UNIMIS and Conflict of Interests
By: Izzadin Abdul Rasoul Mohamed
The signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA)between the Governemnt of Sudan and Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement/Army was a great tidding for Sudanese who have suffered the atrocities of successive totaliterian governemnts. Among the rights guaranteed in this agreement are freedom of press and expression. Before the (CPA) we were not able to talk about politics, even in our own homes, fearing that one of the family memebers may belong to the National Islamic Front that had grip on everything in the country. As far as I remember, one of the Minsters once stated on National TV that they know everything that is happing in this country; he exagerated by saying “If someone in his bed changed the side on which he was sleeping, we know it”. He added that if your son or daughter is not recruited, your wife must be recruited.
Great change has taken place due to the arrival of the first delgation of SPLA/M to the capital, Khartoum; people were able to speak out about the wrong polices of the governemnt. Before that no one would dare to say that there was a problem in Darfur.One day in the public transportation someone was telling his friend that he saw on BBC TV live villages burned down, smoke coming up and people running. When we reached the terminal of the station I saw a security man questioning the man who told the story. I went closer to know what was going on. The security man was asking the gentleman: why do you spread wrong rumors from the Western media?
People of Sudan have long fought for democracy and are still fighting to get more freedom through peaceful means. On June 6 at 4 pm I arrived at Hilton Hotel, after having very hard times with our dilapidated press car, which stopped with mechanical faults three times before we got to Hilton. I finally arrived very fatiqued from pushing the car to get started. On arrival I told the driver to go backto the office, because if he parked the car at the Hilton ands it refused to start, there is no space to push it to get started. At the door of Hilton’s conference hall I found three men, who let me in after I showed them my Citizen Newspaper identity card. There I was welcomed by an Indian man I knew who works for United Nation Mission in Sudan (UNIMIS). He greeted me and seated me in the front. While I was reading the leaflets that were on my chair, a man with Sudan’s flag patched on his pocket came and told me to stand up. He very roughly asked me how did you get here? Through the door I said. “Do you want me out?” I asked. “Yes1”he pronounced. I was escorted out in the presence of other reporters. At the door I found a man in fullsuit, who told me he tried to call my newspaper yesterday but did not receive any answer.
I was wondering what did hias calling the newspaper and receiving no answer have to do with me being asked out of the press conference. Then I started to asked myself: is the conference of the Security Council Members due to be held in Hilton Hotel arranged by Sudanese Governemnt or UNIMIS or both. I recalled that one day one of the reporters was banned from attending any press conference of UNIMIS due to the questions he asked one of the officals. Therefore the first reason I put ahead was that maybe Jan Pronk, the Special Representative of the General Secretary of the United Nations in Sudan, ordered that the reporter from Citizen Newspapers not to be invited, because the newspaper in the past days published negative appraisals about the Darfur Peace Agreement signed in Abuja on 5th May 2006. Also, in one of the meetings of Jan Pronk with civil society organizations, which I attended as one of the civil society organization members, not a reporter, Pronk said that there are some people who give wrong information about DPA to the civilians. I criticised him, telling Sudanese people are one of the world’s most politically aware communities, very much concerned about current events, unlike people in the West or elsewhere who sometimes fail to know know the names of their vice president or ministers. Assessing the naivity of his remarks, I then told him that being in Sudan for two is not enough to say that he knows every thing about Sudan. Special Rep. Jan Pronk was not happy with that. Hence, I observed that the expelling of Citizen’s reporter from the press conference of the Security Council at Hilton was a decision of UNIMIS authorities, because I saw that UNIMIS issued special press cards accrediting reporters to enter the conference hall. Apparently, they had called Citizen’s office to tell us not to send anyone to cover the press conference.
I would like to tell Jan Pronk that UNIMIS is not representing any counrty, not Holland, not Nowrway or India or any other country in the world, but the UN. We are not under colonalism to adhere to the polices of any master. The General Secretary of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, has never reacted against the press for criticizing him personally on his mangement lapses in the oil for food programme for Iraq. He was very couragious and went further to say that if anyone suspected his involvement in the scandal they were free to question him, regardless of who he or she is. So, Sir Jan Pronk, if you did it, you should know that your role in Sudan is just a facilitator. UN is not a political party that imposes its political agenda on people, but a body that helps people to stand and head the way they choose. I know that Jan Pronk is not happy to listen to people who oppose DPA because he wants by any means to finish up the conflict so that his country, Holland, will do the reconstruction of Darfur. We have information that Holland has taken the responsibility of rebuilding Darfur. So please Mr. Pronk, Sudan is mine you can’t fight me over it, and there is more coming up.
And if expelling Citizen’s reporter was to be due his misconduct, the fair and proper response should have been to write the Newspaper asking that the reporter be changed. If after that, the newspaper sent the same reporter again, you would have the right to deny him accreditation.
Initially, I suspected either the Governemnt of the Sudan or the Press Council of being the agents of this suppression of press freedom; but no, it was the UN. We are now seing the UN surpassing Sudan’s government in the violation of human rights, notably press freedom.
For 16 years the Islamic regime has gaged the mouths of the people. Today, under the limitted freedom that people got from the CPA, anyone following the daily newspapers can see that they are all full of criticism to the system. As if, what they have been prevented from saying for 16 years they are now pouring out. I believe reformation of any kind is a long process. If authorities try to denigrate or frustrate the role of certain individuals, that does not mean that all the other peoplew who admit the truth will be silenced. Psycologist always say suppression causes agression and agression causes explossion, the negative one.
My advice to those who always stand aginst the press and hamper their duties is to learn from the series of institutions, systems and governments arround that eventually vanished while the press remains.
God save Sudan from the greed of all mealy mouths in human habitats. (Amen)