Tidbits of Arabic News translated into English

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Darfur on the BBC Arabic again

Sudan recently kicked two UN workers out of the country, so the BBC Arabic hosted a dialogue between a representative of the UN, and a representative of Sudan's government:

Resha Qandeel is the lady on the left. She works for the BBC Arabic and she was asking the questions.
First, they showed footage of the UN activities in Sudan. Especially, they were focused on UNAMID, a peacekeeping force from the UN and African United that is stationed in Darfur.

Resha started with the UN representative first. I've seen him on the BBC Arabic before talking about this very topic. His name is Abdul-Hamid Siyam.

Resha from the BBC: This isn't the first time Sudan has kicked out UN workers, is it?

Siyam from the UN: No, indeed, there have been many crises between the UN and Sudan. For example, Sudan ordered Jan Pronk out of the country a few years ago.

(Jan Pronk was the Special Representative of the UN in Sudan at one point).

Mr. Siyam continued: Last year, Sudan asked the representative another UN agency also to get out. And now Sudan is asking two additional UN officials to leave. And they asked one of them to completely shut her office. There is a crisis of confidence between Sudan and the UN, especially when it comes to Darfur. And I want to say that 2014 has been the worst for Darfur, in which 470,000 local people were kicked out of their homes. It's been the worst year. That's why the UN wants to have these officials there. But Sudan doesn't want to be subjected to investigation, and that is why Sudan is mad.

Resha now turned to the man speaking for Sudan. Resha asked: Just last week, the UN asked for permission to visit a certain area of the country that has seen fighting, and possibly civilians being attacked. Why every time the UN asks for permission to visit a part of the country do you end up closing an office or kicking people out?

Man from Sudan's government: We don't have a crisis with the UN. We are a member of the UN, and blah blah blah. However, there are people who have an unfair political agenda against Sudan. And I would like to correct some of the stuff that the man from America said.

[Yes, the Man from Sudan's government actually referred to Mr. Siyam from the UN as the 'Man from America', just because Mr. Siyam was skyping in from New York. Wow!]

The Man from Sudan spoke in a kind of mumbled voice, so I had a hard time understanding him and what exactly he was so mad about, but apparently Mr. Siyam had given the wrong title for Jan Pronk's job in Sudan, so that needed to be corrected. The Man from Sudan was also mad because according to him, something had happened in 2006 and 'is it right that a person from the UN should say such a thing? Is that diplomatic language?'

Resha: Okay, back to my question. The UN asked for permission to visit an area of the country. They asked to investigate a place. The question is, every time the UN asks to see a part of the country, you have a problem with that.

Man from Sudan: My dear lady, we asked a woman called Yvonne Hilli to leave, this is true, and by the way, she's from Holland.This lady had already visited the place under question, and she already wrote a report about it, so that's the end of it.

Rehsa: So why do you want her to leave?

Man from Sudan: Why should they want to go investigating the same place all over again? Why should they want to go find evidence for things that they couldn't find the first time? Why such an insistence for something that is not justified? I think this is a plot against Sudan. Also, the other man whom we kicked out, Mr. Al Zaatari: he said that the Sudanese people are living under an iron first because of President Bashir. Saying such a thing is not just an insult to President Bashir, that is an insult to all of Sudan!!

Resha: Okay, so to prove that Sudan is not under an iron fist, you decide to kick the UN official out? Yes?

Man from Sudan: No! No!

My respect for Resha Qandeel went up about 10 times at that point.

Resha: Mmmm hmmmm. Turns back to Mr. Siyam from the UN and asks him: what measures can the UN take if Sudan keeps kicking people out every time they want to investigate something?

Mr. Siyam from the UN: First, I want to respond to the Man from Sudan. I want to say that I personally know Mr. Al Zaatari, he is a wonderful, very honorable person, he has worked in Libya and Iraq, and he has a very high reputation. He would never insult anyone. I will tell you what happened. Mr. Al Zaatari did an interview with a Norwegian journalist. When that journalist wrote up her article, she wrote that Sudan is living under the iron fist of President Bashir. Mr. Al Zaatari wasn't the one who said that, and he would never insult the Sudanese people, and besides that, he is Arab himself!

The Man from Sudan (right screen) and Mr. Siyam from the UN (left screen)

Mr. Siyam continues: As for the place where we want to investigate: yes, it is true we already have a report from there. But, this report was done very fast, and it was criticized internally at the UN, and so the UN asked that the investigation be reopened. It was very important because it is about crimes happening in Darfur. We have also had an independent group criticizing the UN, and saying the UN is trying to cover up crimes happening in Darfur. That is why we wanted to send the team again.

Then Resha asked some more questions but I didn't really understand. My Arabic could use some more work.

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