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In Burundi, Nkurunziza Was Offered FIFA Post, Use of UN Arms UNclear

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive series

UNITED NATIONS, May 18 -- As the UN Security Council, the United States and the UN Peacebuilding Configuration on Burundi on May 15 issued statements urging calm in the country given the return of Pierre Nkurunziza to presumably run for a third term, Inner City Press was multiply informed of an offer that had been made to Nkurunziza, to ween him from the third term dream: a high but honorary post in FIFA, the football federation, as a sort of goodwill ambassador.

  Nkurunziza turned it down, Inner City Press is informed by Permanent Representatives at the UN and other diplomatic sources. Now he has sacked ministers and said it is him or Al Shabaab. What could have been, FIFA. (Inner City Press also asked on May 18 about Qatar detaining a BBC journalist while he reported on the situation of migrant workers preparing there for the FIFA World Cup.)

  On Burundi, from the UN's May 18 noon briefing transcript:

Inner City Press: on Burundi.  I wanted to ask a couple of things.  One is that there are reports of both military and police stopping people at checkpoints, checking their phones to see if they participated in anti-third term protests.  So, I wondered is that… does Mr. Djinnit or the UN have any comment on the alleged crackdown on demonstrators?  I also wanted to know, has the Secretary-General made any calls beyond the previously disclosed one to President [Uhuru] Kenyatta about the situation in Burundi?  For example, to Rwanda? And finally, I want to know if you can speak to whether DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] has facilitated the purchase and acquisition of weapons by the Government of Burundi for allegedly or reportedly for its peacekeeping operations; and if so, what safeguards are in place that those weapons are not used domestically?  Thank you.

Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq:  Well, on the last one, there are safeguards to make sure that all of the equipment used for peacekeeping missions is, in fact, used in peacekeeping missions.  So, that would a matter for DPKO to follow up on, but certainly, none of that equipment is meant to be used domestically by any troop-contributing country, including Burundi.  In terms of other phone calls the Secretary-General made, on Friday afternoon, he did also speak with the President of Uganda.  And like I said, now, Mr. Djinnit is in Bujumbura and he can continue some of the discussions while he's there.  I'm not aware of any calls to the President of Rwanda.  And you've asked so many questions that I've forgotten your first.

Inner City Press:  As to that, in response to people's cell phones being checked to see if they protested, but I just wanted to understand more on this question of, you're saying weapons for peacekeeping?  I mean, most countries have their own military equipment, then they deploy to a country and they get reimbursed.  But, I’m not aware that the US makes… the UN makes sure they don't… how they're used in countries.  So, I wanted to know, very specifically, acquisition of grenades in this case, what safeguards are in place?  If a country procures them with the assistance of DPKO, do they remain out of the country?  If they go back to the country, how does the DPKO have any idea how they're used?

Deputy Spokesman Haq:  DPKO follows up on how contingent-owned equipment is deployed and used.  Now on the first question, if we… if there is a confirmation of this sort of a crackdown, that would be a matter of grave concern.  Like I said, what we want to make clear is anyone responsible for ordering or committing human rights violations will be held accountable and we will take that very seriously.

  On equipment and materiel, UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous, multiple sources exclusively complained to Inner City Press, wrote a letter urging that Burundi's government be provided with weapons, ostensibly for peacekeeping, including grenades. One letter, they said, was to Montenegro.

  The sources asked Inner City Press what safeguards if any were in place that these grenades and other weapons are not used against democracy protesters in Burundi itself. They noted that Ladsous' Department of Peacekeeping Operations "let Nkurunziza take nine million dollars from the contingent-owned equipment fund," which one called "a variation on Rwanda in '94."

 And so on May 18, Inner City Press asked UN deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq to explain any safeguards concerning equipment or weapons acquired by Burundi for "peacekeeping" being used domestically.

  Haq said that DPKO monitors this. Video here.

  Inner City Press asked, since countries use their own equipment for overseas deployment and charge the UN for it, how does the UN monitor how it's used when it returns to the contributing country?

  Haq insisted that DPKO monitors for this.  (When Inner City Press asked why Ladsous over the weekend chided Malians for not being thankful enough to France, Haq told Inner City Press to "Ask DPKO" -- what, Ladsous who does not answer? His spokespeople who grab microphones or use file folders to block the filming of Ladsous?

  On the afternoon of May 18, a well place African Permanent Representative told Inner City Press flatly, Ladsous should resign.

  Inner City Press asked Haq about Burundian security forces searching civilians phones for evidence they protested the possible third term. Haq said "if that is proved" -- if.

  Haq said envoy Said Djinnit might briefing the Security Council on Wednesday May 20, and might brief the press - might.

  Inner City Press asked if Ban had called any head of state beyond Kenyatta about Burundi. Haq said, Museveni of Uganda. We'll have more on this.

  Another noted that since Ladsous had, as French Deputy Permanent Representative in the Security Council in 1994 defended the escape into Eastern Congo of the Rwanda's Hutu genocidaires, this push to sell grenades to Nkurunziza was "not surprising." But why should such an individuals be head of UN Peacekeeping? Apparently it is up to France and France alone.

  Others noted a closed door session of the UN's budget committee set for next week in which Ladsous' intervention to try to force out the whistleblower who revealed French "Sangaris" troops' child rapes in Central African Republic would have to be defended, this time by Ban Ki-moon's chief of staff Susana Malcorra.

   "Why don't they just fire Ladsous?" one well place diplomat asked Inner City Press, then answering the question: "because France." But for how long? Watch this site.

   During the UN Peacekeeping configuration meeting on May 15, Inner City Press is exclusively informed, Tanzania's Ambassador asked the UN's head of Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman why the UN and Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had been so slow to condemn the coup.

   Inner City Press put the question to Ban's deputy spokesman Farhan Haq at the UN's public noon briefing on May 15, to give the UN a change to publicly explain.

  But as on a scandal about Ban and his nephew being reported on here by Inner City Press and media in Vietnam and South Korea, where Ban Ki-moon is headed, Haq response was essentially that the UN is good, that is does not need to explain (in the case of Ban's nephew) or should be presumed to be always deeply engaged and deeply concerned. Some simply don't believe that.

   While Haq at the May 15 noon briefing said that Ban, who has yet to speak with Nkurunziza, spoke with Kenya's President Kenyatta, Inner City Press is informed that in the closed Peacebuilding Configuration meeting it was said that Ban called Rwanda's Paul Kagame as well. If so, why didn't Haq say that? (Click here for another exclusive story about Ban's office not disclosing Ban's call with US John Kerry about Yemen).


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