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In Burundi, Killings Included UNDP Staffer, Canned Ban Statement, Feltman

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 9 -- As killings in Burundi have increased, a November 9 UN Security Council meeting was belated announced, from Paris, on Friday November 6. Inner City Press, with a more than 100-part series on Burundi, asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric who would brief the Security Council for the Secretariat, but got no answer.

 From other senior UN sources the Press was told on November 6 that Secretary General Ban Ki-moon would speak on Burundi inside the Council, along with Prince Zeid and the chair of the UN Peacebuilding Confirmation by video from Burundi. Now, Feltman instead of Ban, who's in Saudi Arabia but said this:

"The Secretary-General condemns the killing of at least seven people, including a United Nations staff member, in a bar in the Kanyosha neighborhoud of Bujumbura, Burundi, on 7 November.  Preliminary reports suggest that the attack was conducted by persons in police uniform.

The Secretary-General reiterates his call for an immediate end to the recurring violence and killings.  He urges the Government to swiftly conduct a full investigation and ensure the perpetrators of this terrible crime are brought to justice.  He reminds the Government that it is responsible for protecting civilians and ensuring the safety and security of UN personnel in the country.

The Secretary-General has seen the troubling reports today that several people, including a policeman, were killed during the ongoing forcible disarmament campaign in Bujumbura.  He strongly urges all Burundian security forces to exercise maximum restraint in order to avoid a further escalation of the tense situation in the country. 

The Secretary-General reiterates his appeal to all national stakeholders, in particular the Government of Burundi, to keep the interests of the people of Burundi uppermost and resolve all outstanding issues through an inclusive dialogue."

  It's said President Yoweri Museveni has not finished reading the report about Burundi: “I was reading the report today but I haven’t finished it,” Museveni told journalists at State House Entebbe.

 On November 7 came reports of killings, including it was said a UN system staff member. This has been confirmed by UNDP - but only the local Buurndi office. Still from the UN, nothing. The Security Council issued a Press Statement on November 7... about Libya.

  Burundian journalist Blaise Célestin Ndihokubwayo has been arrested and sent to the Service national de renseignement (SNR). Where is UNESCO and its director, who wants to be the next UN Secretary General?

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 November 3, Inner City Press again put a Burundi questions to Rycroft, now President of the Security Council for November. Video here, story here.

The son of human rights defender Pierre Claver Mbonimpa has reportedly been murdered, after Pierre Nkurunziza tweeted that "No one living abroad should consider himself superior to those who stayed in Burundi, since most of them have left their families here."

 On November 6, a belated Security Council meeting on Burundi was announced -- from Paris, by French foreign ministry spokesperson Romain Nadal. Why the delay? Why announced in that way?

Later on November 6, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon (whose spokesman could not tell Inner City Press if Ban will have any representative in the Security Council's meeting on Monday) put out this statement.

 Inner City Press at the November 6 UN noon briefing asked how these concerns were consistent with Ban deferring to the Ugandan Defense Minister (for the EAC, Ban's spokesman pointed out), and asked if Ban will even have a representative briefing the UN Security Council on Monday. UNclear. Video here.

  The US' Tom Perriello, filmed at the State Department, noted the weekend deadline. But why then was the UN Security Council meeting left until after the deadline?
  US Ambassador Samantha Power put out this statement, here.

  Behind the continued killing, here's an issue: Inner City Press is informed that a number of Burundian civil society leaders and journalists have improperly been flagged to Interpol as if their passports had been stolen. This has made it impossible, for example, for Vital Nshimirimana to travel to a speak about the crisis in Burundi at a conference in (Ban Ki-moon's native) South Korea.

  Inner City Press on November 4 asked the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights' Ivan Simonovic and UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric about this.  Interpol often brags at the UN how it is useful on the issue of foreign fighters. It's Secretary General Jurgen Stock spoke before the UN Security Council on May 29, 2015. But what about when Interpol is misused by a government like Pierre Nkurunziza? What do it, the Security Council and its members do that? Watch this site.

 On November 2 Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric about two speeches given in Burundi (the full text of one is below). Video here, UN transcript here:

Inner City Press: In Burundi, there was a speech by the President of the Senate [Révérien Ndikuriyo] saying that opposition neighborhoods may be razed [or raided. Some] people are calling it a genocide speech.  There's also a speech by the President, saying anyone who doesn't disarm within the next five days will be treated as an enemy of the State.  So, I'm wondering, not to overdo it, but things seem pretty serious.  I wanted to know:  what is the UN doing?

Spokesman:  "It's clear that those in position of power, whether in Government or in the opposition, have a responsibility not to incite fear or hate of any kind.  I think that's very important and that whatever security measures the Government takes fully comply with international law and respect for the right of people to freely assemble and protest."

 After Burundi was elected to the UN Human Rights Council with 162 votes on October 28, on October 31 security forces in Burundi opened fire on a funeral procession in Buringa, killing many.  These are the Burundian forces that UN Peacekeeping under Herve Ladsous keeps in service, offering waivers while the Government keeps the payments?

  It is reported the Burundian authorities are accusing a medical NGO of offering treatment to insurgents, and are ready to attack. Frankly, the weak UN Security Council Presidential Statement which France belatedly proffered in the Council, then didn't even hold a question and answer stakeout about, is woefully insufficient, as is the UN Secretariat's response.

 Now from Burundi this speech

 On October 28, Inner City Press asked UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric about another threat. From the UN transcript:

Inner City Press: this is a tweet from the official account of Pierre Nkurunziza, President of Burundi:  "No one living abroad should consider himself superior to those who stayed in Burundi since most of them have left their families here."  So people see this as an open-source threat to retaliate against the families of those who have fled the country.  And I'm wondering…

Spokesman:  I haven't seen the tweet.  I shall look at it.

 Inner City Press showed it to him on his way out. Earlier on October 28, Burundi got 162 votes for the UN Human Rights Council, less than the other also unopposed candidates, but still enough to get on the Council. The UN Security Council had just issued a Presidential Statement, here, which gave weight to the Museveni "mediation," and which the US later "welcomed." Usually it's the penholder (France) which speaks. But not here, not on Burundi (see Ladsous, below).

 On October 27, the UN said Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called the AU (below); Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric is any closer to naming the envoy he called "immanent" months ago. Dujarric said he should have used another word.

 Inner City Press asked Dujarric of reports that Burundian police in the UN's MINUSCA mission in Bangui have not received benefits in months, and of a letter sent to Ban and Herve Ladsous about the Burundian troops. Dujarric said he would check on both. Here is the full text of the UN's read-out:

"Today, the Secretary-General called H.E. Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Chairperson of the African Union Commission, to discuss the situation in Burundi.

The Secretary-General welcomed the decision made by the African Union’s Peace and Security Council on 17 October to address the political impasse and deteriorating security situation in Burundi. He noted that such comprehensive and resolute action could offer Burundi the opportunity to put an end to the continuing violence and find a consensual political solution on the way forward.

The Secretary-General assured the Chairperson of the African Union Commission that the United Nations stands ready to provide any support necessary to advance the implementation of the measures agreed upon by the members of the African Union Peace and Security Council. " 

  On October 28 Burundi is poised for election to the UN Human Rights Council, as one of five African Group candidates for five seats. Meanwhile on October 26, the European Union adopted the letter to President Pierre Nkurunziza that Inner City Press asked the UN about last week, here.

  Can EU members on October 28 not vote against Burundi's "Human Rights" Council candidacy at this time? And other Western NGOs coming to the UN early this week to set forth their positions, will they just phone it in with regard to Burundi? Watch this site.

 Also on October 23, Inner City Press asked UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon:

Inner City Press: I wanted to ask on Burundi, just this morning the UK Ambassador said that the UK is concerned of a threat of genocide, is the word that he used, so I'm wondering under Rights Up Front what are your thoughts about Burundi and what the UN or the Secretariat can do.

SG Ban: "On this genocide issues, I hope there should be some creative investigations by the relevant experts and there should be, first of all, a clear understanding and investigations.  And if the conclusion is that there were such kind of genocide issues, then there should be accountability, justice must prevail and perpetrators must be brought to justice."

  But what is the UN Secretariat DOING about it?

 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. We'll have more on all this.


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