Home | News    Thursday 12 August 2010

UNAMID chief threatens to hand over Kalma delegates to Sudanese government - IDPs

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August 11, 2010 (KHARTOUM) — Representatives of Kalma residents in South Darfur state today said they were threatened by the head of the hybrid peacekeeping mission that he will hand them over to the Sudanese authorities if they refuse joint patrols by local police and peacekeepers.

Ibrahim GambariThey further urged the international community and the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon to intervene and save their life.

Ibrahim Gambari held a series of talks in Khartoum where he pledged to cooperate with the local authorities to clear the camp of weapons and to ease the tension there.

But Sudanese official asked him to hand over six people suspected of taking part in clashes occurred recently among the residents over the participation in the peace process.

The six representatives of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the camp took refuge in the premises of UNAMID police since 19 days.

In an exclusive interview with Sudan Tribune Wednesday, the five sheiks and a woman said the Joint Special Representative Ibrahim Gambari met them on Wednesday in presence of a government delegation led by state minister for humanitarian affairs Mutrif Sideeg.

According to the IDPs representatives in the troubled camp, Gambari asked them to accept the presence of joint patrols formed by the Sudanese government and the hybrid peacekeeping mission.

"If you refuse to accept this deal I will have no choice but to hand you over to the Sudanese authorities," Gambari told them according to the six representatives who are still in the UNAMID policing center inside the camp.

Residents of Kalma camp resist the presence of Sudanese police inside the camp and refuse it since six years.

In August 2008, the police tried to enter inside the camp but the residents opposed the move and the security forces killed some 32 IDPs.

Since then the UNAMID established policing center inside the camp and organized patrols around the camp to protect its residents from nocturnal attacks by militias.

In July 2009, IPDs representatives asked former of the UNAMID Rodolphe Adada to put barb wire around the camp. They further called on UNAMID to construct major streets in the camps with lighting in order to reduce nighttime attacks.

The representatives of Kalma IDPs refused the offer of the joint patrols saying they were deeply shocked by the presence of the Sudanese minister in the meeting.

They further said they were happy when they had been informed about their meeting with Gambari because he is the "representative of the UN Secretary General but they found in him a representative of the Sudanese government".

They said they feel their life is in danger and appealed on Ban Ki-Moon and the international community to intervene in their favor to protect their life.

Kalma camp is located outside Nyala, the capital of South Darfur, and is home to about 100,000 people mostly seen as supporters of the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) leader Abdel Wahid Al-Nur. Sudanese authorities describe the Kalma camp as a den of outlaws and armed robbers hoarding weapons, ammunition, explosives, narcotics and stolen goods.

The South Darfur governor last week disclosed his intention to remove the camp because it lies near the railway station and Nyala Airport. This proximity to the airport increases the "security threat for UNAMID planes," he further said.

REMOVE GAMBARI

In a separate interview, the spokesperson of Kalma IDPs camp, Yagoub Furi urged the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to remove his special representative in Darfur because he becomes "a representative of the Sudanese government".

He further said the international community should change the mandate of the peacekeeping mission and empower it to fully protect the civilians. The current mandate allows the largest operation in the world to only open fire to protect themselves and to protect civilians from eminent attacks.

Yagoub said they were expecting Gambari to come alone and to meet them. "But he refused to meet us and to take memorandums that we prepared for the intention of (UN chief) Ban Ki-Moon".

He added that the IDPs were disappointed when Gambari came to the camp accompanied by Sudanese government officials who considers the residents of the camps "as criminals".

He denounced the proposition of joint patrols saying the government troops forced them to flee their villages in 2003 and 2004 to seek international protection in the camps where they are often attacked by the militias.

"How we can accept such idea while the same government announced that it would dismantle the camp and we fear to be subjected once again to the previous atrocities," he said referring to the events of August 2008.

The UNAMID said Wednesday "large regions of the settlement appeared deserted, the inhabitants having left for either the nearby UNAMID Community Policing Center, Nyala or one of the surrounding villages".

According to Yagoub, Gambari told the six representatives that his mission is not to protect the IDPs but to promote efforts to achieve peace in the region.

"If he thinks that, then he has to meet (SLM leader) Abdel Wahid Al-Nur, but not to meet the IDPs," he commented.

(ST)

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Kind regards,

The Sudan Tribune editorial team.
  • 12 August 2010 07:36, by Truth_Seeker

    UN is a luciferian institution

    • 22 November 2012 18:54, by blusshitfilem

      There are so many different prospects when it comes to this subject. Thanks for sharing your knowledge on this particular aspect and making it easier for us.
      passive income opportunities

  • 12 August 2010 08:11, by telfajbago

    From this development we got the entire picture. Gambari signed a deal with Khartoum Government to nuteralize any threat to the Doha peace process inside the IDPs camps; we do not need glasses to see what is before our eyes, do we?.I have every reason to say that, UNAMID is losing any ounce credibility since is working to implements regime’s schemes against the innocent civilians, therefore we call upon, humanity loving nations, UN with it’s specialized organs to intervene to safe the situation, specially the General Secretary Ban Ki Moon. Gambari and his UNAMID are no longer trusted by the IDPs. And if the UN is part of Gambari’s plan also it’s important for the IDPs to know it as the issue concerned with their being a live.

  • 12 August 2010 08:20, by Sudan virus

    I suggest UN mission be separate from African Mission in Darfur if the benefit of the work of UN and other humanitarian organizations is to be realized in Sudan.

    The reason why UN mission in Sudan is weak lies behind the influence of AU which is blind folded by minority Arabs of Africa.

    lokosang_joseph@yahoo.com

    • 12 August 2010 08:48, by Sudan virus

      African indigenous leaders site much with the Arabs(East).

      Let me tell you that the Arabs are just invaders from Asia just like other invaders from Europe or else where in the world.We have white settlers in Kenya,South Africa, to mention but a few,but they stay peacefully together.

      Former dictator,Uganda president Idi Amin, indeginous African ,said we African should share a little from the West and a little from the East aside our African culture/economic ideology.

      AU is siting with East, particularly Arabs only, that is why Sudan problems are hard to find solution.

      Every where in the world where there is presence of Arabs ,there is not peace.they belief peace is achieved when one died.

      The stay peaceful when they are Arabs alone.

  • 12 August 2010 10:09, by DASODIKO

    "Gullible Gambari"

    Next stop for the UN envoy who royally screwed up in Burma? Sudan.

    · Seyward Darby

    · January 11, 2010 | 12:00 am

    On May 20, 2006, Ibrahim Gambari, the gregarious UN under-secretary general for political affairs, met with leaders of Burma’s military junta and their most famous political prisoner, Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi. It was Gambari’s first trip to Burma, and the first time in two years that the country’s secretive rulers had granted a UN official such high-level access. Gambari’s optimism was palpable: “They want to open up another chapter of relationship with the international community,” the seasoned Nigerian diplomat said in a press conference on May 24. But three days later, only a week after meeting with Gambari, the junta extended Suu Kyi’s house arrest by a year. Suddenly, Gambari’s optimism was his humiliation. “People thought he had fallen for their line,” says Mark Farmaner, director of Campaign for Burma UK. “He was completely suckered.”

    It was just the first in a series of diplomatic blunders that would sully Gambari’s tenure as the UN’s envoy in Burma. Widely viewed as a pawn in the junta’s game of repeatedly fooling the international community about its willingness to change, he earned the nickname “Gullible Gambari.” “He had all these meetings and nothing to show for it,” says David Mathieson, a Burma researcher for Human Rights Watch.

    When the UN announced in December that it was reassigning Gambari to be its top envoy in Sudan, effective January 1, many Burma watchers breathed a sigh of relief. “Gambari—who liked to tell critics who faulted him for a lack of results that his mission was ‘a process, not an event’—often seemed a hapless bystander whenever anything actually happened in Burma,” The Irrawaddy, a Thailand-based newspaper established by Burmese citizens in exile, said in a scathing editorial. But some Darfur activists are now worried that Gambari might repeat his mistakes in Sudan. “My main concern is that his focus would be on accommodation of the regime, and that would leave the perpetuation of an unacceptable and unstable status quo,” says Jerry Fowler, president of the Save Darfur Coalition.

    Gambari can’t be blamed for the fact that conflict within the Security Council has prevented the UN from adopting a strong Burma policy. But, instead of advocating for a tougher stance, he was all too willing to play the role of genial UN hack pushing a soft line with a notoriously duplicitous regime. “You need a much harder edge to a UN envoy’s position,” Mathieson says. “You don’t need someone who is charming and well-connected. … The [regime] respects strength and dedication, and he didn’t embody either of those two qualities.”

    Gambari was already a UN veteran when he was assigned to Burma. His résumé included a stint as Nigeria’s ambassador to the UN, missions in South Africa and Angola, and an appointment as the secretary general’s Special Adviser on Africa. He took over the Burma mission with his now-infamous inaugural trip as under-secretary general in 2006 and was officially appointed envoy the following May. That same year, he also became the Special Adviser on the International Compact with Iraq and Other Political Issues.

    His jumbled title concerned some people from the start. “You’re doomed from the get-go,” Mathieson says. “Burma is a tacked-on issue. The [regime] would just look at him and say, ‘Who cares about you?’” But Gambari worried Burma watchers for other reasons, too: Most of his work had been in Africa, and he knew little about Burma. “When he was first appointed, there was a feeling among the [activist] crowd that he didn’t know anything about it,” says one UN insider close to the Burma mission. “There was certainly a feeling that the Burmese are very racist and that they wouldn’t respond well to an African.” (His predecessor, Malaysian Razali Ismail, had quit in January 2006.)

    Others hoped his background would prove an asset. “Gambari’s African warmth was somewhat disarming for [the junta],” the UN insider says. “He’s very physical. He claps you on the shoulder, he takes your hand. I’m not saying he gave [regime leader] Than Shwe a hug, but he’s not reserved in the way Asian top diplomats are.” What’s more, Gambari had witnessed Nigeria’s transition from a military regime to a democracy in the 1990s from a top diplomatic perch. “He was able to say things to the [Burmese] government that others weren’t,” the UN insider explains. “They don’t talk to that many people who say, ‘I feel your pain; I’ve been there.’”

    But his role in Nigeria angered, and continues to anger, many human rights activists. He served as the country’s UN ambassador under the repressive regime of President Sani Abacha. During Gambari’s tenure, the government executed democracy advocate Ken Siro Wiwa. Gambari publicly referred to Siro Wiwa as a “common criminal” and didn’t condemn his execution. He later explained that he was afraid the international community would place sanctions on Nigeria. “On the one hand, he understands the way that brutal regimes work. On the other hand, he doesn’t have a very good track record,” says Fowler of Save Darfur. “The very fact of being the representative of the regime at the time … shows that he’s driven more by expedience than anything else.”

    Gambari visited Burma seven more times after his initial embarrassment. Each trip followed the same benign pattern. “[The regime] organized his schedule, decided who he saw, planned his dinners,” says Farmaner of Campaign for Burma UK. (Gambari admitted in a 2007 interview that the junta kept him “holed up.”) His agenda focused narrowly on the relationship between the junta and Suu Kyi’s political party, the National League for Democracy (NLD). He would ask the regime’s leaders to release Suu Kyi—who was never allowed to become prime minister after her party won the 1990 general election in a landslide—and other political prisoners; to engage in talks with the NLD; and to expedite democratic reforms. Sometimes Than Shwe would meet with Gambari; on other trips, only lower-level regime members would speak with him. And he was usually granted brief audiences with Suu Kyi.

    He didn’t meet with ethnic opposition groups such as the Karen, an oppressed minority rebelling in the eastern part of the country, despite the fact that such groups have considerable influence on Burma’s political situation. Because many of these groups have leaderships in exile, Gambari could have planned meetings quietly without the junta’s oversight—but he didn’t. “In terms of the details of the Myanmar political situation, he wasn’t vastly interested,” the UN insider explains. “He didn’t have a great command of detail.” (Members of his office did maintain backchannels with various opposition groups.)

    After each trip, Gambari would say that his mission, while slow-moving, was progressing—even as the regime kept up its business as usual. “There wasn’t a level of realism and honesty,” says Jennifer Quigley of the U.S. Campaign for Burma. In 2007, when the NLD was barred from participating in the writing of a new constitution, Gambari still praised the process. “The international community would have preferred a more inclusive process, but nonetheless it’s an important event,” he told Agence France-Presse. “We hope that that will lead to even more progress.” (The constitution, finalized in May 2008, legitimized the military’s rule and barred Suu Kyi from holding office.) After his trip that September, which he took in response to the junta’s brutal crackdown on protests led by students and Buddhist monks, Gambari told reporters that he was optimistic about Burma’s future. “The fact is that I’ve been allowed in three times now,” he told NPR that October. “So that gives me some encouragement that perhaps, perhaps, you know, there might be an opening there.” And, when Cyclone Nargis slammed Burma in May 2008 and the regime blocked international aid, Gambari was nowhere to be seen.

    Frustration with Gambari peaked when, in August 2008, Suu Kyi refused to meet with him. Burma watchers say she was fed up with his failure to kick-start talks between the regime and the NLD. Sensing an opportunity, the junta reportedly encouraged Gambari to send UN staffers to Suu Kyi’s house where, shouting on a megaphone, they implored her to meet with the envoy. Photos of the embarrassing scene ran in The New Light of Myanmar, the regime’s media mouthpiece, with the headline, “[Gambari] unable to meet with Daw Aung Suu Kyi however much he tries due to her rejection.”

    Gambari would visit Burma only two more times. After a February 2009 trip, the regime released about two dozen political prisoners, and Gambari declared that his “message [was] getting through.” (The Karen National Union issued a statement at the time that criticized the envoy for “once again … visit[ing] Burma without also meeting with genuine representatives of Burma’s ethnic nationalities.”) In May, however, the regime pulled another about-face, putting Suu Kyi on trial for allegedly violating the terms of her house arrest. When she was convicted in August, Gambari told Voice of America that he was “extremely disappointed”—but, as always, he was optimistic about the little things. “The conditions of her detention, house arrest, have been eased somewhat,” he said.

    When news broke that Gambari was being sent to Sudan, Burma activists declared him a failure. “He has no sort of success that he can show,” says Quigley of the U.S. Campaign for Burma. “Things have gone from bad to worse during his tenure.” (Although some human rights groups were pushing for his removal, Gambari’s transfer may have had more to do with African politics; some observers speculate that Nigeria, which reportedly feels its large troop presence in Sudan is underappreciated, was lobbying to have one of its own appointed envoy.) According to the Campaign for Burma UK, in the first two years of Gambari’s mission, the number of political prisoners in Burma almost doubled and more than 130,000 people were forced from their homes in an "ethnic cleansing campaign." And he was never able to start talks between the regime and the NLD.

    To be sure, the UN didn’t offer Gambari—or any previous envoy—the tools needed to implement a tougher Burma policy. Because of opposition from Russia and China, the Security Council has never taken formal action against the country, and the secretary general reportedly backs a soft approach in dealing with the junta. But many Burma watchers agree that, even without UN teeth behind him, Gambari should have been a stronger public critic of the regime, instead of a naïve optimist. He should have vigorously underscored the junta’s refusal to reform, as well as its human rights abuses, in his public statements and reports. He should have met with opposition groups other than the NLD. And he could even have told junta leaders that he wouldn’t visit if they remained uncooperative. “He didn’t do that because of the seduction of access,” Mathieson says. Adds the UN insider, “There’s a school of mediation that says you have to keep your foot in the door. He comes from that school. He’s not terribly confrontational.” (The UN did not respond to requests for an interview with Gambari.)

    Some activists say the next Burma envoy should be a well-known dignitary with an independent power base and no need to add a new line to a UN résumé (a former head of state or top general, for instance). Others say the envoy position should be eliminated; Campaign for Burma UK has called on “UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to take the lead.” But activists agree that whoever takes charge of the mission should be the strong advocate for change that Gambari never was. “I want to get an effective UN representative who is non-biased and well-prepared on Burmese issues,” Khim Maung Swe, an executive committee member of the NLD, told The Irrawaddy. “Moreover, he must dare to speak openly and bravely.”

    Gambari’s diplomatic career isn’t finished, and human rights activists are waiting to see if he’ll take a tough approach in Sudan, as the country prepares for national elections and a referendum on southern secession. “Everyone is hoping that he’ll surprise and be effective,” says Fowler of Save Darfur. After his work in Burma, don’t count on it.

    Seyward Darby is the assistant managing editor of The New Republic.

  • 12 August 2010 10:11, by DASODIKO

    Professor Ibrahim Gambari and June 12: The “un-disgraced” collaborator

    Omoyele Sowore /Sahara Reporters

    If the Abacha repressive regime were a soccer team, Professor Ibrahim Gambari would be one of the “1st eleven players” or at least a quarter back on the reserve bench in the government squad. Though Abacha didn’t play soccer, he certainly sat on a killer squad that faced down members of the opposition-all lovers of democracy, and ordinary Nigerians in and out of Nigeria-while his bestial reign lasted, in addition to Abacha Professor Gambari has served almost all the dictators that has scorched the piece of earth known as Nigeria.

    Professor Ibrahim Gambari, who some people claim is an intelligent man, used his ‘intelligence’ to defend the draconian policies of the Abacha regime while he was Nigeria’s Permanent Representative at the United Nations. He was one of Abacha’s equivalents of the “goebel” representing the infamous dictator with vigor and a propensity that could only be found in fascist Italy of old. He was once quoted as saying, “Nigerians don’t need democracy because democracy is not food. It is not their priority now.” As more pressure mounted on the Abacha regime from all corners of the world, Professor Gambari became more notorious and ruthless in defending and deflecting attacks against the Abacha dictatorship.

    I remember his many appearances on cable news channels, especially after Abacha murdered environmentalist and author, Ken Saro-Wiwa following what can be described as a kangaroo trial. Professor Gambari stoically denied that the Abacha regime had committed a crime; he labeled Saro-Wiwa a “common criminal” who had engaged in the murder of some Ogoni elders. It was Gambari and Tom Ikimi who went all over the world to convince and blackmail governments of nations opposed to the killing of Saro-Wiwa and the Ogoni 8. They tried in vain to convince the governments of some countries, but it was also clear that they might have succeeded in blackmailing some countries into silence or acquiescence. There are claims that Professor Ibrahim Gambari had access to the Nigerian treasury; he had limitless resources to do what ever he wanted in the name of protecting the Abacha regime, no wonder he was able to pay for the juicy properties sold by the Federal government in Ikoyi recntly.

    After the demise of Abacha, his other co-dictators and collaborators were put in their place: Call it the Nigerian Hall of Shame. Professor Ibrahim Gambari has not been touched; he has not been called to account. Unlike the Usenis, Mustapha, and Gwarzo, he did not appear before the hapless “Oputa Panel” to explain his ignominious role. Instead he was elevated by Kofi Annan, the United Nations Secretary-General, to the position of Under-Secretary and Special Adviser on Africa at the UN. The reasons are not far-fetched. Kofi Annan wasn’t too keen on democratization efforts in Nigeria; he was already in cahoots with the Abacha regime through his son, Kodjo, who was involved in the oil business in Nigeria. Kodjo lives a life of opulence in Lagos. There had been rumors Gambari was the link between Abacha, Annan and their businesses.

    Even after the death of Abacha, Kofi Annan’s visits to Nigeria were primarily to prevail on Chief M.K.O Abiola to forget about his June 12 mandate. He didn’t care about Abiola’s freedom so he quietly went to meet him in jail and asked him to ‘fuggetabutit.’ It is a known fact that Prof. Gambari had already briefed Annan adequately about the “real deal” and shortly after Kofi visited Abiola, Chief Anyaoku followed, then the Brits and then the Americans and the rest is now painful history.

    It is intriguing that Professor Gambari has now become a darling of so many Nigerian organizations. Honors are pouring in from everywhere and he is getting awards and making speeches all over the place. Recently a group named “World Congress of Afenifere” invited people to come toNewark, New Jersey to listen to a Gambari lecture. I didn’t know what to think, except the reminder that even the leader of the Yoruba race, Chief Abraham Adesanya, was in the company of General Abubakar when he came to commission the now defunct “AbubakarA. Abdusalami Lecture Series” at the Chicago State University in 2001. For this program General Abubakar had committed a lot of money described by the Chicago State University President, Dr. Elnora Daniel as”largesse”, this he gave from his ill-gotten wealth. Shortly after the Chicago imbroglio, Dr. Conteh, who was the brain behind the lecture series was relieved of his plum job at CSU and the “Abubakar Lecture Series” died a natural death. I am proud to say I was there at CSU with Lanre Banjo, Pete Sophie, Kayode Oladele, members of Amnesty International, USA, and many more Nigerians from all over the United States to protest the “beautification” of Abubakar. In the milieu that ensued Abubakar was served a court summons that accused him of human rights violations, and ever since he has not been seen parading US universities in search of a dubious legacy and undeserved honors. The case against Gen. Abubakar has advanced tremendously at the U.S. Appeals Court, Circuit Seven. The court reached a decision on the case between Abubakar, Enahoro, and others (case #03-3089 on May 23, 2005). The 31-page decision of the appellate court presided by Justices Cudahy, Kannes, and Evans concluded that the Abubakar case should be referred to trial.

    For Professor Ibrahim Gambari, he seems to have escaped justice both locally and internationally. He can always claim that he was just a diplomat doing his job. But, since the days of the Nuremberg trials such arguments no longer hold water.

    Professor Gambari is getting bolder by the day, and as such on June 12, 2005, Professor Gambari, according to sources at the UN, is going to make a speech at a weeklong event tagged “Medgar Week” being organized by the Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, New York according to the . It is not clear why the college has not put the information on its website as at press time. They know all too well that Professor Gambari is to Nigerians here in the US, the equivalent of what David Duke (a white supremacist) would mean to African Americans.

    It has become clear that the day, “June 12” has some sanctity to Nigerians everywhere in the world. I have no doubt that Medgar Wiley Evers a committed civil rights leader will be turning in his grave right now, certainly Abiola must be boiling with rage wherever he is and definitely the date “June 12” should never be the party day for shenanigans and collaborators.

  • 12 August 2010 10:13, by DASODIKO

    Published on The New Republic (http://www.tnr.com)


    "Gullible Gambari"
    Next stop for the UN envoy who royally screwed up in Burma? Sudan.
    • Seyward Darby
    • January 11, 2010 | 12:00 am

    On May 20, 2006, Ibrahim Gambari, the gregarious UN under-secretary general for political affairs, met with leaders of Burma’s military junta and their most famous political prisoner, Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi. It was Gambari’s first trip to Burma, and the first time in two years that the country’s secretive rulers had granted a UN official such high-level access. Gambari’s optimism was palpable: “They want to open up another chapter of relationship with the international community,” the seasoned Nigerian diplomat said in a press conference on May 24. But three days later, only a week after meeting with Gambari, the junta extended Suu Kyi’s house arrest by a year. Suddenly, Gambari’s optimism was his humiliation. “People thought he had fallen for their line,” says Mark Farmaner, director of Campaign for Burma UK. “He was completely suckered.”
    It was just the first in a series of diplomatic blunders that would sully Gambari’s tenure as the UN’s envoy in Burma. Widely viewed as a pawn in the junta’s game of repeatedly fooling the international community about its willingness to change, he earned the nickname “Gullible Gambari.” “He had all these meetings and nothing to show for it,” says David Mathieson, a Burma researcher for Human Rights Watch.
    When the UN announced in December that it was reassigning Gambari to be its top envoy in Sudan, effective January 1, many Burma watchers breathed a sigh of relief. “Gambari—who liked to tell critics who faulted him for a lack of results that his mission was ‘a process, not an event’—often seemed a hapless bystander whenever anything actually happened in Burma,” The Irrawaddy, a Thailand-based newspaper established by Burmese citizens in exile, said in a scathing editorial. But some Darfur activists are now worried that Gambari might repeat his mistakes in Sudan. “My main concern is that his focus would be on accommodation of the regime, and that would leave the perpetuation of an unacceptable and unstable status quo,” says Jerry Fowler, president of the Save Darfur Coalition.
    Gambari can’t be blamed for the fact that conflict within the Security Council has prevented the UN from adopting a strong Burma policy. But, instead of advocating for a tougher stance, he was all too willing to play the role of genial UN hack pushing a soft line with a notoriously duplicitous regime. “You need a much harder edge to a UN envoy’s position,” Mathieson says. “You don’t need someone who is charming and well-connected. … The [regime] respects strength and dedication, and he didn’t embody either of those two qualities.”

    Gambari was already a UN veteran when he was assigned to Burma. His résumé included a stint as Nigeria’s ambassador to the UN, missions in South Africa and Angola, and an appointment as the secretary general’s Special Adviser on Africa. He took over the Burma mission with his now-infamous inaugural trip as under-secretary general in 2006 and was officially appointed envoy the following May. That same year, he also became the Special Adviser on the International Compact with Iraq and Other Political Issues.
    His jumbled title concerned some people from the start. “You’re doomed from the get-go,” Mathieson says. “Burma is a tacked-on issue. The [regime] would just look at him and say, ‘Who cares about you?’” But Gambari worried Burma watchers for other reasons, too: Most of his work had been in Africa, and he knew little about Burma. “When he was first appointed, there was a feeling among the [activist] crowd that he didn’t know anything about it,” says one UN insider close to the Burma mission. “There was certainly a feeling that the Burmese are very racist and that they wouldn’t respond well to an African.” (His predecessor, Malaysian Razali Ismail, had quit in January 2006.)
    Others hoped his background would prove an asset. “Gambari’s African warmth was somewhat disarming for [the junta],” the UN insider says. “He’s very physical. He claps you on the shoulder, he takes your hand. I’m not saying he gave [regime leader] Than Shwe a hug, but he’s not reserved in the way Asian top diplomats are.” What’s more, Gambari had witnessed Nigeria’s transition from a military regime to a democracy in the 1990s from a top diplomatic perch. “He was able to say things to the [Burmese] government that others weren’t,” the UN insider explains. “They don’t talk to that many people who say, ‘I feel your pain; I’ve been there.’”
    But his role in Nigeria angered, and continues to anger, many human rights activists. He served as the country’s UN ambassador under the repressive regime of President Sani Abacha. During Gambari’s tenure, the government executed democracy advocate Ken Siro Wiwa. Gambari publicly referred to Siro Wiwa as a “common criminal” and didn’t condemn his execution. He later explained that he was afraid the international community would place sanctions on Nigeria. “On the one hand, he understands the way that brutal regimes work. On the other hand, he doesn’t have a very good track record,” says Fowler of Save Darfur. “The very fact of being the representative of the regime at the time … shows that he’s driven more by expedience than anything else.”
    Gambari visited Burma seven more times after his initial embarrassment. Each trip followed the same benign pattern. “[The regime] organized his schedule, decided who he saw, planned his dinners,” says Farmaner of Campaign for Burma UK. (Gambari admitted in a 2007 interview that the junta kept him “holed up.”) His agenda focused narrowly on the relationship between the junta and Suu Kyi’s political party, the National League for Democracy (NLD). He would ask the regime’s leaders to release Suu Kyi—who was never allowed to become prime minister after her party won the 1990 general election in a landslide—and other political prisoners; to engage in talks with the NLD; and to expedite democratic reforms. Sometimes Than Shwe would meet with Gambari; on other trips, only lower-level regime members would speak with him. And he was usually granted brief audiences with Suu Kyi.
    He didn’t meet with ethnic opposition groups such as the Karen, an oppressed minority rebelling in the eastern part of the country, despite the fact that such groups have considerable influence on Burma’s political situation. Because many of these groups have leaderships in exile, Gambari could have planned meetings quietly without the junta’s oversight—but he didn’t. “In terms of the details of the Myanmar political situation, he wasn’t vastly interested,” the UN insider explains. “He didn’t have a great command of detail.” (Members of his office did maintain backchannels with various opposition groups.)
    After each trip, Gambari would say that his mission, while slow-moving, was progressing—even as the regime kept up its business as usual. “There wasn’t a level of realism and honesty,” says Jennifer Quigley of the U.S. Campaign for Burma. In 2007, when the NLD was barred from participating in the writing of a new constitution, Gambari still praised the process. “The international community would have preferred a more inclusive process, but nonetheless it’s an important event,” he told Agence France-Presse. “We hope that that will lead to even more progress.” (The constitution, finalized in May 2008, legitimized the military’s rule and barred Suu Kyi from holding office.) After his trip that September, which he took in response to the junta’s brutal crackdown on protests led by students and Buddhist monks, Gambari told reporters that he was optimistic about Burma’s future. “The fact is that I’ve been allowed in three times now,” he told NPR that October. “So that gives me some encouragement that perhaps, perhaps, you know, there might be an opening there.” And, when Cyclone Nargis slammed Burma in May 2008 and the regime blocked international aid, Gambari was nowhere to be seen.
    Frustration with Gambari peaked when, in August 2008, Suu Kyi refused to meet with him. Burma watchers say she was fed up with his failure to kick-start talks between the regime and the NLD. Sensing an opportunity, the junta reportedly encouraged Gambari to send UN staffers to Suu Kyi’s house where, shouting on a megaphone, they implored her to meet with the envoy. Photos of the embarrassing scene ran in The New Light of Myanmar, the regime’s media mouthpiece, with the headline, “[Gambari] unable to meet with Daw Aung Suu Kyi however much he tries due to her rejection.”
    Gambari would visit Burma only two more times. After a February 2009 trip, the regime released about two dozen political prisoners, and Gambari declared that his “message [was] getting through.” (The Karen National Union issued a statement at the time that criticized the envoy for “once again … visit[ing] Burma without also meeting with genuine representatives of Burma’s ethnic nationalities.”) In May, however, the regime pulled another about-face, putting Suu Kyi on trial for allegedly violating the terms of her house arrest. When she was convicted in August, Gambari told Voice of America that he was “extremely disappointed”—but, as always, he was optimistic about the little things. “The conditions of her detention, house arrest, have been eased somewhat,” he said.
    When news broke that Gambari was being sent to Sudan, Burma activists declared him a failure. “He has no sort of success that he can show,” says Quigley of the U.S. Campaign for Burma. “Things have gone from bad to worse during his tenure.” (Although some human rights groups were pushing for his removal, Gambari’s transfer may have had more to do with African politics; some observers speculate that Nigeria, which reportedly feels its large troop presence in Sudan is underappreciated, was lobbying to have one of its own appointed envoy.) According to the Campaign for Burma UK, in the first two years of Gambari’s mission, the number of political prisoners in Burma almost doubled and more than 130,000 people were forced from their homes in an "ethnic cleansing campaign." And he was never able to start talks between the regime and the NLD.

    To be sure, the UN didn’t offer Gambari—or any previous envoy—the tools needed to implement a tougher Burma policy. Because of opposition from Russia and China, the Security Council has never taken formal action against the country, and the secretary general reportedly backs a soft approach in dealing with the junta. But many Burma watchers agree that, even without UN teeth behind him, Gambari should have been a stronger public critic of the regime, instead of a naïve optimist. He should have vigorously underscored the junta’s refusal to reform, as well as its human rights abuses, in his public statements and reports. He should have met with opposition groups other than the NLD. And he could even have told junta leaders that he wouldn’t visit if they remained uncooperative. “He didn’t do that because of the seduction of access,” Mathieson says. Adds the UN insider, “There’s a school of mediation that says you have to keep your foot in the door. He comes from that school. He’s not terribly confrontational.” (The UN did not respond to requests for an interview with Gambari.)
    Some activists say the next Burma envoy should be a well-known dignitary with an independent power base and no need to add a new line to a UN résumé (a former head of state or top general, for instance). Others say the envoy position should be eliminated; Campaign for Burma UK has called on “UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to take the lead.” But activists agree that whoever takes charge of the mission should be the strong advocate for change that Gambari never was. “I want to get an effective UN representative who is non-biased and well-prepared on Burmese issues,” Khim Maung Swe, an executive committee member of the NLD, told The Irrawaddy. “Moreover, he must dare to speak openly and bravely.”
    Gambari’s diplomatic career isn’t finished, and human rights activists are waiting to see if he’ll take a tough approach in Sudan, as the country prepares for national elections and a referendum on southern secession. “Everyone is hoping that he’ll surprise and be effective,” says Fowler of Save Darfur. After his work in Burma, don’t count on it.
    Seyward Darby is the assistant managing editor of The New Republic.

  • 12 August 2010 17:13, by kitir

    UNAMID led by African figures will never make difference on ground and to bring the peace in Darfur, putting into mind the Mr,ADADA doctrine in dealing with the Darfur issue, his ridiculous remarks after being sacked from his post, rewarded by the genocidaire Bashir for his declarations on the end of war in Darfur, I don’t believe Mr Gambari who threat IDPs by handing them over to the killers, can make and progress face to the rude , nefarious regime ,it time to review the opinion that gives priority to African national to head the UNAMID. They proved incompetence, incapability, corrupted, accommodating the existing regime and persecution , threatening the vulnerable IDPs,



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