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On S. Sudan, Ban Hasn't Spoken with Machar, Ladsous Speaks Only to Norway

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 18 -- Amid the crisis in South Sudan, UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous spoke behind closed doors to the UN Security Council on Tuesday, but refused to speak on the record with the media as had been announced.

  This led on Wednesday to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon doing an on-camera stakeout about South Sudan, as which it was said he would take no questions.  His spokesperson called on Al Jazeera (will the UN send more peacekeepers? apparently no) then Inner City Press asked if the UN had spoken with former vice president Riek Machar.

From the UN transcript:

Inner City Press: The former Vice President [Riek Machar], has anyone reached out to him?

SG: No, no, I didnít. Thank you very much.

  Then Ban Ki-moon left.

   Despite his refusal to speak to the UN press corp at the stakeout, as his predecessors Alain Le Roy and Jean-Marie Guehenno before him did, Ladsous appeared on Wednesday on a television station from Norway, the country of UN envoy to South Sudan Hilde Johnson.  Why?

  This matters because while various wire services on Tuesday quoted an unnamed UN official that 400 to 500 people had been killed, no named UN person stood behind the number.

   Some French publications linked Ladsous to the number. It was unclear if this partial or targeted approach was authorized. But at Tuesday by the Security Council, Ladsous simply walked out without speaking. This is a pattern: UK coverage here.

 Again, here's a question: if the UN means its post Sri Lanka "Rights Up Front" action plan, why would it only give its estimate of deaths anonymously? It seems clear there will be no "Rights Up Front" for UN Peacekeeping as long as Ladsous is at the helm.

  Ladsous' spokesperson Dwyer remained as Gerard Araud, the Ambassador of Ladsous' native France and December's Security Council president, took questions on South Sudan, Syria and Mali.

  Araud's spokesperson Frederic Jung tried to control the proceeding, telling the UN Television (actually, outside contractor Team People) microphone operator to go to Reuters, then to Agence France Presse.

  Inner City Press asked, what about clashes outside of Juba, in Pibor and Bor?

  Araud acknowledged there had been fighting in Pibor; he did not mention Bor where it is reported at least three people have been killed.

  Inner City Press asked if Ladsous had briefed on how this split, between Salva Kiir and former vice president Riek Machar, might impact fights with the David Yau Yau rebels. Araud said that hadn't been considered yet, and that he'd told another Council members it couldn't yet be known.

  Then after a typical AFP question -- from the scribe who once asked breathlessly what time a head of state's plane would land in New York -- Araud called on Reuters to ask a question about Syria.

  Predictably, it was about Assad leaving power, at least executive power. It was not the type of question a President of the Security Council would answer, but Araud used the stakeout and microphone to state France's position and brag that France's "side event" with Saudi sponsored rebel Ahmad al Jarba was the best attended side event. (As noted, the UN Censorship Alliance a/k/a UNCA also hosted Jarba for a faux "UN briefing.")

  Then Inner City Press asked a question about Mali, which Araud refused to answer. It was the type of question the president of the Security Council should answer: have the peacekeepers that the Council has sent into Mali become combatants and therefore targets?

  Araud gave a lecture about three levels of decision making, calling himself "the political" and saying "it's not to me to care" what happens on the ground with the MINUSMA mission. Inner City Press YouTube video here.

  Then Araud walked away from the stakeout. The AFP scribe snickered and Ladsous' spokesperson Kieran O'Dwyer stood feeding the scribes for some time. The feeding is set to continue. Watch this site.


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