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In Burundi, VOA Sees Liberians, Auto-Corrects Out "Anti-Gov" As They're Killed

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 21 -- After UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's mere one-line mention of Burundi in his long Priorities for 2016 speech on January 14, when Ban took questions in front of the General Assembly Inner City Press five times began, "On Burundi." Inner City Press similarly requested to cover the UNSC's trip to Burundi. Both were rejected.

  Handpicked to accompany and memorialize the trip to Burundi were four (or three) media, including Voice of America: whose correspondent immediately announced, much derided by many Burundians, that "Large crowds -- pro and anti govt -- Liberians from #Bujumbura airport as #UNSC comes on quick visit #voaalert." Photo here.

  Liberians? Many in Burundian civil society replied that they were offended, that this was symbolic, an affront. The correspondent -- who in full disclosure previously tried to get Inner City Press thrown out of the UN based on its Sri Lanka coverage including of conflicts of interest at the top of the UN Correspondents Association -- belatedly claimed it was a matter of "auto-correct."

 But it wasn't just the (dubious) auto-correct of "Liberians" for "Burundians" -- when the correspondent, Margaret Besheer, tried to "correct the auto-correct," she dropped the reference to "pro and anti gov." Was THAT auto-correct? As one wag pointed out, the "anti" have been killed or certainly can't greet the UNSC at the airport.

  Inner City Press, even at UNHQ covering the trip, obtained from sources and published a letter preparing a dog and pony show of "community work" for the UN Security Council to see on January 22. Will THAT be auto-corrected? Watch this site.

  Inner City Press asked the UN which media were being handpicked to "report" on the Burundi trip, how and by whom, but the UN Spokesman refused to say. Now the attendee list has emerged, with three (or four, depending on how one counts) media.

Agence France Presse, selected to go, has at the UN tried to censor critical coverage of Herve Ladsous, the fourth Frenchman in a row in charge of UN Peacekeeping and his history during the 1994 Rwanda genocide.

The UN correspondent of Voice of America, who sought to get Inner City Press thrown out of the UN, document obtained under FOIA here; see above.

The Reuters scribe, whose bureau chief also engaged in censorship, attended but did not at least for two days report on the UN Special Adviser briefing the UN served up on January 18.

 These are the same three media handpicked for previous Security Council trips, picked as one well-placed source told Inner City Press to represent the "P3."

  So while the majority of states in the UN push for reform of the archaic Security Council, an even more indefensible "P3" of media has been allowed to coagulate during this era. It must end. It must be reformed.

 The reform will not come from the old UN Correspondents Association, which not only participates in censorship and sold seats next to Ban Ki-moon at Cipriani on Wall Street -- the AFP scribe is an officer of UNCA, now the UN Corruption Association, and Reuters has a permanent seat. The bare minimum that should be expected of a correspondents' association would be to ask for transparency in such a process. But UNCA's big wigs benefit from the lack of transparency, and so say nothing, mis-serving even most other media at the UN. The head of UNCA Giampaolo Pioli is a dandy landlord (including for example to Sri Lanka's ambassador) who has yet to ask a single question about Burundi.

 So UNCA does not fight; the new Free UN Coalition for Access, founded by two UNCA board members who quit in disgust at the corruption, will.

  The next days in and on Burundi will be test, with the plight of the Burundian people impacted also by these decisions without transparency or accountability. This must end and be reformed; it must and will be exposed.

  On January 18, while the UN had promised a "background" briefing on Burundi at 2:30 pm, no video is possible of the 2:30 background briefing on Burundi. The session began with the statement that quotes could only be used if they were approved afterward. (During the "background" briefing, Inner City Press for the Free UN Coalition for Access asked if the speaker could just be referred to a Senior UN Official and dispense with the pre-approval to use what was already said.)

 Inner City Press' questions were about the UN's continued used of Burundian troops as peacekeepers, and paying the Nkurunziza government for that. And now, approved by envoy Jamal Benomar, these answers to Inner City Press:

UN Envoy Benomar to Inner City Press: "On the issue of the troops, there are various perspectives. There are those who are calling for these troops to be sent back, because they think government is not cooperating on a number of issues. There are other views, people who say sending back these troops would be a destabilizing factor for a situation that is already very complicated.”

“We have Burundians deployed in the Central African Republic and other places. And for that there is a protocol in terms of how they are going to be deployed and what criteria they have to meet, including compliance with our human rights policy.”

 They are appreciated; Inner City Press asked for "clearance" of additional quotes, and continued three days later to await. We'll have more on this.

  Back on January 14 of the five questions picked for Ban Ki-moon, fully four were on Syria; none on Yemen much less Burundi. So as Ban began walking away from his personal rostrum, Inner City Press asked him how his Under Secretary General Herve Ladsous could have written, here, that UN Peacekeeping is limited in its ability to address significant violence against civilians, even violence that amounts to genocide.

  The question was clearly audible, but Ban did not answer it, typically. Vine here.  Earlier in the week when the decision was made for the Security Council trip, Inner City Press immediately replied to Ban's spokesperson's office that it was very interesting in going, as it previously covered Ban's trip to Sri Lanka and Council trips to Sudan, DR Congo and Cote d'Ivoire.

  At 3 pm on January 14, Reuters' correspondent bragged at the UNSC stakeout they are going. And at 4:30 pm, Inner City Press got this, from Ban's spokesman:

"Due to space limitation in the UN flight accompanying the Security Council mission to Burundi, we regret to inform you that we will not be able to accommodate your request to travel. "

  So how / by whom is it decided which media can go? Inner City Press asked the UN Spokesman, Stephane Dujarrice, and another, this:

"Please describe how / by whom the decision on which media can accompany this trip was made, and which media have been allowed to go. Also, please explain why not one of the six questions Inner City Press submitted on January 12 and 13, including about Burundi, were answered, or even acknowledged."

 And these are not answered. Dujarric's office called "lid" to end the day. So on January 15, Inner City Press asked Dujarric in person, video here, transcript here:

Inner City Press: ...Zeid's findings.  How does this impact on the deployment of Burundian troops to UN peacekeeping in CAR?  And I wanted to ask you about the trip the Council is taking next week.  Can you describe how, by who… who and how the decision was made of which media can cover the trip?

Spokesman Dujarric:  Sure.  The numbers of seats attributed to media was very limited.  A discussion was had with us, and a number… Security Council members, and a list was drawn up.  Not every journalist can go on every trip.  I think if you're talking about yourself, you have traveled with the Secretary-General before.  As I said, not everyone can go on every trip.

Inner City Press:  Journalists were supposed to cover their own costs.  So what does the UN plane… is from where to where when you say there's a limited seats?

Spokesman:  There's a UN plane from Addis Ababa to, from Addis Ababa to Bujumbura and back to Addis with very limited numbers, which is also limiting the numbers of staff members who can accompany.  We wanted to send somebody to help mind the press.  We were not able to — we were not able to either.  [cross talk] If you make your own way to Bujumbura, we would be happy to assist you on the ground.

 We'll have more on this.

On January 6 UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous wrote to the UN Security Council how his Department couldn't or wouldn't stop genocide, if it were to progress, in Burundi. VICE and RFI have written on it; Inner City Press is putting the entire Ladsous document online here. We'll have more on this.

   Back on December 17 Inner City Press was told, the third time it asked, that the Burundi's Army spokesman Gaspard Baratuza's deployment to the UN mission in CAR had been suspended, and Baratuza was being repatriated. UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric, who has shielded Secretary General Ban Ki-moon from such Press questions, said "it's an example of the [vetting] policy working."

 But Inner City Press has obtained the Burundi government document for the deployment not only of Baratuza but other officers in Ladsous' MINUSCA. Today we focus and ask about Major Pierre Niyonzima.

According to Inner City Press' sources, Niyonzima not only defended extrajudicial executions, he participated in them.  On May 14, they say, Major Niyonzima was the Senior army officer who led the attack on the hospital where those accused of involvement in the attempted coup were slaughtered.  They say Niyonzima reports to Guillaume Bunyoni and has been involved in killings in Musaga, Nyakabiga and Mutakura. We'll have more on this, and on other deployees to Ladsous' MINUSCA, including  Jimmy Rusheshe.

On December 21 Inner City Press asked the UN's Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq about these deployments, and the Burundian government's rejection of the African Union's proposed deployment, video here, transcript here.

Obtained by Inner City Press

Ladsous' lack of vetting was criticized in the recently released report into the cover up of peacekeepers' rapes in the Central African Republic. Earlier, Inner City Press exclusive reported on Ladsous in his October 1, 2015 meeting with Burundi's vice president saying that he is "pragmatic" on human rights.

 On December 16 Inner City Press was banned from questions to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, but learned from the mission MINUSCA that Baratuza was already in Entebbe. Inner City Press asked several Security Council members, then Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric on December17.

Dujarric told Inner City Press Baratuza's deployment is suspended and he is being repatriated: "based on the information we've received regarding the Lieutenant Colonel, his deployment has been suspended, and he will be repatriated back to Burundi." Video here. Dujarric told Inner City Press this shows the UN system working - on a day when a report on rapes was issued showing UN Peacekeeping under Herve Ladsous not sufficiently vetting for human rights. We'll have more on this.

 Amid the escalating killings in Burundi, last weekend's summary executions in neighborhoods opposed to Pierre Nkurunziza's third term stand out. But Burundi Army spokesman Gaspard Baratuza was quoted on December 12 blaming all of the deaths on attempts to steal weapons to free prisoners.

   Inner City Press had heard that Mr. Baratuza was already in the process of being deployed to the UN Peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) even when he was giving these quotes, issuing statements and speaking to state-owned radio, and so asked MINUSCA's acting spokesperson, “Is Gaspard Baratuza of Burundi's army getting a MINUSCA job?”

  On December 16, hours before UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon held a rare press conference, MINUSCA's acting spokesperson sent this to Inner City Press:

"To: Matthew.Lee [at]
From: Vladimir MONTEIRO [at]
Date: Wed, Dec 16, 2015
Subject: ICP question: Gaspard Baratuza of Burundi's army getting a MINUSCA-related post?
Cc: FUNCA [at]

"No decision related to Lt Col Baratuza's deployment can be taken before we finish looking into the matter. We can confirm that Lt Col Baratuza is in Entebbe but he has not yet deployed to MINUSCA.  Regards. VNM"

There are some questions about Baratuza, a Colonel in Burundi's Army, being listed by the UN as “Lt. Col.”

  Despite multiple follow-up questions by Inner City Press, Mr. Monteiro - previously a spokesperson for the UN electoral mission in Burundi - replied that “This is what we can say about this issue.”

   But the UN should have to say more. Inner City Press has repeatedly asked the UN how its Department of Peacekeeping Operations under Herve Ladsous vets those who deploy to UN missions; Inner City Press exclusively reported on an October 1, 2015 meeting in which Ladsous told Burundi's Vice President Joseph Butare that he is “pragmatic” on human rights.

 Ban Ki-moon and his spokesman declined to take Inner City Press' questions on December 16, as they did on December 14. Vine here. But concerned members of the UN Security Council have now been asked about Baratuza by Inner City Press. Watch this site.


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