Tuesday, April 5, 2016

In South Sudan, UN Safety Pretext for Minders, Pure Censorship in UNHQ

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 4 -- 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 and from non-governmental organizations.

  Now, even as UN Under Secretary General for "Communications" Cristina Gallach moves to evict Inner City Press from the UN on April 6, without due process and with conflict of interest, from South Sudan this reportthat the UN's censorship and use of minders is systemwide:

"According to a UN document produced as a 'guide' to visiting journalists, UNMISS PIO requires information on 'the duration and type of visit' of any journalist seeking to enter into a protection site. In addition to this, according to a second journalist interviewed by Radio Tamazuj who had recently visited one of the protection sites, the UNMISS Public Information Office also 'demanded I tell what I was going to be asking about, because any political questions were restricted.' The journalist noted that they also tried to provide a 'minder' to accompany him during interviews."

  While in South Sudan Ladsous' DPKO uses safety as the pretext to require minders, no such pretext exists inside UN Headquarters. But nevertheless, on March 24 covering Western Sahara Inner City Press was told it could only do interviews on the UN's second floor with a UN minder.

  On March 31, while other correspondents were permitted to interview US Deputy Ambassador David Pressman about Ladsous' DPKO's (and Sangaris') rapes in the Central African Republic, Inner City Press was told to leave the gaggle due to its "Non-resident" accreditation cut by Gallach.

  Inner City Press directly told Gallach about the impact of her no due process order on March 31, audio here including in fairness her response; she has done nothing to change it. This is the UN's "Public Information" chief? Why? See here.

 The UN requiring minders for journalists is disgusting. They uses security as their figleaf in South Sudan, but inside UN Headquarters it is straight up censorship, even amid or really to prevent Press coverage of the unfolding UN bribery scandal. We'll have more on this.

  While UN Peacekeeping's antipathy to Inner City Press has been evidence since 2011-12 (under Ladsous), now in the Department of Political Affairs there is a inquiry or witch hunt into who leaked the Yemen envoy's email to Inner City Press.

  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.

 On March 28, Ban Ki-moon's personal lawyer Miguel de Serpa Soares issued an eviction threat against Inner City Press; on March 29, he was listed as one of only three members of a Task Force purporting to clear Ban of involvement in the ongoing UN corruption scandal. We'll have more on this.

  On March 30, Inner City Press' sources provided this detailed timeline and specifics:

"The planned movement of 1,370 SPLA-IO soldiers to Juba via Malakal begun yesterday with the first batch 40 soldiers. The entire exercise was conducted in three phases as follows;

Phase 1: Move IO soldiers from Canal to Malakal airport. Escorted was provided by SPLA. No involvement of UNMISS and CTSAMM in this phase.

Phase 2: Processing the soldiers for air movement to Juba.

Phase 3: Air lift by UNMISS aircraft to Juba.

Phase 2 Details

The 40 SPLA –IO soldiers arrived at the airport at 13:00 hrs. The following senior SPLA and SPLA-IO officers led the escort from Canal to Malakal airport:

Maj Gen John Maluit           – SPLA LO
Maj Gen Samuel Mayiik      – SPLA Acting Div 2 Comd
Brig Gen Makuol Ajand        – SPLA Chief Operations
Col Abraham Komye               - SPLA
Brig Gen Peter Pur Nienkel – SPLA-IO

The senior officers were at the airport throughout the process. The Deputy Governor was also at the airport to welcome and bid troops farewell to Juba.

CTSAMM carried out the process of verification, clearing weapons and putting them in boxes. UNDSS – prepared weapon manifest, manual luggage search and body screening. UNDSS also served as a point of contact between escort team and UNMISS team at the airport.

Break down of details as follows:

Number of soldiers                     – 40
No. of weapons                           – 33 AK 47
No. pistol                                         - 01
No. of ammo (7.62 x 39 mm) – 6,754 rounds
Ammo for pistol (9mm)           – 28 rounds

The exercise ended without any incident at 15:30 hrs. The aircraft departed Malakal at 16:00 hrs for Juba.

The movement is expected to run daily from 28 Mar to 7 Apr 16 except 2 and 3 Apr 16 (given Juba airport’s closed at weekends)."

  On the "unrest" in the UN's Juba camp, Inner City Press has these reports from its sources:

"The IDPs told the guards  don't treat us like animals.  We need water and food... UN is very nervous, and it’s very clear to all they didn't know what to do or how to handle situation which is still tense and growing. UNMISS and some UN organs are fearing leaks of info now as it’ll again put them in 'bad light.' Accepting they’re trying to suppress info, it’s a bit late as international banks passed word and it was all over Nairobi and Kampala news this am just after weekly Church services concluded and now in regional media."

And, internal UNMISS:

"At around 11:30hrs fighting broke out between IDP communities in POC 1 at the UN House in Juba. FPU and CHINBATT were deployed to control the situation.  Around 1800hrs the situation flared up again resulting in about 200 IDPs moving into the UN House compound specifically around the staff accommodation areas.   Additional troops were deployed to patrol the staff accommodation area to ensure staff safety and  control the movement of the IDPs. Currently the IDPs have refused to go to PoC 3 and are being kept at the humanitarian gate under force protection.

Advisory:  GREY ALERT Status have been declared in the affected areas, especially at the Humanitarian Gate and PoC1.  Staff are advised to restrict movement to the affected areas until further notice.”

 SRSG Loj needed to have Chinese armed guards surrounding her compound. Their lack of reporting into public mainstream is one thing, but they’re unable to hide the reality within their internal sit reps given after 18.00 hrs (LT) there are effectively no go zones that the UN doesn’t monitor due to armed groups of SPLA-IG (in civilian clothes etc)

  One of those behind the ouster of Inner City Press - and laughing and filming it on February 19 - was Voice of America, which tried in 2012 to get Inner City Press out of the UN by writing to UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric, here. In 2016 the same VOA scribes has become an anonymous troll, defending UN corruption and ouster. Is BBG in on this? US tax dollars at work.

  Ironically, today Voice of America reports inaccurately from South Sudan that the SPLA - IO is to have 3,000 troops in Juba. VOA error here. But the number is under 2,000 -- VOA is apparently conflating police that are to go elsewhere in the country. In any event, the cantonment sites have yet to be built; one proposal, near Juba, would put them in the direct line of fire of the SPLG - IG. We'll have more on this.

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.

 Nevertheless, and pending reversal of Gallach's no due process order, Inner City Press continues with its exclusive reporting, this time from Akobo in Jonglei State, on which the UN is silent. Inner City Press early on the morning of on March 14 exclusively published an NGO email about problems in Akobo, then asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric about it. UN transcript:

Inner City Press: an email among NGOs there that in Akobo in Jonglei State, there had been an 800 per cent increase in revenge killings and that several NGO staff have gone into hiding but haven't seen anything from UNMISS [United Nations Mission in South Sudan] about this.  And I'm wondering, what is… I understand, I guess, UNMISS doesn't report on some of the fighting, deferring to some website you've cited, but when actually humanitarian workers are as… as… as frightened as this email shows, what is UNMISS doing?

Spokesman Dujarric:  Well, I'm happy to look into the issue.  I have not received any reports from UNMISS.

  An NGO in Akobo had just written, as obtained exclusively by Inner City Press:

"“Revenge killings have normally averaged 1 a month since 2013 but this week there were nearly 8 revenge killings.

2.  [NGO 1] had one staff killed as a result of revenge killings. [NGO 1] has been on lockdown since yesterday.

3.  One [NGO 2] staff is still in hibernation since last week due to issues related to revenge killings.

4.  One [NGO 2] staff has been evacuated from Dengok

5.  [NGO 3] member evacuated from Akobo to Juba after realizing he was insecure.

6.  [NGO 4] Field Manager has been evacuated to Juba due to security concerns.

7.  During this dry season, there is high mobility resulting in some of the perpetrators coming into Akobo from various parts such as Walgak.

8.  There was suggestion that head of NGOs arrange to meet the commissioner to express concern on the deteriorating security situation. [Individual 1] to take lead.

9.  The Bieh State IO Governor, Deputy Governor, several Generals and Akobo Commissioner are all in Akobo. The Governor, the deputy and the generals are planning on moving to Waat anytime soon.

10. UNHCR Protection team is in Akobo to assess the Payams for the possibility of relocation of people from Juba. Approximately 300 people may be relocated.

11. Verification of IDPs from kaikuny may start next week Monday, [NGO 2] to take lead but would appreciate participation of other agencies."

 We'll stay on this.

 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.

Inner City Press asked UN officials Ivan Simonovic and David Marshall about this, including the UN's ouster without due process, on March 11, video here from Minute 22:20.

  Inner City Press asked if the UN's ouster undermines its credibility or consistency in raising press freedom issues. (As Inner City Press asked, the two UNCA representatives present cut in, video here at Minute 23:40; spokesman Dujarric did nothing despite the "civility" rule USG Gallach cited against Inner City Press, to oust it.)

Simonovic replied, I got your mail and I will respond, after checking facts.

Simonovic, on Inner City Press' Malakal question, said it is good it is being investigated, asking why arms were in the camp, how uniformed men penetrated the camp and what the UN did about property burned down. (He did not mention reports that the UN Peacekeepers SHOT civilians.)

Marshall said the score of the report was violations by the state and non-state actors. Why not the UN?

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.

  In the hours after, nothing.

 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
Dear XXX

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.