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As UN Calls S. Sudan Army Shoot-down an Accident, Complaint against SRSG

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 21 -- After the South Sudan army said it had shot down a UN helicopter, killing the crew of four Russians, the UN Security Council issued a press statement calling it an accident.

Inner City Press asked December's Security Council president, Moroccan Ambassador Loulichki, how it could be called an accident so quickly. Video here, from Minute 1:48.

   Several other diplomats noted to Inner City Press that if the shoot-down had been in Sudan, probably the US would have called consultations, and more strongly condemned the act, not accepting it as an accident.

Loulichki said that statement was agreed by e-mails, without consultations. He disputed what has been the South Sudan army's explanation, that they asked the UNMISS mission if it had a plane in that part on Jonglei and was not told yes.

A well placed sources in the UNMISS mission notes to Inner City Press that "the SRSG of UNMISS," Hilde Johnson, "has failed on every occasion to defend the staff of UNMISS against the excesses of the Government of South Sudan."

The source gave three examples: "the assault against the chief of human rights of UNMISS who was then quietly removed; the human rights officer (Sandra Beidas of the UK) Persona Non Grata-ed for investigating abuses by the SPLA; and several incidents of helicopters being shot at last year."

Much of this is public. But more than a week ago, Inner City Press asked the three top spokespeople of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon a series of questions, including about UNMISS: a complaint the SSLA rebels sent to several UN officials, and other parties.

Because of the content of the e-mail, Inner City Press sent it to the UN for denial or confirmation and explanation, and waited a week. Perhaps it would have waited longer, if not for the SPLA shoot down and the reaction. This is a slightly modified version of the complaint Inner City Press asked the UN about on the afternoon of December 14, more than a week ago:

To: [OSSG three top spokespeople]
Date: Fri, Dec 14, 2012 at 1:59 PM

Subject: Press Qs: UNMISS, UMOJA, recruitment, OIOS, payouts, and again, which FARDC regiments MONUSCO has worked with? & Nov 28 on Minova.

Hello. Here are questions to answer:

Dec14-1 What is the UN's, UNMISS' and Ms. Johnson's response to the complaint of the SSLA, below?

Date: 12/09/2012 07:27 PM

Subject: UN Secretary Gen. Rep. Hilde Johnson Dating South Sudanese

The SSLA is deeply disturbed to learn from the sources within the UNMISS that UN Secretary General Representative, Hilde Johnson, is dating a South Sudanese. The sources who are in the top UNMISS leadership confirmed it that Hilde has a South Sudanese boyfriend.

The SSLA is concerned about the neutrality of Hilde since it is now clear that she is dating a South Sudanese who is a member of SPLM government. We request the UN in New York to investigate this because it is very unethical for UNMISS since her decisions will be biased towards the government.

SSLA Information Desk
Mayom, South

The problem here is the perception that Johnson and UNMISS are too close to the South Sudanese government. The strange characterization of the shoot down and killing of the crew of four as an accident only plays into that. The failure to answer the above question, in any way, for a week does not help. Watch this site.

Footnote: There were three other questions asked on December 14 that have yet to be answered, which will be reported on, along with at least one related after-arising matter. Why doesn't the UN answer questions?

   The four questions, including about the SRSG of UNMISS, were submitted on December 14 less than two hours after Ban's lead spokesman refused to answer Inner City Press' question, on behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access, about the United Nations Correspondents Association:

"UNCA has a constitution which requires elections to be held by 15 December and the Executive Committee to relinquish its offices by 1 January, and earlier today it was announced that both of these deadlines are being unilaterally waived." Transcript here.

Nesirky, despite the UN's partnership, refused to answer on this, saying

"I do indulge you, every day, in fact, and today, also. So I don’t think that you could ever accuse me or my Office of not providing you with access and providing you with answers. You might not have liked the answers, but we sit here everyday and answer your questions, okay? So that’s the first thing. The second thing is that I will simply not be involved in your difficulties, meaning between the United Nations Correspondents Association and yourself or others."

We'll have more on this.

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