By: Aicha Elbasri, former spokesperson UNAMID
As the former Spokesperson for UNAMID, I can tell you how I have been impressed with the accuracy and speed at which Dabanga reported every day on what was happening in every corner of Darfur. Quiet often the world’s largest peacekeeping mission ever deployed under Chapter VII was denied access to the areas where the Government of Sudan and its allied militias were bombing and attacking Darfur civilians. This year alone, between April and September UNAMID was denied access to the so-called “areas of operations” on 75 occasions. But the huge network of Dabanga’s reporters enjoy access to these areas. They have been providing continuing, comprehensive and uncensored information. The kind of information that saved the lives of many people in Darfur. In doing so, this radio has become the Information Lifeline to the forgotten victims of Darfur.
As you know the journey of this radio took off in 2009 when the first head of UNAMID, Mr. Rodolphe Adada, misled the world by declaring that the war in Darfur was over. His successor, Ibrahim Gambari maintained the same line by often repeating that the situation had vastly improved, partly thanks to UNAMID’s robustness, and peace was breaking out. The third Chief of UNAMID, Mr. Mohamed Ibn Chambas started up on the same line before he had to acknowledge that the situation in Darfur was rather alarming.
Yes, the war in Darfur is alarming. Unfortunately, the whole truth about it is not to be found in Ban Ki-Moon’s reports, the African Union’s reports or UNAMID’s reports. You can find it through Dabanga. I know this is a serious statement, but these are serious times.
On 24 April I resigned from UNAMID and wrote my end-of-mission report requesting the Department of Peacekeeping Operations to look into UNAMID’s violations of the UN Public Information policy which calls for open, transparent and honest information-sharing with the media. I didn’t receive any response. On past August, I requested the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services to open an investigation into the matter. The information I shared with them should have made anyone who cares about the people of Darfur and the UN values and policies jump, call me and take a quick action. What I received so far is a deafening silence. And I can no longer wait, because every day that goes by, more men, women and children die in Darfur in total impunity and invisibility.
So today I will break the UN code of conduct and share with you some confidential photos and information that show the African Union, the United Nations and UNAMID’ conspiracy of silence, and why Radio Dabanga deserves total respect and unconditional support.
With this presentation, I hope more people would understand why now more than ever we need Radio Dabanga to inform us in detail about what the AU, the UN and UNAMID are not able or willing to tell the world. For in times of war, the road to peace starts with access to the credible, independent and reliable information that Dabanga has been providing.
I take heart in your presence here. We are here to tell the people of Darfur: you are not alone. There are still many people who care about you. Darfur is not a lost cause. Far from it. We will support you until all women and men of Darfur find the true peace they need and deserve.