. Will Booth reach out to Riek Machar? Who will tell the UN, which is ostensibly responsive to its member states, that it should answer questions?

  After news that three US military aircraft were fired at while approaching Bor in South Sudan, where some 15,000 people are in the UN base, Inner City Press put questions to US Africom and to the UN's two top spokespeople in New York.

  Africom quickly answered, twice. And the White House sent a statement that President Barack Obama was briefed, including by Susan Rice, and "reaffirmed the importance of continuing to work with the United Nations to secure our citizens in Bor."

  But from the UN came only an auto-response, that acting deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq will be out of the office until December 30, and to put any questions to the sole weekend duty officer of the Office of the Spokesperson for Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Inner City Press sent these, on the morning of December 21, more than four hours before deadline for first publication:

Now with 3 US aircraft shot over Bor, this is a press request for an update from the UN:

What is the UN's knowledge of military conflict in Bor, impact on civilians?

Is the army aligned with Salva Kiir seeking to re-take Bor? Is it coordinating in any way with UNMISS?

Since the beginning of the unrest in Juba, has UNMISS provided any support to which the UN's Human Rights Due Diligence Policy applies? If so, to which units?

Has any UN official spoken with Riek Machar during this period?

To the UN's knowledge, did Uganda or any other outside country take military action in Bor or elsewhere in South Sudan?

This is a request, including on behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access, that the Office of the Spokesperson hold (noon) briefings during this phase of crisis in South Sudan, certainly on Monday, December 23.

  On Friday December 20, amid the South Sudan crisis, Farhan Haq announced that the UN would cancel its normal noon briefings, all the way through December 30.

While some information trickles out from UNMISS in Juba, which only started a twitter account last week, it comes late. 

  This is why the UN's Office of the Spokesperson should be providing information, and / or Herve Ladsous' UN Peacekeeping. Their twitter account is blithely promoting itself, with a few re-tweets from UNMISS. Where is Ladsous? He still of of December 2013 says he has a "policy" of not answering Press questions. Video here.

This is a time for the UN to communicate. But it is not. As was jotted during the Security Council's consultations on December 20 -- despite commitment and good work from many in UNMISS which Inner City Press also covers and would like to cover more -- there is a credibility crisis for the UN. And it is getting worse. Watch this site.


Share |

* * *

These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for Sept 26, 2011 New Yorker on Inner City Press at UN

Click for re Libya, Sri Lanka, UN Corruption

Feedback: Editorial [at]

UN Office: S-303, UN, NY 10017 USA

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540

  Search  Search WWW (censored?)

Other, earlier Inner City Press are listed here, and some are available in the ProQuest service, and now on Lexis-Nexis.

            Copyright 2006-2013 Inner City Press, Inc. To request reprint or other permission, e-contact Editorial [at]