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Let’s Make Ahmad Haroun (in)Famous

Nicholas Kristoff sketches out a possible time line for a genocide in South Sudan that includes this nugget:

JAN. 18 The South declares that 91 percent of voters have chosen secession. The North denounces the vote, saying it was illegal, tainted by violence and fraud, and invalid because the turnout fell below the 60 percent threshold required.

JAN. 20 The South issues a unilateral declaration of independence.

JAN. 25 Tribal militias from the North sweep through South Sudan villages, killing and raping inhabitants and driving them south. The governor of a border state in the North, Ahmad Haroun, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and organizing the janjaweed militia in Darfur, denies that he is now doing the same thing in the South. [emphasis mine]

That last part deserves a little more explaining.

In May 2007, the ICC issued an arrest warrant for Ahmad Haroun for crimes against humanity.  The warrant alleges that he was the key government figure who implemented Khartoum’s counterinsurgency-by-genocide strategy for Darfur.   Then, when most of Darfur’s population was displaced to IDP camps, he was promoted to “Minister of State for Humanitarian Affairs.” From that position oversaw the systematic harassment of humanitarian workers and restriction of humanitarian access to Darfur’s displaced population.

This is all spelled out in very clinical prose in Haroun’s arrest warrant. But the point is, he has demonstrated a particular expertise in population control. Now, he serves as governor of South Kordofan, a province which includes the contested, oil rich border region of Abyei.

Two weeks ago the ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo visited Washington, D.C. with the message: if you want to understand what is going to happen in South Sudan, look no further than Ahmed Haroun, “To follow the crimes, follow Haroun,” he said. “You should know a genocide is coming in the south. It is important for me to come to Washington to explain that,” the prosecutor told an audience at the Woodrow Wilson Center.  “Haroun in South Kordofan is a huge risk.”

Haroun is someone that those who write about politics and foreign policy should get to know a bit better. He ought to be at least as infamous as Mladic or Eichmann.  Read the prosecutor’s application for an arrest warrant and you will understand why.

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Veronica (right) with a Southern Sudanese farmer on the Women for Women International farm in Rumbek East County, Lakes State, Southern Sudan

“We still have a long way to go, my sister”

RUMBEK, Sudan—Veronica Ajok Angok, 25, was born on the run during Sudan’s most recent north-south civil war. Her mother was fleeing the war, headed east from her village in Warrap state when she gave birth to Veronica en route to Ethiopia. Veronica’s mom had hoped to reunite with her husband, who was training with the southern rebels in one of the camps supported by the Ethiopian government at the time (in the mid 1980s). She died shortly after giving birth to Veronica.

What followed for Veronica is not atypical for a Southern Sudanese person her age. In brief, when the Ethiopian regime fell in ’91, she fled with some of her relatives through the bush and through battlefields to a refugee camp in Kenya and began learning English. From there, Veronica’s story diverges, because a combination of good luck, hard work, and determination landed her a scholarship to secondary school and eventually a job with Women for Women International back in Southern Sudan’s Lakes state, not far from her family’s homeland. By then, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement had been signed and there was “relative peace” to return home to.

As part of her job for the next few years, Veronica trained women on various “life skills” as part of Women for Women’s long-term mentoring and training program. She helped them correspond with pen pals in the U.S., by reading aloud in Dinka the letters written in English and then transcribing the words of the Sudanese women in English and mailing the letters back to women in the U.S. Veronica recently decided she wanted to be a journalist, so she is working as a radio broadcaster at Radio Good News, part of Sudan’s Catholic Radio Network in the town of Rumbek.

On a recent Saturday afternoon I was in a Toyota pickup with Veronica, on a rutted, partly flooded road off. We were headed to the farm run by Women for Women so that Veronica and her former colleagues could show me and some other visitors around the impressive project. More than once we both bumped our heads on the roof of the pickup, and muddy water splashed through the open window. While we were discussing Southern Sudanese politics and what an independent Southern Sudan might look like upon its very likely “birth” next year, Veronica said simply “we still have a long way to go, my sister.”

It is hard not to disagree with her statement as it applies to the challenges that the south will face in creating a new state and establishing good governance and security throughout its vast territory. Meeting someone like Veronica, however, is one reason to think that the south has what it takes to succeed as an independent nation—all the more so if people like Veronica are empowered as leaders who can steer the way, as they have so keenly done in their personal lives amid war, suffering, and hardship.

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Afghan Elections, Wallstrom in DRC, and New Special Envoy for Pakistan

Afghan Elections: Staffan de Mistura, SRSG for Afghanistan, briefed the Security Council this morning in an open debate, noting that while there were possibly widespread irregularities in last week’s legislative elections, nothing yet points to systematic fraud, and that it’s important that the UN allow for time to evaluate the electoral process before jumping to conclusions.  He added that UNAMA will continue to evaluate its priorities in accordance with the needs and priorities of the Afghans.

Wallstrom in the DRC: Margot Wallstrom, SRSG for Sexual Violence in Conflict, is currently visiting North Kivu in response to a request by the SG for a coordinated response to recent cases of mass rape.  Additionally, the OHCHR has created a panel to interview the victims of the rapes and set up a forum to provide legal, social, medical, and socioeconomic support. The panel will be chaired by Kyung-wha Kang, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights.

New Special Envoy for Pakistan: on Monday, the SG named Rauf Engin Soysal (Turkey) as Special Envoy for Assistance to Pakistan, replacing Jean Maurice Ripert of France.  He previously held the position of Deputy Undersecretary for Bilateral Political Affairs responsible for the Middle East, South Asia and Afric

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“Not a Cent” has been provided by the US for Haiti Reconstruction

More than eight months after the devastating earthquake in Haiti, and almost six months to the day after the high-level donor meeting at the United Nations where the world pledged about $10 billion over three years for the Haiti Reconstruction Fund, the Associated Press reports that “just $686 million of that has reached Haiti so far.

The single largest pledge at that donor conference was from the United States. And as the AP reports,”not a cent” of the $1.15 billion promised by the U.S. in March has reached Haiti. A document published by the Office of the Special Envoy for Haiti shows that only 35% of the total pledged for long-term reconstruction in March in New York has been disbursed as of September. As we noted in this blog back in April, “the international community can be fickle, and whether these pledges will be fulfilled completely and in a timely manner is not certain.”

It’s very disturbing to see that, in spite of all the good will and rhetorical commitments, Haiti’s reconstruction seems to be compromised right from the start. Should the international community – and the United States in particular, given their historical ties to the country – really want for Haiti to prosper in the long-term, their actions will have to match their words.

The reasons for the delay are manifold. Partisan gridlock in Washington, distractions with other crises like the Pakistan floods, and Senator Tom Coburn’s quixotic objection to one small provision of the funding bill have all held up the funding.

But whatever the reasons, the end result is devastating.  Rubble is still lining the streets, hundreds of thousands of people are living in rudimentary tents, and resentment is running high.  Just this week a strong thunderstorm destroyed 8,000 tents and killed six people, including two children.

Keep in mind that the United States has felt compelled to deploy military forces to Haiti three times since the mid 1990s.  An investment in infrastructure development and reconstruction today might stave off the kind of political turmoil that has compelled the United States to deploy its military to Haiti three times in the last 15 years.   It is way cheaper to pay organizations like CHF to hire Haitians to clear the streets than it is to send in the marines.

How about the United States show a little foresight?

Mark contributed to this post.

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UPDATE: Media Snookered by the Bogus Alien Ambassador Story

By now, you have likely heard that the Sunday Telegraph reported the head of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs was going to appoint herself as an alien ambassador, or something like that.  You have also likely heard that this story is completely bogus. But some quarters of the media love to beat up on the United Nations just for the sport of it.  So even after the story is proven false, you have articles like this:

The New American posts a story titled, “UN May Appoint Ambassador to Outer Space.”

The National Post of Canada runs a story titled “The UN Finds its Niche: Little Green Men” in which the author admits the story is bogus, but devotes an entire column to its significance.

The Economist titles a post, “The UN’s Secretive Alien Ambassador,” which opens: “it emerged that the UN was set to appoint a Malaysian astrophysicist called Mazlan Othman to lead international efforts to respond to visitors from outer space.”

Fox News at least titles its item “U.N Denies Appointing ‘First Contact’ for Visiting Space Aliens,” which includes a statement from the UN calling the story “nonsense.”

I write about the United Nations everyday so this story seemed transparently unbelievable from the outset. Then I saw the source was the Sunday Telegraph–not exactly the most rigorously accurate wag–so I figured my instincts were correct.

Besides, a UN bureaucrat can’t just appoint him or herself ambassador to anything — let alone to space aliens.  These kinds of agencies derive their budget and mandate from the General Assembly. Right now, the mandate of the Office for Outer Space Affairs is mostly focused on things like coordinating space debris mitigation efforts.  Even if the UN wanted to create a position of Alien Ambassador within that office, the General Assembly would have to approve it.  I don’t exactly see that happening anytime soon.

This episode just goes to show how the media is full of people who have no idea how the UN works but are nonetheless willing to let their biases drive their coverage.

UPDATE: I see that the Washington Times got into the game yesterday as well with an editorial mocking the UN for appointing an Alien Ambassador. The editorial concludes:

Late reports indicated that the United Nations might not actually be seeking to expand its mandate beyond the stratosphere. But the fact that the story was so readily accepted underscores the reputation of the world body as a center for triviality and bureaucratic excess.

Actually, it underscores how dumb our media can be sometimes!

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Pedantic Name Dispute Makes its Way to the General Assembly

One of the most inane international disputes today is over the name of a country that is referred to in official documentation as “The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, (FYROM).”  Understandably, the government of this country prefers to simply be called, “The Republic of Macedonia.” (Who wants to be associated with Yugoslavia, anyway?)

The thing is, there is a large province of Greece called “Macedonia,” and the Greeks very much do not want their northern neighbors to co-opt the name.

Back and forth on this dispute has been ongoing since the end of the Balkan civil wars.  The UN has even had an American diplomat, Matthew Nimitz, try and resolve the issue. He’s been on the case since 1999! Alas, positions on this issue are very hardened.  To wit, consider these statements in the UN General Assembly speeches last week by Greece and Macedonia.

Greek foreign minister Н.Е. Мг. Dimitrios Droutsas:

There аre several other ореn issues in the Balkans. Оnе of them revolves around the name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. This is not а bilateral, pedantic dispute about historical symbols, as some try to portray it, but а regional question, with deep historical roots, related to good neighbourliness.

In order to reach а compromise оn the name issue, the two sides must meet in the middle Ьу taking reciprocal steps to bгidge the gap and reconcile their conflicting positions. Greece has already done its part. А fair and lasting solution саn only bе based оn а name with а geographic qualifier,  to bе used for all purposes, erga omnes. Macedonia is а large geographic region, most of which lies in Greece. А small part is in the FORMER YUGOSLAV REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA and а smaller part in Bulgaria. The part саnnоt represent the whole and the FORMER YUGOSLAV REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA’s exclusive claims to the name “Macedonia” саnnot bе allowed to fuel nationalism. Any solution must be universally implemented because otherwise today’s situation will simply bе perpetuated.

Meanwhile, the President of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia Gjorge Ivanov did not issue any geographic qualifiers when he referred to his country as the “Republic of Macedonia” no less than twelve times in his speech.

The Republic of Macedonia is fully committed to the process of resolving the difference with Greece within the frameworks of the mechanism established by the UN Resolutions. Our name is concerned, our right to self-identification and human dignity. We do everything in our capacity to nurture close and friendly relations with neighboring Greece, with its people. A solution can be reached only if the UN Charter, the Resolutions, the international law and principles, on which the international order rest, are respected.

So that’s what is in a name!

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