In a broad-ranging interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, former African Union–United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) spokesperson Aicha Elbasri said that the UN’s systematic campaign of “manipulating and distorting information” about human rights violations in Darfur had prompted her to resign in protest and speak out.
Elbasri came to media attention earlier this month when she cooperated with a Foreign Policy magazine special report detailing human rights violations in Darfur. She provided the investigation with UN internal documents revealing the international body’s failures in Darfur. “The documents—which track the period from 2012 through the end of 2013—constitute perhaps the largest single leak of internal documents on an active UN mission in the world body’s history,” the report said.
“It is fair to say that UNAMID peacekeepers largely failed to protect Darfur civilians, and their presence didn’t deter either the government or the rebels from attacking the civilians,” she wrote in an end-of-mission report. “They sometimes helplessly witnessed the attacks and harassment of civilians, some of which took place near UNAMID team sites.”
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, Elbasri, a dual US–Moroccan citizen, said that the UN is “indifferent” to human rights violations against civilians in Darfur. She described UNAMID as an “empire of silence,” covering up government crimes against civilians.
In blatant defiance of 2004 UN Security Council resolution 1556, which ordered the disbandment of the Janjaweed militia, Basri said: “Khartoum has integrated a number of [Janjaweed militia members] into government forces.”
As for UNAMID’s complicity with the Sudanese government, Basri told Asharq Al-Awsat: “That question should be put to each of UNAMID chief Mr. Mohammed Ibn Chambas, Department for Peacekeeping Operations Chief Mr. Hervé Ladsous, and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon.”
“The Security Council and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations knew the mission would not succeed in keeping the peace and protecting civilians before sending it,” Basri said, citing the lack of a peace agreement that binds the warring sides. “Before the [peacekeeping] mission was sent, there was no peace agreement. The Abuja agreement signed by the government and one faction collapsed before the mission was born.”
Basri also slammed both sides of the conflict for their lack of “any desire to put down their arms and comes to the negotiating table.”
She told Asharq Al-Awsat that she had first threatened to resign following UNAMID’s “silence on the Hashaba massacre in September 2012, during which 100 civilians were killed in government airstrikes.”
As for whether she regrets leaving UNAMID and leaking internal UN documents, Basri said: “I had to disappoint the UN for disappointing me and the people of Darfur.”
The UN Security Council resolution calling on all countries to recommit to preventing and fighting genocide coincided with the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide.