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UN Johnson's Praise of Kiir, & Headline, Echoed by Reuters

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 26 -- When the UN's Special Representative in South Sudan Hilde Johnson took me media questions by video link on December 26, she quoted and praised President Salva Kiir for his pledges on accountability.

  Johnson said, "I welcome President Kiirís statement of 24 December calling for arrest of anyone involved in atrocities and that he would hold them accountable. We are expecting action to follow."

  The irony of this, given Kiir's reported role, seems obvious. But in the two hours that followed, Reuters ran almost exactly the same headline as the in-house UN News Center: "U.N. hopes for South Sudan reinforcements within 48 hours" (Reuters) and "UN hopes to have peacekeeping reinforcements in strife-torn South Sudan within 48 hours" (UN News Center).

  (Might these be from Bangladesh? From which mission and how would a transfer impact the UN's pledges in Cote d'Ivoire and the Democratic Republic of the Congo? The UN Spokesperson has not answered that question in 123 hours.)

 Reuters ended its "analysis" or stenography of the UN video link session with Johnson's quote praising Kiir, without any analysis much less noting the irony:

"She welcomed Kiir's stated determination to look into the allegations, while saying that "we expect action to follow." (Reporting by Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)"

  What would this be -- a self-arrest, the ultimate selfie?

  Inner City Press asked Johnson about reports that "young men from the Dinka community, many of them with no military training, were given uniforms and guns from various armories around the capital, including one located at President Kiir's own compound, known as J1."

  Johnson replied that several government armories had been "broken into" and army uniforms and equipment distributed. To some, it was just what a defense lawyer, in this case for Kiir, would say. But in a real trial the question would be, Did you report them stolen at the time?

  In any event, it seems strange for Johnson at this time to be quoting with praise Salva Kiir, and speaking favorably of government control of Bor, which was re-taken by force. Does the government do that elsewhere (other than, for example, Sri Lanka)?

  Inner City Press asked Johnson about threats by Kiir's supporters to re-take Bentiu by force. Johnson said she hopes talks can proceed in tranquility and that option is not pursued. It fell short of saying, as the UN does elsewhere, don't re-take by force.

  One wanted to ask other questions, about the status of Yida camp (the UNHCR person to whom South Sudan OCHA referred Inner City Press is, who knew, out of the office from December 9 to January 9), of the UN base in Yuai from which the UN withdrew peacekeepers and of other UN facilities Inner City Press has asked in writing about, in for example Aweil, and in Kuacjok.

  Johnson was asked at the end of her briefing about reports UNMISS helped and or sheltered armed rebels. Her response, partially cut off by the understandably choppy audio from Juba, seemed limited to non-governmental fighters.

So Inner City Press has asked the UN Spokesperson, adding to the other questions left unanswered now for 120 hours, that while 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 this same 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."

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