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On S. Sudan, ICRC Said Banned from Arrestees But 6 Qs UNanswered for 9 Hrs

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 21 -- With the UN refusing to answer questions about its performance in South Sudan, its video analysis of Bor was shown for example on BBC, without analysis.
  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 cut to 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, speaking from Manila, cited South Sudan and Riek Machar. But his Office of the Spokesperson has gone ten 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 for more than nine hours now.

  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. For example, on the afternoon of December 20 outside a closed door meeting of Troop Contributing Countries in the UN basement, a diplomat from inside the meeting told Inner City Press that the UN had not been successful in its planned evacuation of its peacekeepers from Yuai, fired at.

Twenty two hours later, UNMISS confirmed this, saying a chopper came under small arms fire, not that it had an emergency landing and was abandoned.  Clearly, they are busy.

  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.

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, there is a credibility crisis for the UN. And it is getting worse. Watch this site.


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