Saturday, March 12, 2016
On South Sudan, UN Report Omits UNMISS Failure, Pre-Spun to Scribes
By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, March 9 -- In the UN's continued withholding of news and answers about South Sudan, the reports of the UN's own knowledge of abuses are now being withheld from its own impacted national staff. So Inner City Press has published below multiple leaked documents from inside UNMISS.
Amid or because of this reporting on what the UN knows but doesn't say, on February 19 at the demand of UN Under Secretary General for Public Information Cristina Gallach, Inner City Press was thrown out of the UN. Audio here;petition here.
Inner City Press' UN Pass was confiscated and its files seized. Questions sent to Gallach and Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Stephane Dujarric have still not been answered. A new ouster occurred on March 10, video here.
On March 11, the UN released a report on South Sudan -- given to insider scribes under embargo, apparently in exchange for coverage not critical of UNMISS -- which while detailing many of the abuses was silent, at least in Prince Zeid's gloss, on the UN's many failings.
It concludes, without apparent irony, by urging "that the freedoms of opinion and expression are guaranteed" -- this while Ban's and Gallach's UN throw the Press into the street, repeatedly, as it reports on the UN's failings.
Here are some of the omissions in the report:
Sexual assault in UNMISS camp;
Upper Nile: No mention of chemical agent aerial bombardment by UPDF air assets on civilians in IO territory which Inner City Press raised late last year;
CES : No real coverage of use of chemical agents used in Wonduruba. JMEC’s MVM denied entry via Juba-Yei road,
Ransacking of parts of Yambio town by SPLA and no UNMISS patrols. etc.
On March 8 Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric about more UN cover up, including in Pibor and meeting with governors of the 28 "new" states.UN transcript.
On March 9, Inner City Press asked Dujarric's Deputy Farhan Haq about more fighting, in Nasir. From the UN transcript:
Inner City Press: On South Sudan, I'd asked Stéphane yesterday about reported fighting in Pibor and people fleeing, seeking protection. Now there's a report in the town of Nasir of significant fighting between SPLA [Sudan People’s Liberation Army] and SPLA in Opposition and maybe a third force there. What is UNMISS' [United Nations Mission in South Sudan] knowledge? I saw they did a press conference, but it seems like all of the questions were about International Women's Day. What's the state of their knowledge of the fighting in Pibor, Nasir and elsewhere in the country?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, we certainly were informed that they're looking into the reports of fighting in Pibor. I don't have any details to give yet, but they are looking into it. And if they have details about the latest reported fighting, we'll share that with you in subsequent days.
But when Dujarric returning with a canned statement on March 10, it was to cover up Pibor; nothing on Nasir.
A group of community leaders in Malakal sent UNMISS a detailed complaint about the killings there, including that UNMISS did nothing despite being told in advance to impose preventive measures. See here and here and here, as exclusively published by Inner City Press.
The letter says that UNMISS shot five people seeking safety in the UN "Protection of Civilians" site, and some died.
At the March 3 noon briefing, Inner City Press asked UN Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq about this, UN transcript here:
Inner City Press: I want to ask you about Malakal since you mentioned something at the top about it. There's a letter from the UNMISS [United Nations Mission in South Sudan] IDP [internally displaced person] representatives and community leaders in Malakal directed to the deputy SRSG [Special Representative of the Secretary-General], also to the troika, and to the EU, which says that… that the threat of violence was communicated to UNMISS along with certain requests before the killings took place and that nothing was done. And they also say that UNMISS itself shot five individuals who were trying to enter the Protection of Civilians sites, and some number of those died. And I wanted to know, is that the case? What is… what's been UNMISS' response to this letter from the representatives of the IDPs? And… and if UNMISS shot people entering, why did they do it?
Deputy Spokesman Haq: Well, we've already described what the UN Mission in South Sudan, UNMISS, did in terms of trying to make sure that the Protection of Civilians site was… was kept safe. I… that doesn't include any information about deaths. If I have any information on that, we'll let you know. But, certainly, we've already shared when this incident happened last week, the details about their actions.
Inner City Press: Is UNMISS… I guess I'm saying, in response to a letter from community, Nuer and other leaders in the camp, is UNMISS doing an investigation of itself for possibly shooting at and killing IDPs?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, first of all, I have no confirmation that that’s what's happened.
Inner City Press: No, I'm saying…
Deputy Spokesman: If… if there's anything to those allegations, we'll let you know, but I've already disclosed… or Stéphane [Dujarric] already disclosed about a week ago what their actions were. And we'll have to see what their follow-up is after that.
In the hours after, nothing.
UN Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, Kyung-wha Kang went on to Malakal and on February 26 said:
“I am outraged by what I have seen in Malakal. Civilians who had sought safety in the PoC have been attacked, killed, traumatised and displaced once more, with whole sections of the PoC completely and systematically burnt down and destroyed, including medical clinics and schools. Those responsible for these heinous acts must be held to account.”
Would that include UNMISS, for negligence, not search for weapons smuggled in, and covering up initially for the SPLA?
On UNMISS' failure to search for weapons, entirely ignored or covered up at the UN Security Council on February 19, here is a first-hand account exclusively provided to Inner City Press:
"“Peacekeepers were given info 2 days ago as was info passed out raising concerns. IDPs (Shilluk and Nuer elders raised this direct with UNMISS at the time of being aware of info. UN sat on it until first incident erupted. That came about as Padiang dinka 'IDP' walked passed UN contracted gate guards (Warrior Security I think) with significant volume of ammunition for weapons and was stopped by Shilluk IDPs. Fight broke out, Padiang dinka killed and ammunition given to UN.
According to the information obtained from the camp, this problem started day before yesterday when UNMISS Protection Security Officers received sufficient security report that Dinka Internally Displaced Persons staying in Malakal UNMISS Protection Camp received illegal weapons smuggled from main town center into IDPs camp by their tribe security agents controlling the town since first week of July 2015 when SPLA- IO withdrew tactically from Malakal town. UNMISS protection soldiers wanted to conduct the search for illegal weapons smuggled inside the protection camp but Dinka Internally Displaced Persons refused to allow UNMISS Security to conduct the search for weapons then the attack happened last night at 8:00pm.”
Here is another internal email exclusively leaked to and published by Inner City Press, with names redacted for obvious reasons:
"From FAO Wau
From Wau: Subject: Serious Security Situation in Wau
I hereby wish inform you about a serious security situation we are currently experiencing in Wau since yesterday evening.
Indeed security has been recently shaky in Wau and vicinity, but yesterday it worsened to the extent that many of our staff members had to seek for a refuge at night at the UNMISS compound.
Since this morning, all the vehicles are grounded at the office, as no driver could move and there is no authorization for any vehicle to move out of the UNMISS compound.
We are in contact with the FSCO, although no information has been circulated so far. With regards, XXXX”"
The full document we have put online here. A quote:
In March 2014, a labelling error was discovered whilst transporting containers loaded with duty equipment for the UN Ghanaian peacekeepers in Unity State which brought strained relations to even a lower point. The error was exploited to galvanise hostility towards the UN in favour of the government by falsely presenting the UN as supplying weaponry to the opposition. It took elaborate interventions, investigations
and communications to clear the false impression that this created.
[ICP note: the same type of "labeling" or "clerical" error occure this months with weapons headed to MONUSCO. This is what UN Peacekeeping has become under Herve Ladous, who linked peacekeepers' rapes to "R&R, here.]
We'll have more on this.