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On S. Sudan, Johnson Downplays Copter Shoot-down, Disappeared Tweet

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 18 -- When the UN's envoy to South Sudan Hilde Johnson gave an open briefing to the Security Council on Monday morning, she did not give any update on the shooting down of a Russian helicopter and the death of the pilots.

   She did however accuse South Sudan of "67 cases of SOFA violations... among them threats, assaults and detention of UN personnel."

  After Johnson spoke, South Sudan's Permanent Representative Francis Deng said, with less specificity, that complaints against Johnson's UNMISS mission had been made to him, and he had briefed Johnson about them.

  Inner City Press went to the UN's noon briefing on Monday and asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson Farhan Haq if there was any update on the shooting down of the helicopter, and on the violations by UNMISS alluded to by Ambassador Deng, himself a former UN official. Haq responded that Johnson might be taking questions after the Security Council meeting.

  When Johnson appeared, with at least two spokespeople, she said she would take two questions. Inner City Press asked for an update on the helicopter's shooting down, after so much time.

  Johnson replied that soon there will be accountability, though some mechanism set up by president Salva Kiir.

  But Inner City Press understands that even in closed door consultations, Hilde Johnson did not bring the matter up. Rather, she was twice asked about it, including being told that it is inappropriate for UN Peacekeeping to send civilian helicopters ferrying into dangerous militarized zones.

  Accountability for the shoot down must include the UN Mission which sent these copters in. Is this why Johnson doesn't raise it, not only in the open briefing, but also in the closed?

  On the complaints Deng alluded to, she replied that there is a communications process and she will briefing the National Aliens Committee on any misunderstanding. The result is that the UN publicly makes specific enumerated complaints against the host country, but refuses to provide any specific information about complains made about or against the UN Mission.

  Finally, Inner City Press asked Johnson about the "disappeared" tweet by an UNMISS staffer on which it previously reported: Mathilde Kaalund-Jørgensen of the UN Mission in South Sudan tweeted this:

"#breaking Lou Nuer youth are mobilising in big numbers leaving #Akobo town empty heading towards Dengjok #Southsudan"

  Given previous bloodshed between the Lou Nuer and Murle, and UNMISS inaction, this gave rise to concerns. So much so that the Mathilde Kaalund account profile disappeared from Twitter.

  This came after Akobo county commissioner Kuang Rambang accused the UN Peacekeeping mission of unfairness. One way or another, the UN should have responded. But instead, the account simply disappeared.

  On Monday, after Inner City Press asked, Johnson said it never should have been tweeted. More should be said -- including the rights where appropriate for whistleblowers to make things public that the UN may be covering up, for example on having brought cholera to Haiti.

  Also at Monday's UN noon briefing, Inner City Press asked for an answer to a question it asked last week, related to the UN bringing cholera to Haiti and then refusing to be accountable. Does UN Peacekeeping in any of its missions have established the Standing Claims Commission provided for it its SOFA or Status of Forces Agreements?

  On Monday, Haq said he had asked DPKO -- whose main spokesperson Kieran Dwyer stood to the side of Johnson's stakeout -- but that it is "not a yes or no question." Really? Does DPKO have any Commissions - if you can't say yes after multiple days, is the answer "no"?

  UN Peacekeeping as a whole is declined into a stonewalling organization under Herve Ladsous: click here for video, here for UK coverage. Each SRSG is free to be more responsive, and should.

 One might ask: given Hilde Johnson's previous advocacy for children and clean water at UNICEF, what does she think of how the UN and MINUSTAH have dealt with their role in Haiti cholera?

Footnote: While UN Peacekeeping Ladsous says he will not answer Inner City Press' questions, it must be noted: for the two stakeouts Monday on UNMISS, the only questions about South Sudan came from Inner City Press. Another question, predictably, was about Syria, another about Saudi Arabia's Security Council seat for which Jordan is reaching.

  Maybe Ladsous came arrange another "private briefing" to get his message out, as he did to spin and stonewall on the 135 rapes in Minova by his partners in the Congolese Army. Oh wait - he is privately briefing due-payers, tomorrow. Watch this site.


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