Tuesday, October 25, 2016

On Western Sahara, Ban Ki-moon's Spox Dodges Police Brutality, Says Ladsous Read-Out Soon

By Matthew Russell Lee, Follow up to Exclusives

UNITED NATIONS, October 24 -- The UN of Ban Ki-moon, which gave in to Morocco's demand to pull out 83 members of its MINURSO mission in Western Sahara and has yet to get most of the returned, is now proposing to given in further, sources exclusively told Inner City Press on September 8.

On September 22, when Inner City Press asked Morocco's foreign minister Salaheddine Mezouar about MINURSO it was told it is already “fully functional."

But when Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's deputy spokesman Farhan Haq how many of the 83 expelled staff are back, the answer was only 25. UN transcript below.

On October 24, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric, UN transcript here: 

Inner City Press:  I wanted to ask you on Western Sahara and/or Morocco, since Mr. Ladsous went there.  First, there are reports of, quote, police brutality in Laayoune on the eve of Mr. Ladsous' arrival, people protesting being… being abused by the police.  There was also… I saw that, I think, at least one of Mr. Ladsous' announced meetings in Morocco did not, in fact, take place.  Do you have a readout of the meeting?  And what's the response by MINURSO, which apparently is at least still in Laayoune to these reports of…?

Spokesman:  I don't have an update on his travels, but I do expect one shortly.

  Five hour later and counting, nothing.

On October 18, Inner City Press asked Ban's outgoing lead spokesman Stephane Dujarric, UN transcript here: 

Inner City Press: I wanted to ask you first about the Security Council today.  It was said that… that there's no plan… Uruguay helpfully was… spoke before and after the meeting.  No one else spoke including… well, from the Secretariat side.  So, I wanted to ask you, one of the things that the Permanent Representative of Uruguay said is that there's no time scheduled for [Christopher] Ross to return to the region.  He described the political process as entirely stalemated, but did say that Ban Ki-moon will go to Rabat before he goes to Marrakesh, which I'd asked you about before.  So, I wanted to know, from the Secretariat side, given that his envoy, Ross, is apparently blocked from going to the region, what does the Secretary-General seek to accomplish in Rabat during that stop?  And can you provide us now a number of how… is it still at 25?  What is the force level?  And can you explain why it is that new staff are being recruited for MINURSO [United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara]? I understand that there's some who have retired, that left, but there seem to be a certain number that neither retired nor were reassigned that are simply being paid to not be back there.  And was Morocco allowed to hand-pick which people can return?

Spokesman:  No, the choice of who works for the United Nations is the choice of the United Nations.  The special… a trip for Mr. Ross is still under discussion.  As soon as we have something to announce, we will do so.  The Secretary-General, no surprise, is very likely to attend and will be in Marrakesh for COP-22.  I think that's fairly… pretty much an open secret.  We'll announce it officially a little closer to the date.  And we will be in a position closer to the date to announce any bilateral visit that takes place with Moroccan authorities, but I can't confirm anything at this point.

ICP Question:  But, again, I guess I wanted to know, I mean, you're saying that the UN makes its own selection, but how can you explain people that were ousted among the 83 still being paid to not return when you're, in fact, recruiting new people?

Spokesman:  The… listen, none of us here have the exact details of people's hiring or all the jobs that are being recruited and so forth.  The Mission, as far as I understand, is still not up to full capacity, and we continue to work towards that end.

  Well, Inner City Press is informed as follows by sources:

"17 staff members still remain removed from the Mission of MINURSO following the SG’s comments while on a trip to the Tindouf camps in March 2016, the UN chief had described Morocco's presence in Western Sahara as an "occupation".

Now we see recruitment of new staff members taking place with no movement on returning of the effected staff. There is no understanding why recruitment is taking place at all levels while committed staff are effectively paid to sit at home whilst absolutely wishing to return to work.

ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT, FS4, 68069, Deadline: 25/10/2016, Department of Peacekeeping Operations, LAAYOUNE,

The staff federations and unions are continuously endeavoring to get the UN to return the staff to Mission so that it returns to full functionality as per the Security Council resolution. It is unclear if this is the United Nations blocking the return of staff or the Moroccan government, no one will answer this question and the staff have no clear picture of their futures as peacekeepers. Staff have families and children who were in school in Morocco, staff abandoned in countries due to not being able to return to go on and belongings, property etc remain in country."

On October 7, Inner City Press asked Haq, UN transcript here: 

Inner City Press: this is now the fourth time.  I guess it will be the last time.  I wanted to know, there was a letter that the Frente Polisario says, and has told all of the 193 members of the Fourth Committee, that it sent to the Secretary-General on 26 September about an election that's now being held today, 7 October, in Morocco, and it's also being held in Western Sahara, including this disputed territory in their parliamentary election… or legislative election.  I wanted to know just… did… did… was it ever checked?  It was said three times that you'd check if the letter was received.  Was it received?

Deputy Spokesman:  I've asked.  I don't have any information on this at this point.

ICP Question:  So they're mis… 

Deputy Spokesman:  No.  I don't have any information.  I asked a question.  I need an answer.

ICP Question:  Then I guess my question would be:  Given that the UN's historic and mandated role on the question of Western Sahara, does it believe it legitimate for Morocco to conduct a poll for its own legislature in an area that's on the agenda of the Fourth Committee and is viewed as its status as being unresolved?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, as I've mentioned, I'm asking, and I'm waiting for a response.  I'll have to see what I get.

ICP Question:  The election is almost done.

Deputy Spokesman:  I can't speak out before I get an answer.

ICP Question:  Who are you asking?  Are you asking DPA (Department of Political Affairs), the office of [Christopher) Ross; who should I ask?

Deputy Spokesman:  I've asked a number of offices.  I've gotten nothing so far.

On September 28, Inner City Press asked the UN's lead spokesman Stephane Dujarric if Christopher Ross will travel tot he region, if Ban will meeting on the topic in the region before the climate change meeting in Morocco, and what's the plan to get the peacekeepers back. He referred vaguely to an "upward" direction.

The POLISARIO Front has written to Ban to complain that Morocco intends to include Western Sahara in its legislative elections on October 7. Inner City Press tweeted the letter, from the 38th floor, here. Ban is asked to "intervene immediately." But on September 28 Ban gave a speech apparently not listed on his schedule, on at October 7 he will be traveling.

When Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Dujarric about the letter on September 29, Dujarric said he hadn't seen it but "could" follow up - but didn't, by the end of the day. Vine video.

So Inner City Press had to ask again, on October 3 -- still nothing on the letter, but there are still only 25 of the 83 returned. From the October 3 transcript: 

Inner City Press:  I asked last week a couple of times about this letter that was distributed in the Fourth Committee from the… from the Polisario Front to the Secretary-General, dated 26 September, and I just wanted… twice… I guess Stéphane [Dujarric] said he hadn't seen it, but I just want to make sure, if it's being given out in the Committee, did it, in fact, reach the Secretariat about this… upcoming legislative elections on 7 October?  And also, I'd asked him and may have asked you before, just to be… maybe you'd said 25 is the number.  Is it still the number of only 25 of the 83 have been returned?

Deputy Spokesman:  Yeah, that's where we stand.  We continue to discuss, like I said, different ways of making sure that the functions of the mission are restored, but as I pointed out last week, we're not at full functionality.

Question:  Sure, and what about this letter?  Is there some problem with… was it not received?  Because I asked him twice.  It was handed out.  It says… it asks the Secretary-General to get involved in the inclusion of Western Sahara in the Moroccan legislative elections on 7 October.  So since we're now 3 October, I'm just wondering, not if he'll do it, but at least, has he gotten the letter, or will he do something?

Deputy Spokesman:  I'll check whether we have it and what sort of response there is. 

  Seven hours later -- nothing.

UN September 29 transcript: 

Inner City Press: there's a letter from… from the Polisario Front to the Secretary-General dated 26 September, and they're saying that the… the protesting that… that Morocco would include Western Sahara in its legislative elections on 7 October.  And they've asked him to get involved.  I wanted to know… they passed it out at [inaudible] to the Fourth Committee.  It seems to be…

Spokesman:  I haven't seen the letter.  But I can follow up.

Then to the end of the day, nothing. This is typical of Ban's Secretariat, including "Communications" chief Cristina Gallach, Spanish blog here.

Earlier transcript:

Inner City Press:  last week, I'd asked Stéphane [Dujarric] just to provide the number, of the 83 MINURSO (United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara) staff who had been ejected or evicted or ousted from Western Sahara, how many have returned.  Do you have that number?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, in terms of that, I don't have numbers to add to the initial group of the 25 international civilian personnel, who returned by 26 July.  However, the UN Secretariat and the Mission continue to expedite the recruitment process of existing vacancies.  The mine action component of the mission has also finalized its relocation to Tindouf, in order to resume its operational activities.  In terms of routine, the Mission continues to operate under existing arrangements and procedures.  Full functionality has not been fully restored.

ICP Question:  Great.  Thanks.  I guess I just wanted to understand, is there… so you’re… the… the… the people that were actually working there at the time that were told to leave, are they going back, or are you just recruiting new people for positions that were already vacated at the time that they were ousted?  I just want to understand.

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, some of the people… the lists had a number of discrepancies.  Some of the people who they had asked to leave had been gone for some time, had gone on to other jobs or been… had gone back to other areas.  At this stage, what we're trying to do is do the recruitment to make sure that all of the tasks that are needed to be performed are fulfilled by people.

Back on September 22 Ban's lead spokesman Dujarric would not comment on this. From the UN transcript:

Inner City Press: On Western Sahara, just now, earlier this morning, the Foreign Minister of Morocco said flatly that full functionality has been restored.  And so, I wanted to know, from the Secretariat side, have all 83 been returned?  What is the number?  Just factually.

Spokesman:  I have no… I mean, I heard what the Foreign Minister said.  I'm not going to comment on what he said.  I will get you an update of what the staffing level is on MINURSO [United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara] as soon as I can get one.

Seven hours later, nothing.