Radio Netherlands report - Jan Pronk has no regrets
- by Perro de Jong 25 Oct 2006 (Ed: To highlight a point, I've emboldened some text here]
Jan Pronk has no regrets. The UN envoy - and former Dutch cooperation development minister - was expelled from Sudan for making critical remarks about the Sudanese army in his weblog.
Some Dutch commentators thought this was rather foolish behaviour for a mediator, but the Dutch government and the United Nations still stand by him.
When asked whether a weblog is a suitable medium, Mr Pronk replied: "It's what you say, not where you say it. In my weblog I say exactly the same as I do at press conferences. I understand that what the Sudanese government objected to was my comment about the army. That was in the newspapers long ago."
He denies that this was abandoning his position of neutrality as a mediator in the Darfur conflict. "I had already been extremely critical. And that included the rebels themselves - for violating the ceasefire. Not all the rebel movements, just some of them. They know that, I told them quite clearly. So the UN is completely neutral and, as its representative, so am I."
He believes the real reasons for his expulsion are less obvious. "The military are still looking for a military solution. I have regularly pointed this out and they don't like it. At the moment that last thing they need is a prying busybody like me. They have been preparing a major mobilization in Darfur to coincide with the end of Ramadan. Troop concentrations are developing. Planes and soldiers from the south are being deployed to Darfur. I'm afraid a major offensive is about to be unleashed."
Relations between Jan Pronk and the government in Khartoum have been poor for some time. And the army is a particularly sensitive subject in Sudan. The question then is whether Mr Pronk wasn't fully aware what the consequences of his criticisms would be and whether that should be regarded as a bad thing. After years of trying to get the conflict onto the agenda of the international community, Darfur is suddenly the topic of the day.
The call for a UN peacekeeping force is becoming louder. The United States has been behind sending an international force for some time, but the Sudanese government has constantly resisted the idea. So far the United Nations has allowed the African Union to carry out peacekeeping duties. The Africans could form the nucleus of an international force, according to a spokesman for the US State Department reacting to Mr Pronk's departure, but for a "robust" mission real UN troops are needed.
The UN envoy himself denies he deliberately engineered his own expulsion. The fact that his boss, Secretary General Kofi Annan, will soon be leaving the UN and a new envoy to Sudan will be chosen is just a coincidence according to Mr Pronk.
However, he does concede that the timing of his departure could have been worse: "It's good it has happened now, it gives us a chance to prevent the big offensive. We need international attention to stop the conflict escalating further."
Even if Jan Pronk never returns to Sudan at least he has succeeded in that part of his mission.
Yes, he certainly has. I can't imagine many people not supporting him or his position. No matter what Khartoum say, Mr Pronk is still UN SRSG for Sudan - whether he is there or not. I hope he keeps on blogging. Looking forward to reading his next blog entry.