The former spokesman for the United Nations-African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur, Aicha Elbasri, renewed her criticism about the team that investigated claims of manipulation in the mission’s reporting on Darfur. In a letter to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, she urged the court to form an “independent” inquiry commission into the alleged cover-ups.
“This review body was incapable of uncovering the truth about the gross misconduct and routine manipulation of the facts that have become the hallmarks of UNAMID and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO),” Elbasri wrote in her letter to Fatou Bensouda. In October, this internal UN review found that Unamid had failed to provide UN headquarters in New York with full reports on attacks against civilians and peacekeepers.
Elbasri resigned from her post as spokesman in April 2013, accusing Unamid to intentionally covering up crimes against civilians and peacekeepers. She leaked internal UN reports to the media in April this year in order to prove her accusations.
The former spokesman claimed that the review team was made up of UN staffers under the leadership of a former Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) official, Philip Cooper, leading to a biased result. The team’s review was not thorough and did not examine all reports and weekly briefing notes, she said. Also, the results were not made public, and the full report is not shared with member states of the council, which Elbasri finds “extremely disturbing”.
‘Unamid causes its own downsizing’
“So far nearly 6,000 troops and civil servants have been sent home”, a downsizing for which she blamed the mission’s misinterpretation of the situation in Darfur. She argued that the mission’s efforts to investigate recent allegations of a mass rape in North Darfur showed that “nothing has changed”: “To avoid exposing the measures taken by Sudan’s own security forces to cover up the rapes.”
An investigation under Security Council auspices “will ensure accountability for any past wrong-doing”. Elbasri also believes that it should help stop the apocalyptic scenario of Unamid’s premature departure from Darfur.
Relations between the hybrid mission in Darfur and the Sudanese government have worsened after reports in early November that accuse the Sudanese army of a mass rape in Tabit, North Darfur. Sudan has denied the allegations, and accused the mission of echoing unverified media reports. Khartoum also summoned the acting head of the mission, following an internal UN report saying that the heavy presence of military made the investigation on 9 November, including interviews with the witnesses in Tabit village, difficult.
President Omar Al Bashir stated on 30 November that Unamid has become a “security burden” on the Sudanese military, and called on the peacekeepers to develop a “clear exit programme”.
‘Mission not to leave immediately’: DPKO head
Meanwhile, Hervé Ladsous, the head of the UN DPKO, told the Security Council that he asked “the Sudanese authorities to work on an exit strategy in line with a previous resolution of the Security Council”, during a meeting with a UN evaluation team these days. He disclosed that Sudan does not ask the immediate departure of the hybrid peacekeeping mission but asks for an exit strategy from Darfur. “The government has clearly established that it is not a matter of asking Unamid to leave tomorrow.”
Ladsous spoke to the council on Thursday, further disclosing that the Sudanese government informed them last week to not work with any Sudanese administration without have had referred first to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The UN official added that the team’s findings remain “inconclusive and require further investigation,” due to the heavy presence of military and police found in the village.
File photo: Aicha Elbasri, who resigned as spokesman for the UN-AU Mission in Darfur (Unamid) in April 2013, eight months after her appointment. “I wasn’t receiving the support I needed in terms of access to information in a timely manner,” Elbasri told Radio Dabanga. (FPU)
Sudan’s Al Bashir rejects merging of peace talks, tells Unamid to leave (30 November 2014)
UN chief ‘deeply troubled’ by Darfur Mission’s silence (30 October 2014)