NAIROBI: They may describe themselves as The Elders, but 83-year-old Jimmy Carter showed he wasn’t so frail he could be pushed around by Sudan’s feared security apparatus today (reported here by AP). The former president refused to listen to government officials trying to prevent him meeting ordinary people in the volatile town of Kabkabiya. Cue shouting match of the “do you know who I used to be?” variety. In the end his bodyguards managed to talk President Carter down and a compromise was reached.
But it is nice to see someone trying to stand up to the Sudanese authorities – and a much better effort than Ban ki-Moon’s feeble effort last month.
You may remember an incident related to Ban’s visit to El Fasher, when “unknown” people tried to disrupt a meeting being held at the UN headquarters in the town. My sources tell me that Ban’s face was frozen in a terrified grin as a bunch of thugs kicked down the door. His bodyguards whisked him out of the room quick-smart fearing an assassination attempt.
The incident was reported at the time as a demonstration by disgruntled residents of the aid camps who had not been invited to the meeting. The UN itself put out a statement saying simply that a group of uninvited people had disrupted the meeting.
Unfortunately that told only part of the story. As usual – see Jan Pronk’s expulsion – the UN was backing down from a confrontation with Khartoum. My sources in the meeting tell me the real culprits were far from unknown, for they were the same Sudanese security officers who had been tailing the official party all day. They were desperately uncomfortable that representatives of the IDPs were going to air their views in private. So they stormed the supposedly sacrosanct UN base.
That bit doesn’t surprise. (I saw something similar when I accompanied the Irish foreign minister, Dermot Ahern, to Abu Shouk camp last year.) But what really disappoints is the fact that the UN once again does nothing other than look the other way and make excuses for the Sudanese government.