Monday, October 23, 2006

Annan reviewing Sudan's request for withdrawal of UN envoy

Via POTP - Sudan expels UN official for blog revealing Darfur military defeats / Annan reviewing Sudan's request for withdrawal of UN envoy - spokesman:
By Warren Hoge of the New York Times

Sudan's government ordered the chief United Nations envoy out of the country today [Sunday], saying he was an enemy of the country and its armed forces.

Secretary General Kofi Annan said that he was reviewing the letter from the Khartoum government and had requested the envoy, Jan Pronk, to return to New York for "consultations."

The Sudanese order said he had to leave by Wednesday. United Nations officials confirmed he would depart before then.

Mr. Pronk, a blunt-spoken former Dutch cabinet minister, has been outspoken in reporting on the killings, rapes and other atrocities in Darfur, the region in the western part of Sudan where 200,000 people have died and 2.5 million have been driven from their homes.

He has become increasingly pointed in his comments because of the rise in violence across the area despite a May peace accord between the Sudanese government and a major rebel group, and because of the government's refusal to grant permission for a new United Nations force to take over peacekeeping in the country from the overstretched African Union.

Mr. Pronk is known as a forceful presence at the United Nations from his frequent appearances before the Security Council, where he characteristically delivers unflinching accounts of the continuing mayhem and political breakdowns in Sudan in a rhetorical style that includes finger-jabbing and dramatic pauses for emphasis.

Sudan's action against him was apparently provoked by an entry he made in his personal blog - - last weekend that said Sudan's armed forces had suffered two major defeats with extensive casualties against rebels in Darfur in the past six weeks. He also reported that generals had been cashiered, that morale had sunk and that the government had collaborated with the feared Janjaweed Arab militias, which are held responsible for pillaging villages and killing and raping their residents.

The Sudanese armed forces on Thursday cited the blog entry in calling Mr. Pronk a threat to national security and asking that he be expelled.

The fact that one of its top officials has put sensitive findings in a personal blog has embarrassed the United Nations and put its officials in an awkward position. When the matter arose Friday, United Nations officials resisted rebuking Mr. Pronk for the practice for fear that it would appear to be a vote of no confidence in the mission, rather than just in his professional lapse.

Questioned repeatedly on Friday over whether the United Nations stood by the statements in Mr. Pronk's blog, Stephane Dujarric, Mr. Annan's spokesman, said, "Those views are expressed by Pronk, are his personal views."

Mr. Dujarric indicated that this was not the first time a problem with Mr. Pronk's blog had come up. "There have been a number of discussions with Mr. Pronk regarding his blog and the expectation of all staff members to exercise proper judgment in what they write in their blogs," he said.

In a statement distributed by the official Sudanese news agency today, the country's Foreign Ministry accused Mr. Pronk of demonstrating "enmity to the Sudanese government and the armed forces" and of involvement in activities "that are incompatible with his mission."

The activity in question was apparently a trip that Mr. Pronk made into Darfur to make direct contact with rebels.

In a blog entry on Oct. 14, Mr. Pronk wrote that losses by the Sudanese armed forces in two recent battles "seem to have been very high. Reports speak about hundreds of casualties in each of the two battles with many wounded and many taken prisoner."

"The morale in the government army in North Darfur has gone down," the blog entry continued. "Some generals have been sacked; soldiers have refused to fight. The government has responded by directing more troops and equipment from elsewhere to the region and by mobilizing Arab militia."

Victor Tanner, a professor at Johns Hopkins School of Advance International Studies who returned from Sudan a week ago, said the blog's references to defeats suffered by the Sudanese army had caused a furor there.

"Comments on the disarray that seemed to be reigning within the Sudanese armed forces was an amazing thing to see in the blog of a U.N. official," he said. "Refreshing but wild."

"That the armed forces had suffered these losses was something that everybody was talking about as a rumor swarming around Khartoum and Darfur, but it took on a new reality and became 'the truth' when it was uttered in print by Pronk."

In Washington, the State Department said it was withholding comment until it learned more from Khartoum about the incident.

Amnnesty International in New York said it "condemns in the strongest terms" the ouster of Mr. Pronk. "By declaring Mr. Pronk persona non grata, Khartoum has once again demonstrated heinous dispassion toward the well-being of its own citizens," the organization said.

In London, the Foreign Office also denounced the Sudanese move and called for it to be reversed. "This step is counter-productive and will contribute nothing to solving the problems of Sudan," said Lord David Triesman, a foreign office minister. "I call upon the government of Sudan to reconsider its decision."

In what has become a tense standoff with the United Nations, Sudan has adamantly refused to accept the deployment of 22,000 United Nations soldiers and police officers despite public outcries over the increasing danger to the residents of Darfur.

The force, called for in a Security Council resolution on Aug. 31, would replace the 7,200-member African Union force that has admitted it does not have the resources to curb the violence in Darfur. In light of Sudan’s defiance, the African Union agreed a month ago to strengthen the force and extend its presence in Sudan until Dec. 31.

Sudan's president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, has characterized the United Nations plan as an American-inspired plot to recolonize his country and plunder its oil, and he has threatened to attack any soldiers sent to Darfur.

At the United Nations in September, Mr. Bashir said the reports of deaths and displacements in Darfur were "fictions" spread by international aid groups and Jewish organizations to raise money to benefit Israel.

And commenting on the international campaign that has arisen to try to end the violence in Darfur, he said, "Those who made the publicity, who mobilized the people, invariably are Jewish organizations."

From the UN News Service...

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has requested his senior envoy to Sudan, Jan Pronk, to come to New York for consultations after the country's Government officially requested his withdrawal today [Sunday].

On Friday, a UN spokesman was asked about comments on Mr. Pronk's blog as well as reports that Sudan was declaring him persona non grata. Spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the views expressed on the blog were personal, and that the Government had presented no official request concerning Mr. Pronk.

Today, in a statement released in New York, the spokesman said Mr. Annan had this morning received a letter from the Government of Sudan requesting Mr. Pronk's withdrawal.

"The Secretary-General is reviewing the letter and has, in the meantime, requested Mr. Pronk to come to New York for consultations," Mr. Dujarric said.

A profile feature from SAPA/AFP...

United Nations envoy Jan Pronk, who has been ordered to leave Sudan after he criticised the government's handling of the Darfur crisis, is a veteran diplomat with a direct approach.

An international diplomat for most of his working life, the 66-year-old is an example of a UN envoy who is not afraid to speak his mind and get emotionally involved in his work.

Since the former Dutch minister of development aid was appointed UN envoy for Sudan in 2004, his relations with Khartoum have been difficult.

Pronk has openly called Sudan a "police state" and said refugees in Darfur were victims of "Arabic racism".

In an interview in March in Dutch news magazine Vrij Nederland, Pronk said he was not worried about a possible backlash.

"The most important thing is that all parties see us as impartial... I say harsh things to the Sudanese government but also to the rebels," he explained.

The final straw was Pronk's personal weblog entry of October 14 that said that the Sudanese army had suffered major losses and that the army was working with militias linked to the Janjaweed, a pro-government militia accused of gross abuses against ethnic minority civilians in Darfur.

During his political career in the Netherlands, Pronk has always stood out as a man of principles in a political landscape dominated by pragmatism and consensus.

An economist, Pronk started his political career as a member of parliament for the PDVA labour party in 1971. In 1973 he became minister of development cooperation a post he held in three different cabinets, the last from 1994 until 1998.

Between the 1970s and 2002 he held a variety of Dutch political posts and spent six years as deputy secretary-general of the UN Conference on Trade and Development.

Observers says Pronk's direct style may have been a contributing factor in naming him the UN envoy to Sudan. He is often credited with keeping the crisis there high on the international agenda.
God bless Mr Pronk and keep him well. He deserves a medal.

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