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On Burundi, ICP Asks UK PR Rycroft, He Says UK Concerned at "Threat of Genocide"

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 23 -- As killings in Burundi increase, Inner City Press asked UN deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq on October 20 about the killing of Charlotte Umugwaneza, and the jailing of Radio Publique Africaine journalist  Egide Mwemero in Eastern Congo, asking if the UN mission MONUSCO had said or done anything. Video here. Apparently not. On October 22, Inner City Press asked UN Rapporteur David Kaye about it.

 On October 23 Inner City Press asked UN Ambassador Matthew Rycroft about the status of the draft Presidential Statement in the UN Security Council. He said there are differing views, but the UK is concerned about the "threat of genocide." Video here.

 On October 23, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said

"We are extremely concerned at the rapidly worsening security and human rights situation in Burundi. According to our team on the ground, at least 198 people have been killed in Burundi since 26 April 2015, one third of them -- 63 people -- in the last three weeks alone.

"We are particularly shocked at the deadly incident which took place on 13 October in the Bujumbura neighbourhood of Ngagara. At least nine civilians were reportedly summarily executed by police forces belonging to the API Unit (Appui pour la Protection des institutions, the Police Unit in charge of protecting state institutions), including a well-known cameraman of the National Radio and Television of Burundi (RTNB), Christophe Nkezabahizi, his wife, their two children and an IOM staff member living in the same compound, Evariste Mbonihankuye.

"While police forces were searching houses in the area, members of the Nkezabahizi family were reportedly called out of their home, lined up and shot in cold blood. Reports suggest the IOM staff member was wearing his UN-ID but was still shot dead.

"Despite previous reports of attacks against humanitarian personnel, this is the first time a humanitarian worker is killed by security forces since the beginning of the crisis.

"This appalling incident was apparently triggered by an attack on three API police officers by unidentified armed youth in the same neighbourhood. One of the police officers was reportedly killed and another injured while the third managed to escape and called for help.

"Four other people, including one minor, were also reportedly killed by the police in a separate incident at the same location on the same day. At least four houses were fired at, as evidenced by the many bullet holes in their walls and broken windows which were observed by our team on the ground. The houses were also reportedly looted by the police.

"We welcome the establishment by the Attorney General of Burundi of a commission of enquiry to investigate the Ngagara incident and we call for this investigation to be transparent, impartial and in line with international and national human rights standards. We urge the authorities to issue clear instructions to all members of their security forces that acts such as this will be punished with the full force of the law."

 On October 22, Inner City Press asked Ban's deputy spokesperson Haq:

Inner City Press: I wanted to ask you a question about Burundi.  The EU is preparing a letter to invite the Burundian parties to Brussels to have a discussion about diffusing the situation.  And I wanted to know, not just what does the UN think about it, but is there any UN role in this?  And, if not, what does it say about the UN sort of action on Burundi?  It's one thing to defer maybe to the AU but this is the UE.  What is the UN doing about this?

Deputy Spokesman:  We are following up with all the various initiatives by regional parties including the African Union and the European Union and, of course, our Envoy dealing with the Great Lakes Region has been appraised of this so we are continuing to follow-up.

ICP:  But, I mean, is the EU really, can you… it is a regional organization but is it a regional organization with respect to Burundi?

Deputy Spokesman:  That is question for the European Union, not for me.

ICP:  Have you been contacted I guess is my question?

Deputy Spokesman:  But regarding this, we have been in touch with a variety of regional bodies including through the office of the Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region but also through our Department of Political Affairs and will keep appraised of all the various actors in this.

  Back on October 20, Ban's deputy spokesperson Haq cited back to a written statement by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon more than a week ago; he said generally that MONUSCO like all UN mission affirms the right of freedom of the press. Really?

  Later on October 20 after Inner City Press asked UN rapporteur on torture Juan Mendez about Guantanamo and US prisons, in the hall after waiting through a number of questions in Spanish Inner City Press asked him if he'd received complaints about, or acted on, Burundi. No, he said, not yet. Really?

Update: later on October 20 it was announced that the UN's Jeff Feltman will briefing the Security Council behind closed doors on October 21. But what outcome with the Council's penholder, France, even ask for?

  On October 16 Inner City Press asked Haq if the UN thinks the government can investigate itself. This was based on UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's October 15 statement that

"The Secretary-General condemns the killing of nine civilians and two police officers in Bujumbura on 13 October... He urges Burundian authorities to undertake a rigorous and prompt investigation into the circumstances and motives behind these despicable crimes in order to ensure that their perpetrators are brought to justice."

  So can the Nkurunziza government investigate itself (as the UN purports to be investigating or "auditing" itself in the wake of corruption revelation about former Presidnet of the General Assembly John Ashe among others)? Inner City Press asked this question (video here) as well as following up on this, from October 13:

Inner City Press: the Burundi question is one that maybe you can check with DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations].  Burundian human rights activists say that an officer, Jerome Ntibogora, N-t-i-b-o-g-o-r-a, who was accused of being involved in killing people in a… in a hospital after they fled from the Government, has now been deployed to MINUSMA [United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission] in Mali.  So I wanted to…

Spokesman Dujarric:  Let's see what we can find out.

  Dujarric did not come back with an answer, by this deputy when Inner City Pres asked again on October 16 said he, Ntibogora is not being deployed. We'll see - watch this site.
Amid crackdowns in Burundi by security forces, and allegations of sexual abuse by Burundian peacekeepers serving under the UN flag, UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous on October 1 held a meeting with Burundian Vice President Joseph Butore.

  Inner City Press has already tweeted a photograph of the meeting, but has now received the complete UN read-out, which raises more questions about Ladsous.

   On the crackdown, Ladsous assured Butore that he has a “pragmatic approach” and is of no mind to question what happens in any country, does not involve himself in "domestic affairs."

   On the sexual abuse allegations, Ladsous spoke only in platitudes, without requiring or even inquiring into any actions taken by the Burundians on the alleged abuse.

   Even though Burundi was already given a “grace period” to bring appropriate equipment into the Central African Republic for the MINUSCA mission, they have not done so. In the meeting, according to the read-out, Butore "acknowledged" the substandard equipment.

   Butore requested, and Ladsous for now granted, yet another extension to bring the requirement equipment -- until March 2016 for light equipment, and to June 2016 for heavy equipment.

  Is this safe - even for the Burundian soldiers at issue? While speaking through press releases, Ladsous' spokespeople, far from answering questions, go so far as to direct UNTV boom microphone operators to avoid Inner City Press, even preventing the Press from asking any questions to Mali's Foreign Minister Abdulaye Diop last week. We'll have more on all this.


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