Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Of UN Council, Rice on Sudan and Congo, S. Africa Running for Seat, UN Musical Chairs

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 26 -- Promoting its candidacy for a Security Council seat in 2011-12, South Africa threw a reception at the UN Monday night. The news, however, came from current Council members. U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice was there, meeting and greeting including with the Press. One of her answers, about the Council's Congo trip, she said was off the record. Other answers will be reported, diplomatically of course.

Since on the day Sudan's Omar al Bashir declared electoral victory the UN had said nothing at its noon briefing, rebuffing a shouted question from Inner City Press on Sudan and from another journalist about the Balkans, Inner City Press asked Ambassador Rice if she thought the UN was being too quiet.

Amb. Rice replied, as she would on Northern Congo, that she had spent the day immersed in something else, presumably Iran. These proposed sanctions, it seems clear, are the US Mission's and Administration's focus. But what about the outbreak of fighting between the SPLM and northerners, either tribes or Bashir's army?

The focus, Amb. Rice said, the "big enchilada," is really on the referendum on South Sudan being independent. But if the process of these election was not credible, why and how would that one be?

Still on Sudan, when Inner City Press told Ambassador Rice about reports of UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari meeting earlier in the day with Omar al Bashir, she smiled thinly. On the other hand, Sudan's Ambassador told Inner City Press he had called Gambari directly, and Gambari had gushed about the meeting, He said that in the pending UNMIS resolution, there is an attempt to give UNMIS chief Haile Menkerios a role up in Darfur.

A Moroccan political coordinator, on the other hand, said the mixing of UNMIS and UNAMID would give Gambari a role in the South, "even if it breaks away." We'll see.

Turning to the Congo, Inner City Press asked about the UN's strange failure to commit to investigating the alleged 11 civilian deaths caused in the re-taking of the airport in Northern Congo. When told that the alleged perpetrators are the Congolese Army, with which the UN works, Ambassador Rice said "good question." Inner City Press told her she is more likely to get an answer. "Thank you," she said.

US's Susan Rice, Gambari and "big enchilada" not shown

There was chit chat, too. A reporter recounted that St. Lucia's Ambassador said Ms. Rice is part Caribbean. Ambassador Rice nodded. "All you need to know about me," she said, is I am half Jamaican and was conceived in Nigeria. She laughed. "My grand mother's maiden name was Daley [or Daly], as in Irish."

Some reporters suggested she speak more with the press, contrasting her approach to that of the French. She shrugged. I can't do it every week, she said, adding that Americans are "not peacocks."

Menkerios, as it happens, will speak to the Security Council on Tuesday afternoon and then, it is promised, with the Press. An African Ambassador, requesting anonymity, told Inner City Press on Monday night that Menkerios' old position with the Department of Political Affairs will be filled by current Cyprus representative Taye-Brook Zerihoun. Then who would take Cyprus -- Atul Khare? Watch this site.

Footnote: as requested by the South African mission, Inner City Press would be remiss not to note that, with the African Union's endorsesment, South Africa is virtually assured of re-gaining a Council seat in 2011-12. When Inner City Press quipped that this fast return made the country the "Japan of Africa," a South African representative reminded that before what's now called the Dumisani Kumalo term, South Africa had not been represented. So welcome back -- the fix is in.

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