By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive series
UNITED NATIONS, September 7, 2015 -- Since the South Sudan peace agreement was signed by President Salva Kiir, saying that he had reservations, fighting and re-supply has continued through the closed-down Juba airport and barges then headed to Malakal.
Now Inner City Press is informed by sources of airstrikes by Malakal -- and that these strikes are by Ugandan air assets. There are reports of strikes on Tunja, Panyinkang and Nyijuat Payam. While Salva Kiir's - or Paul Malong's -- forces have four helicopters based near the Kenya border, there are questions about trained pilots. Uganda air assets are in Paloich, a forty minute helicopter ride from the Malakal area. Where is UNMISS on this?
Inner City Press was informed by sources in South Sudan of more armaments coming in, from Uganda to Juba: 34 trucks with a UPDF (Ugandan Army) presence. From sources high in the UN, Inner City Press is informed of meeting convened by Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson seeking some UN role in the IGAD Working Group(s) to be convened in Addis Ababa.
(This is delayed.)
On September 4 after closed-door Security Council consultations, the Council's President for September Vitaly Churkin read out these Elements to the Press:
"We have discussed the situation in South Sudan, consultations which were initiated by one delegation, and I have some press elements.
"On the 4th of September during the UN Security Council consultations, Special Representative from the Secretary General, Ellen Loj, briefed the Council on the situation on the ground following the August 26th signing of the agreement on the resolution of the conflict of the republic of South Sudan. The Council welcomed the conclusion of the agreement and the stated commitment of the government of South Sudan and opposition to its implementation, including the issuance of orders to all forces under their command to cease military operation by August 29.
"In this regard the Council expressed deep concern at recent reports of fighting and called upon the parties to adhere to the ceasefire immediately and unconditionally. The Council reiterated its readiness to consider appropriate measures to ensure full implementation of the agreement without exception, and address any violations or failures of any party to implement those provisions, including through the implementation of an arms embargo and additional targeted sanctions.
"The Council called for further development of security arrangements by the parties and the security workshop planned to be conducted by IGAD in Addis Ababa in the nearest future. The Council expressed its deep appreciation and called for continued close engagement of IGAD and IGAD plus partners to facilitate the sustained solution to the armed conflict in South Sudan.. The Council confirmed its intention to update the mandate of the United Nations mission in South Sudan to support implementation of key tasks in the agreement."
Inner City Press asked of Uganda's troops - they're dealt with in the Agreement, was the answer -- and of any UN role in the IGAD working groups. Even UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric said he didn't know about this.
Inner City Press has put online here the SPLA-IO's press release about helicopter bombardments Inner City Press has reported on and asked the UN about. From the SPLA-IO press release: "Today the 4th of September at 1:00PM, four government gunships carried out aerial bombardment for the second day on our bases in Warjok and Detang at west bank of Malakal. Now they are extending their military offensive on our positions southward, 30 minutes from Lelo."
What is the UN's response to this? UN Peacekeeping under Herve Ladsous has stayed quiet about ceasefire violations and human rights abuses it has been informed of; a former Ladsous spokesperson (video here) now working for UN Human Rights is limiting information and access to scribes who do not challenge his boss(es). To this has the UN sunk.
As the UN Security Council prepared to meet about South Sudan on September 4, Inner City Press asked UK Ambassador Matthew Rycroft about the role of Uganda. Rycroft replied that it is very important that regional players take their responsibility and become part of the solution, use their influence on parties in the interest of peace. Periscope video here.
Rycroft also said there are violations on both sides and that the UK would support an arms embargo. (He also said to wait to hear what SRSG Ellen Loj says, in the Council's closed-door session.) The UK is working on its position on the flying of the State of Palestine's flag at the UN, but is not ready to announce that position yet.
On both August 31, after an exclusive report below, and on September 1 and 2, Inner City Press asked the UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric to confirm the continued fighting but he declined, including answering who runs Juba airport, as least as to the UN.
On September 3, Dujarric belatedly offered this partial confirmation:
"In response to questions that were asked at the briefing on the situation in South Sudan, I can say that the UN Mission [in South Sudan] (UNMISS) is reporting that two attack helicopters were firing rockets in the direction of the west bank of the River Nile in Malakal in Upper Nile State yesterday. Heavy explosions, including mortar shells, as well as heavy artillery and small arms fire were also heard coming from Malakal towards areas located on the west bank. UNMISS also reports instances of firing in Malakal earlier today.
"UNMISS condemns these violations of the Compromise Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict that, as you recall, came into force on 29 August and calls on the parties to take all necessary steps to meet their obligations. The Mission continues to protect civilians in Malakal, including at its Protection of Civilians site and through regular patrols in the town and airport."
Inner City Press: In South Sudan, I'm glad that UNMISS was able to confirm at least some of the shooting in Malakal, but there's a pretty troubling allegation that maybe you have something on or ask them about, it has to do with 17 bodies dumped in a stadium in Juba, Gudeli Football Ground. These are considered to be executions, and many people see it as coming from the Government side. And I'd like to know, it seems like it's a big… it's a large volume. Does UNMISS… is UNMISS aware of this? Do they…?
Spokesman: I will check.
Eight hours later, nothing. There was this, from a Senior US State Department Official: "Secretary Kerry spoke with President Kiir today and expressed concern regarding recent ceasefire violations. President Kiir confirmed to the Secretary that he is committed to the implementation of the peace agreement and the ceasefire. The Secretary underscored that the United States would work to support the implementation of the peace agreement and continue to provide humanitarian aid."
Early on September 2 Inner City Press was informed by sources in South Sudan of bombing of I/O positions in Tonga, Owashi and Werjwok (West of Malakal) and of movement of ammunition into the country through the Nimule crossing.
But when Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Dujarric about this at the September 2 noon briefing, he said he had no information.
Inner City Press also asked the incoming President of the UN Security Council for September, Vitaly Churkin of Russia, about the fighting and bombing near Malakal. Churkin replied, "On South Sudan, we’ll monitor the situation. If the situation becomes much worse I’m sure it will be raised in the Council. But so far, we need to confirm whatever information will come out."
But who is supposed to be confirming the information? Doesn't UNMISS of UN Peacekeeping, under Herve Ladsous, have a role? Is the role being played?
Now Inner City Press is informed by sources of that Kiir's troops crossed to Lelo from Malakal, engaging I/O forces. Their gunships are to be stationed in Paloch for three days to continue with bombardment, which has already begun in Deteng and Ogwo.
The sources, citing internal UNMISS sit-reps like the one published below which Dujarric refused to confirm or deny, are questioning more insistently why UN Peacekeeping is "covering up what it knows about CPA II violations." They note that UN Peacekeeping boss Herve Ladsous has engaged in previous cover up, in South Sudan, DR Congo and elsewhere, including the Central African Republic even for the French Sangaris force.
Whistleblowing sources exclusively provided Inner City Press with this "Restricted" UN document:
“RESTRICTED Ref: 045/SB/28/08/2015
Dear All, Information received from Host Government security organs indicate that effective today SPLA Air force will conduct night exercises at the Juba airport, starting from 2000 hrs. This exercise is to continue for the next few days (unspecified). UN/INGO Personnel are therefore advised to avoid the airport general area during the stated period. End”
These sources emphasize to Inner City Press the role at the Juba airport of ENHAS, Entebbe Handling Services and its links to the outgoing President of the US General Assembly Sam Kutesa, relative of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and still, as Inner City Press confirmed, Uganda's Foreign Minister while UNPGA.
Among with the reported skirmishes at Malakal, and according to the SPLM/A I/O in Bukieny, Ditang, Obuwa and Lelo and shelling from the government barges as they proceed along the Nile, sources tell Inner City Press of fighting at the ports of Adok and Tayar. "Some ceasefire," said one. But how long will the silence at the UN continue?
On August 28, after some push back, the Security Council adopted a Presidential Statement welcoming Kiir's signing but not referring to any credible and effective mechanism to seek accountability. On the way in, only the Permanent Representative of Venezuela spoke - to confirm that his country's issues with Colombia are bilateral and may involved at the end UNASUR, not the UN. Afterward, no one else spoke.
After publishing Kiir's 12 pages of reservations, Inner City Press on August 27 in front of the Security Council asked the Permanent Representatives of Angola and of the United Kingdom about Kiir's reservations.
Angola's Ismael Abraao Gaspar Martins told Inner City Press, when asked one on one outside the Security Council, "I have seen them. These are very serious reservations, I think. This calls for the Council to monitor what is there, how it's going to be implemented and what actions we need to continue to do, to make sure they move forward, so the violence stops. If it has been adopted, it has to be applied."
Earlier, on his way into the Syria meeting, Inner City Press asked UK Permanent Representative Matthew Rycroft about Kiir's reservations, specifically the "deletion" of provisions to disarm the SPLM-N, and groups in Darfur (on which the UK holds the Council's pen). Periscope video here.
The 12-page reservation document says to delete the provision about disarming Darfur based armed groups including JEM, SLA-Minnawi, SLA-Abdulwahid, as well as the SPLM-North.
It resists calling the Army the NDFSS and referring to the "Armed Opposition" instead of the SPLM/A-IO. It says the National Army will remain inside its headquarters, and would delete Juba from the list of cantonment areas. It says there is a need to reconstitute the Monitoring and Verification Mechanism.
It says to limit the JMEC and delete the word "oversee" throughout.
The article on reparation and compensation is to be removed.
Who would be vice president(s) would be up to Kiir: no reward for rebellion, or "gambling" on who ministers will be. The rebels should not be governors in Unity, Jonglei and Upper Nile State. Power sharing should be 70-20, not 46-40. Funds should be with the Minister of Finance. As always, follow the money -- Inner City Press would add, to Kenya Commercial Bank and beyond. We'll have more on this.
Before Kiir signed, Uganda's Yoweri Museveni advised him to get the UN out of the country, saying having the UN is is a sign of weakness and that the UN preserves terrorism.
Past 5 pm New York time on August 26, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon offered praise for Kiir signing, saying nothing of the reservation or of the UN being openly trashed by Museveni.
It is to Museveni that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has been deferring on Burundi, still not having named a UN envoy as the UN Security Council called "imminent" two weeks ago. (Ban was in France on August 26, praising the country's ambassadorial corps without a single mention of French troops' alleged rape of children in the Central African Republic, covered up by Ban's (French) head of UN Peacekeeping, Herve Ladsous.)
In fairness to Museveni, his reference may have been in part to Ladsous' MONUSCO failing to act on armed groups in Eastern Congo -- including the FDLR, which also impinges on Burundi. We'll have more on this. Here was Ban's August 26 statement:
"The Secretary-General welcomes the signature today by President Salva Kiir of the Agreement on the resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan. This is a critical and necessary step towards ending the 20 month-long conflict that has devastated South Sudan and subjected its people to unspeakable suffering." full statement here.
In front of the Security Council on August 26, there was loose talk about Kiir signing; an African diplomat told Inner City Press, "He signed! He was obliged!" with no mention of the reservations. The UN had no noon briefing -- it said it woul only have one if something important happened, this was apparently not important - here are answers from August 24 and August 25, Inner City Press' South Sudan questions have been not been answered.
On August 25, Ellen Loj, the head of the UN Mission in the country UNMISS told the UN Security Council that Kiir is expected to sign the agreement on August 26. Inner City Press asked, how might that impact the pending draft resolution on sanctions and an arms embargo?
After consultations on August 25, Security Council President for August Joy Ogwu of Nigeria emerged with Elements to the Press including:
“The Council members expressed concern on the deteriorating humanitarian and security situation. They condemned the continuing fighting by the parties and underlined the need for a peaceful resolution of the crisis.
“They expressed optimism that President Salva Kiir would follow through on his commitment to sign the IGAD Plus Peace Agreement without reservation.
“They stressed the importance of full implementation of the Agreement. Council members underscored the need to remain engaged on the situation in South Sudan. In this regard they expressed their readiness to act immediately if President Kiir does not sign the agreement tomorrow as he has undertaken."
Inner City Press asked Ambassador Ogwu about sending the draft resolution's annexes to the African Union and IGAD, as an African delegation told Inner City Press about. Ogwu answered that speed is important, but also that it be concerted, a consensus, like an orchestra, it doesn't matter who writes the notes, but... Here's fast transcript of Q&A from InnerCityPro, which also has analysis:
Inner City Press: Some members talked about sending the annexes to the AU or IGAD. Was there discussion of that? When you say immediately, does it include that?
Amb Ogwu: We all understand the need for urgency, because the situation is urgent. But also there is the need for concerted action, for consensus. It is a stage and all the players must act as an orchestra, play the symphony, it doesn’t matter who writes the notes but it’s important to act in unison, act with one voice.
In her national capacity, Nigeria's Ambassador Ogwu emphasized the need for an arms embargo, and to check where the weapons in the country are.
Loj spoke of discouraging some from entering the UN's "protection of civilian" camps, without addressing the blocking of civilians fleeing fighting from the UN's Yambio camp, which Inner City Press has repeatedly asked about. Nor did she address if UNMISS' radio station, Radio Miraya, kept right on broadcasting amid a strike by media in the country to protect the assassination of journalist Peter Julius Moi.
On August 18, Inner City Press asked UN Associate Spokesperson Maestracci, "do you have any comment on, or does the mission have any comment on, Salva Kiir having said at the airport on his way to Addis that 'if anybody among journalists does not know that this country has killed people, we will demonstrate it one day, one time'?"
By August 21, after South Sudanese journalist Peter Julius Moi was assassinated in Juba, Inner City Press asked the next UN Associate Spokesperson Eri Kaneko this question, video here:
Inner City Press: In South Sudan, virtually all media there, the Union of Journalists in South Sudan and the Association for Media Development in South Sudan, have agreed to a media blackout in mourning and as a protest of the murder of the journalist Peter Julius Moi. They’re saying that UNMISS’ Radio Miraya is going to keep broadcasting. Is that the case? Is Miraya part of sort of the media of South, what’s the position of the UN on this?
Associate Spokesperson: I’m not aware, but I will look into that.
Eight hours later and counting, there has been no answer. Video here.
On both August 18 and 19 when Inner City Press asked, UN spokesperson Maestracci declined to confirm or deny any of the fighting in the country -- a pattern for UNMISS under UN Peacekeeping boss Herve Ladsous. On August 19, Maestracci told Inner City Press, "As soon as I have [information], I will give it to you." None came: also a pattern.
But Inner City Press sources tell it of ongoing clashes in Upper Nile, in Pageri, East Equatoria, still ongoing. The Juba – Nimule road, the only "proper tarmac road" in the country, remains closed; limited communications within the fragmented phone networks confirm that civilians are being targeted.
West Equatorial Governor Joseph Bakasoro is still detained.
Also, here is UNMISS sit-rep for insiders, not meant for the public, apparently:
“Following attacks in Pageri on 18 Aug 2015 host country security forces have advised that there is still military operation in the vicinity of Pageri town (30 kms North of Nimule).
UN Security advises that:
· UN/INGO travels on the Juba - Nimule road are currently restricted.
· UN Security will re-assess the situation in the next 24 hours and will advise accordingly.
· In the interim all missions should be cleared with UN Security until further notice.
· Additionally, UN/INGO missions into Pageri are to be suspended until a clearer picture is established as there are reports of heavy host country security forces deployed in Pageri.”
... This is how things are at UN Headquarters and elsewhere in the system, especially in UN Peacekeeping under Ladsous. The Free UN Coalition for Access is challenging this.
On August 19 after UN Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson briefed the Council behind closed doors - he stopped and told Inner City Press is was not a short consultation, only a scheduling misunderstanding - he stopped on the way out and spoke again.
Inner City Press asked Eliasson the question the UN Spokesperson has for two days declined to answer: "Have the two sides started fighting again?"
Eliasson to his credit answered: "There are reports, they are very worrying. And this is also why, it is important if there is this progress towards signing of an agreement, that it is accompanied by the need for a ceasefire. A diplomatic solution cannot be found if there is not a de escalation."
Moments later New Zealand's Ambassador Gerard van Boheman stopped and spoke about the US submitted draft resolution that the US' Susan Rice had alluded to the day before, that that it "does deal with an arms embargo also posits additional sanctions, if the agreement is not signed. I think there’s general recognition that the situation in South Sudan is not good, there’s a recognition that the IGAD and that the IGAD plus countries have been doing all they can. We want to be able to support their efforts.”
Ambassador van Boheman said that “it’s quite a technical resolution. So I think it will take quite a bit of work to get everyone on the same page.” Could that timing be related to the 15 days from August 17 deadline for Salva Kiir to sign?
Inner City Press also asked van Bohemen about Yemen, but that's another story.
on South Sudan, can the Mission there, or do you have anything on reported, an attack by the Government on the opposition in a place called Imatong? And do you have any comment on, or does the mission have any comment on, Salva Kiir having said at the airport on his way to Addis that "if anybody among journalists does not know that this country has killed people, we will demonstrate it one day, one time"? It's a comment that CPJ has criticized, and I wonder if the mission has seen it and what they think of it.
Associate Spokesperson: So on Imatong — is that what it's called?
Associate Spokesperson: I actually do not have a statement. On South Sudan and the comments on the media that were made by Salva Kiir, yes, the Mission told us they were very concerned about, over the curbing of the press freedom in South Sudan, including recent closure of media houses and threats to journalists. And they've also reiterated the importance of independent, free and pluralistic press.
Question: Is the Deputy… I just wanted to ask one thing. I saw that the Deputy Secretary-General's schedule says appointments are internal. Did he come back from Addis? Is there some way…
Associate Spokesperson: He is on his way back.
On August 19, Inner City Press asked Maestracci again - still no information on Imatong, nor Upper Nile, Pageri or other attacks since. From the August 19 UN transcript:
Inner City Press: I wanted to ask about South Sudan. I’d asked you yesterday about whether UNMISS could confirm reports of fighting and now there’s increased reports of fighting and counter charges by the Government and the opposition of fighting in Upper Nile State, also near the Ugandan border. So I’m wondering if UNMISS, given its presence in the country, it seems important to know is this taking place and if so which side is instigating it?
Associate Spokesperson Vannina Maestracci: We’re checking and we’re waiting for an answer. As soon as I have one, I will give it to you.
Nothing was given, but see above.
Inner City Press asked DSG Eliasson of reports of fighting in South Sudan, he acknowledged the reports, Periscope video here. We'll have more on this.