Mr Issa Maraut and his Threats to Neutrality of UN Expert Panels on

DarfurBy Abdullahi Osman El-Tom

May 27, 03: Following JEM internal conflict in Darfur, May 10th, 03, UN Secretary authorised the Panel of Experts (PoE) to investigate the matter. The UN Secretary General also urged JEM to cooperate with the Panel. In few occasions when the UN PoE chose to contact JEM, the organisation has been, and as always , very cooperative. However, we would like to raise some issues with the UN Secretary General regarding the composition of the current Panel. The very inclusion of Issa Maraut in the membership of the Panel, let away designating him as its Coordinator is cause of concern for JEM. We fully understand the Panel was formed long before the current Secretary Genera took over. Since then, there have been changes in the composition of the Panel and the UN Secretary General has the mandate to recompose its membership as he sees it fit. In the interest of fairness, the UN must ensure that members of its panels are neutral and capable of placing all parties on equal footing. This simple legitimate demand cannot be guaranteed with inclusion of Mr Maraut in the current PoE. We have already notified this view before to His Excellency, the UN Secretary General, but let us repeat it again, just in case our previous communications have gone astray. Senior members of JEM know Mr Marout very well and have met him over a dozen times since the inception of Darfur conflict. Mr Maraut’s dislike for JEM is not a secret. He himself has announced it publicly with presence of JEM members. His revelation was not new, as it was evident in every single meeting JEM had with delegations that included him. In his last visit to Sudan following the recent confrontation referred to above, Mr Maraut condemned JEM for loss of Mohamed Bashar and others while at the same time launched into praising the government for improving security situation in Darfur. His crusade sounded like a statement dictated by the Khartoum government and we are not surprised. As regards condemnation of JEM, Mr Maraut should have realised that his mission resides in investigation of the matter in the first place. In stead, he proceeded to make a judgement even before the investigation has commenced. Worse than that, making pre-investigation media statements is a taboo for members of such panels and is equally so for others as well. This is a deplorable stance for a coordinator of a UN PoE and a clear indication that Mr Maraut is lacking in neutrality and cannot be fit for the job. As for the improvement of the security situation in Darfur, Mr Maraut Statement is simply a lie and a scar on his own integrity. At the time of his visit to Darfur, aerial bombardment was taking place in Donkey Al-Hosh and Sidra and the Chadian troops were deployed at Al-Kuma, 50 kilometres or so near Al-Fashir. Days before the visit, the Janjaweed attacked and looted Al-Salam IDP camp at the very time when it was guarded by UNAMID force. Tabaldiya, head of the IDP residents of the camp protested the incident to UNAMID stating that in the last month alone, the Janjaweed killed 14 and injured 27. UNAMID chief told Mr, Tabldiya that “UNAMID force was outnumbered by the assaulting Janjaweed, but they would compile a report about the incidence”! Days after Mr Maraut’s visit to the Darfur, the Bani Halba attacked their Gimir Neighbours, killing their Mayor and 23 of his companions at Katela in South Darfur. They also injured 51 and destroyed the whole town with fire. If these atrocities do not constitute lack of security for Mr Maraut, we do not know what will. It is difficult for us to understand why Mr Maraut does not look at the reports written by the office of AU Coordinator for Humanitarian Affairs. The Coordinator stated recently that 60,000 Darfurians in Muhajariya area have become IDPs in the last month alone. Together with others in similar situations, the number of IDPs in Darfur has grown by 300,000 in this last year alone. This is the situation, which Mr Maraut describes as an improved security situation. If Mr Maraut wants to defend the Genocidaire A-Bashir by such a false statement, he could not have done it any better, but only to a limit. Many are aware that such statement is false. Making such a horrendous error does not simply make Mr Maraut a liar but strips him of his integrity as well. We are reluctant to bring in personality dimensions into the composition of the UN PoE. Nonetheless, certain facts have to be exposed and brought into open debate. Mr Maraut is of Syrian origin, a county that is steeped into the Arab Baathist ideology. Whether we like it or not, Darfur conflict has indeed an Arab dimension. International media portrays the Darfur/Sudan conflict as between the Arabs and the indigenous populations of the region. Such an interpretation is wrong but that is beyond the point. Some Darfurians too have divided themselves between Arabs and Zurga (Black Africans). While some members of the Arab world are able to rise beyond blind support of their fellow “Arabs” in Darfur, Mr Maraut has failed to do so. And this has been very clear in his dealings with us and in his repeated attempts to please GoS. Mr. Maraut worked at the French Embassy in Sudan prior to his recent portfolios. He has since retired and we are aware he has since seized to be a representative of the French government. However, during his portfolio in Sudan, Mr Maraut established good relations with senior members of Al-Bashir’s party and he still regards some of them as his close personal friends. No wonder he is in the habit of praising the government of Sudan while demonising us at every opportunity. In summary, we strongly state we have no confidence in the neutrality of Mr Maraut. While we are wiling to cooperate with other members of the PoE, we do not trust it as long as Mr Maraut is one of its members. In the interest of fairness and to facilitate our cooperation with the Panel, we urge His Excellency the UN Secretary General to end Mr Maraut’s membership of the esteemed Panel. In making such a legitimate demand, we hope we are not asking for too much. Author is Head of Strategic Planning of JEM. He can be reached at: Abdullahi.eltom@nuim.ie

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