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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 13th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

The article was posted October 12th, the UPDATE id from October 13th and is posted at the end.

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Actor and Sudan activist George Clooney visited President Obama in the Oval Office on Tuesday afternoon to discuss his recent trip to south Sudan in advance of a referendum in January on partition.

Clooney hopes to call attention to the increasingly unstable relationships between the northern and southern regions.

Sudan President Omar Al Bashir, who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court for genocide in the country’s Darfur region, is expected to fight to keep South Sudan from seceding because it has more than 75 percent of the country’s oil.

Clooney visited Darfur refugee camps in Chad, just across the Sudan border, and came to the White House early in 2009 to press for the appointment of a high-level envoy to the region.

Afterward, Obama, in March, 2009, tapped retired Major Gen. Scott Gration to the special envoy spot. When the president was an Illinois senator, Gration accompanied him to Chad in 2006 to visit a refugee camp populated with people from Darfur who had fled widespread killing and raids there.

In recent weeks the Obama administration has taken a much more active stance on Sudan. At the U.N. General Assembly last month, Obama spoke at a ministerial meeting where he called for governments of both North and South Sudan to ensure a peaceful, fair and transparent referendum in January.

Clooney and Obama started working on Sudan issues in 2006 — before Obama’s trip to Africa. In April of that year, Clooney, then-Sen. Obama and former Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) spoke at the National Press Club about the ongoing violence in Darfur and drew attention to an upcoming “Save Darfur” rally on the National Mall to urge the world to move faster to stop the slaughter, rape, and forced displacement in the region.

Now George Clooney covered by CNN’s Ann Curry  upstaged the 4 day trip to Sudan by US Ambassador Susan Rice and most of the Ambassadors on the UN Security Council who went on their own fact finding mission. Best report from the UN trip can be found at www.innercitypress.com/unsc1sudan… from Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press who surprisingly was allowed by the UN to participate with the officials. He continues his coverage back at the UN – www.innercitypress.com/ban2sudan1…

Also along were Ambassadors Lyall Grant of the UK, Vitaly Churkin of Russia, Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti of Brazil, Ertugrul Apakan of Turkey, Claude Heller of Mexico, Tsuneo Nishida of Japan …. in total there were 11 countries out of the 15 UNSC members represented there by their main UN representative, including from Mexico, Japan, Turkey, Uganda who are leaving the UNSC at the end of 2010.    Countries  not sending their Permanent Representatives, or Number 1 Ambassadors, were Austria, France, Gabon and Nigeria. France sent #2 and Austria is leaving the UNSC at the end of this year – but the only continuing African members of the UNSC are Gabon and Nigeria – both did not make their top hats available for this fact-finding mission to Africa – in this context it is inexcusable in our opinion for them not to have gone on the trip.

As expected, this trip has seemingly achieved nothing and the courage to deal with the humanitarian problem of Sudan is missing – but as Matthew Lee points out – some may believe that dividing the oil revenue may be making progress in practice.

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With Sudan in Crisis, UN Dodges Questions, UNMIS Ignores Them, DC Follies.

From Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press, who was on the Sudan trip:

UNITED NATIONS, October 13 — While the UN speaks about how important Sudan is to it, it refuses to answer basic questions, both in its New York headquarters and in Sudan.

On October 11, having returned from the Security Council trip to Sudan during which, among other things, UN Humanitarian Coordinator Georg Charpentier neglected to tell the Council about the village of Sora in Darfur being entirely destroyed the previously week, and the internally displaced people who spoke with the Council were subsequently interrogated and intimidated by Sudanese authorities, Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s spokesman Martin Nesirky about both of these issues.

On both issues on October 11, Nesirky said “let’s find out.” When asked again about Sora at the UN noon briefing on October 12, Nesirky said “I can assure you that something is in the works. I don’t have anything for you right now. Something is in the works.

Thirty hours after that, 54 hours after the Sora question was asked, nothing, no response at all.

And so early on October 13, Inner City Press directed three questions to the Spokesperson for the UN Mission in Sudan, including these two:

Please provide the response of UNMIS / the UN to the “The Southern Sudanese Drivers and Mechanics Association… cit[ing] UNDP, UNMIS and Kenya Commercial Bank among the organisations that continue to employ foreigners in positions that many unemployed indigenousould hold, rendering local drivers redundant.    www.borglobe.com/25.html?m7:post=…

Please provide by email asap what UNMIS put out about the incident with the Sudanese journalist(s) on the tarmac in Juba in the Security Council delegation’s plane.

Eleven hours later (and counting) there had been no response, not even an acknowledgment of receipt to questions directed to the spokesperson’s email address listed on the UNMIS website.

The Q&A with the UN Spokesman is transcribed below.

But in Washington DC George Clooney, with whom the UN Security Council met with for longer than they met with IDPs, was reported to be asking for Congressional action. What action?

One media outlet said he was raising issues of Darfur, which he didn’t visit. How seriously is South Sudan, much less Darfur, being taken?

From the UN’s October 11 then October 12 noon briefings:

Inner City Press: On Sudan, following the Council’s visit to the Abu Shouk internally displaced persons camp, I guess that was on Friday, there have been reports that the people they spoke with had been interrogated by Sudanese authorities, and in some cases, arrested. I am wondering if UNAMID is aware of that or the UN, I mean the UN system more broadly, and what they intend to do about it?

Spokesperson Martin Nesirky: Let’s find out.


Protest in Khartoum, UN and Clooney not shown (c) MRLee

Inner City Press: The other, as we left there, some, Mr. [Georg] Charpentier had provided a document that seems to indicate that, in the week before the Council’s visit, a village called Sora in eastern Jebel Marra was “entirely, completely burned down”. I know that Mr. Charpentier briefed the Council members, but none of them on the way back seemed to… this wasn’t mentioned to them. I am wondering… what does UNAMID and Mr. Charpentier do when a village is entirely destroyed? Is it an important thing? Is it the kind of thing that they should brief the Council about?

Spokesperson: Can you roll back and tell me again, because it is sort of confusing.

Inner City Press: Okay. Among documents that Mr. Charpentier provided at the end of the trip…

Spokesperson: To whom?

Inner City Press: He gave it into the press bus, saying that this would just verify things that he’d said about things not being a problem in Jebel Marra. But deep in the document, it says that a village named Sora was completely burned down. It doesn’t say whether it was by ground fighting or an aerial attack. But if it’s aerial, it seems it would be the Government. None of the Security Council ambassadors on the way back had been aware of this or had been briefed on this. So, I guess my question, it’s a twofold one, factually it would be is it possible to discover from Mr. Charpentier, whose document this is, whether the village of Sora was destroyed from the air or by ground? And maybe some statement on why, in the briefing that he gave to the Council, this destruction was not raised?

Spokesperson: I am assuming you didn’t raise it with him yourself, because it was passed into the bus, and then you read it after the bus pulled away?

Inner City Press: I read it actually on the way back, yes, yes.

Spokesperson: Right. Okay, well let’s relay that back whence you just came.

A full 24 hours later, noon briefing of October 12:

Inner City Press: I wanted to ask a couple of questions about Sudan. One is, there has been, I guess in the last 24 hours, there have been a couple of developments. One is a quote by President [Omer Hassan] al-Bashir that he will not accept any alternative to unity, which many people say is basically a threat not to accept the “yes” vote if the vote is in fact held 9 January. So I am wondering, there was a statement made on 24 September, but this statement by al-Bashir seems to be totally contradictory to it. So, I am just wondering, what’s the process for either UNMIS [United Nations Mission in Sudan] or the Secretariat to… What did they think of that statement? And also there was an arrest made on Saturday, as it turns out, of these pro-secession people in Khartoum as part of the demonstration. They were not only beaten, but it turns out they were arrested. So the SPLM [Sudan People’s Liberation Movement] has said that’s a bad move and violates the CPA [Comprehensive Peace Agreement] that they are not allowed to campaign for secession. Does the UN have any response to that?

Spokesperson Nesirky: On that second question, I’ll see what we can get you on that. I don’t have anything right now. On the first question, I would indeed refer back to the statement, the communiqué, that was issued. I don’t think we will be commenting on every twist and turn. The basic principles of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement are well-known, and the communiqué speaks very clearly about the need to stay on track.

Inner City Press: Did you get anything back on this issue of this village of Sora that was listed as being…?

Spokesperson: I can assure you that something is in the works. I don’t have anything for you right now. Something is in the works.

But 30 hours later, nothing. Watch this site.

Footnote: while Nesirky held a noon briefing on October 13, he had only just begun to take questions when he stopped, to present guests who had spent three hours working toward a future report. When they were done, so was Nesirky: he didn’t ask if there were many more questions. But there were…

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