Monday, July 11, 2016
On South Sudan, Inner City Press Asks UN Of SPLA, Apartments, Withheld Malakal Report
By Matthew Russell Lee, Follow Up To Exclusive
UNITED NATIONS, July 11 -- 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.
As Inner City Press has reported including leaks, the UN on February 19 and April 16 ousted and evicted it, petition here, and on July 10 Inner City Press was ordered by UN Security to leave the UN Security Council stakeout while other favored correspondents could stay. This is censorship. Here now below is UN's internal communication, signed off on by the head of UN Security.
When Ban Ki-moon said he would take questions on South Sudan at 10:50 am on July 11, it didn't happen until 11:20. And then Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric had picked the two questioners in advance, neither of whom were present at the UN Security Council stakeout for its three hour emergency meeting on Sunday (and one from a media reportedly engaged in its own censorship). YouTube video here. Full Periscope here.
But the focus is on Ban - Inner City Press asked him, quite audibly, why the UN's gates at Wau had been closed on fleeing civilians, and why the UN report on its deadly failure in Malakal, which Dujarric has said would be public at the end of May, has still not been released. Then at the July 11 noon briefing, Inner City Press asked Dujarric, video here, UN trnascript here: Inner City Press: on South Sudan. The Secretary-General was just talking about accountability and I want to… given that the Associated Press is quoting witnesses inside the UN camp as saying that an SPLA [Sudan People’s Liberation Army] Government tank fired at the Chinese APC [armoured personnel carrier], killing two peacekeepers; what's the UN say about? This is the Government that it works with… does it accept that evidence, and if so, what will they do about it?
Spokesman: You know, the targeting of… specific targeting of UN peacekeepers is a very serious international crime. We are trying to get the details of exactly what happened to our Chinese colleagues, but we do understand that it was a direct confrontation from the military. I don't have all the details yet; and, again, people will need to be held to account. There is an elected Government in South Sudan. They need to honor their responsibilities, first and foremost to the people who elected them and to all the people of South Sudan. And they need to respect the Status of Forces agreement, the agreement signed with the UN, which includes freedom of movement for UN personnel and UN peacekeepers and UN planes and that currently is not being respected.
Inner City Press: Speaking… I wanted to ask you, there is a particular case of a dozen international… of something called of Tareen Apartments in Juba that say they have no protection at all and are surrounded by the SPLA. And I wanted to know, is the UN in a position to provide help?
Spokesman: This is a very, very fluid situation. The UN is doing whatever it can with the means that we have on hand to protect its own staff, to ensure that everybody is safe and sound and there are mechanisms in place, and I'm sure those are being followed but I don't have those exact details. I'll come back to you.
Inner City Press followed up: I wanted to ask you I had seen published a memo by Mr. Peter Drennan of DSS [Department of Safety and Security], basically saying… suspending any travel in or out of Juba by UN personnel. And I wanted to know, would that cover by land? Would this preclude peacekeepers coming from elsewhere in the country to Juba?
Spokesman: I don't know. I haven't seen this memo, which was obviously shared with you but not with me, if it exists. The head of DSS takes the necessary precautions and sets out necessary orders for the safety of staff; that is his responsibility. Obviously, the airport remains closed on official orders of the Government. We would like to see that airport reopened. At this point, we are unable to get staff that needs to come back in in. We are unable to get people who need to be Medevac’d, including wounded peacekeepers and others who need to be Medevac’d out. So, the opening of the airport is a critical part of us trying to get, improve the situation and also the fact the airport is closed limits our ability to bring in food and other critical supplies to the UN camp, including for the civilians, the thousands and thousands of civilians we are housing in various locations.
Inner City Press: This is what I wanted to know, is that many… a number of Member States, they do disclose their warnings, travel restrictions. The US announced last night that it was ordering nonessential personnel to leave, so… and I didn't see that…
Spokesman: Last I checked, we are not the 194th Member State.
Inner City Press: Right, so why would you be less transparent than Members States?
Spokesman: If this memo exists, it's about ensuring that staff is informed and staff are the ones who need to be informed.
Inner City Press: And what about the Malakal report, I wanted to know, and you said it would be like at the end of May, we were given sort of an oral summary. Supposedly there were two reports. Are either of the reports actually going to be made public?
Spokesman: They will be made public and I will check to see what the status is.