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On Burundi, UN Tells ICP Only Other Media Can Cover UNSC Trip, No Answers

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 14 -- After UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon mere a one-line mention of Burundi in his long Priorities fo 2016 speech on January 14, when Ban took questions in front of the General Assembly Inner City Press five times began, "On Burundi."

  But of the five questions picked, 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. Moments later, Inner City Press got an answer about Ladsous' memo from an Ambassador of a Permanent Five member of the Security Council. Periscope video here.

 Earlier in the week when the decision was made for a 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.

  Even Nkurunziza's adviser, facetiously or not, told Inner City Press he hoped Inner City Press would be on the trip. 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? There is some history, here. We'll have more on this.

  Note that Ban's Office of the Spokesperson refused to answer any of Inner City Press' questions in the past two days, including two on Burundi, another on Ethiopia / Oromo, etc. What is WRONG with Ban's UN? Watch this site.

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.

On January 11, Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric about the killing over the weekend of cameraman Alfred Baranburiya, and what the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights staff in Burundi are doing. There was no update.

 Nor on Inner City Press' question about Burundian troops in AMISOM in Somalia not getting correctly paid and, it's said, being ordered not to use the Internet. Dujarric called this too “granular” to answer.

Now Burundian civil society has written to Ban seeking the repatriation of the country's peacekeepers. Inner City Press has put the letter from Vital Nshimirimana to Ban online here, and will be asking the UN about it. Watch this site.

 On January 8, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric for Ban's view, video here from Min 1:07, transcript here:

Inner City Press: On Burundi… there was a press conference by the Ugandan mediation of the Burundi crisis today, and they seen… or they… they… among other things, it appears that the Burundi side, the Government side, is asking for a change of venue, and the real issue seems to be whether anyone that the Government says was in any way involved in the events of May should not be part of the talks.  And I just wondered, is Mr. Benomar involved at all in this process?  It seems like the key point is, who's going to participate?  And also, what, what does the UN know about this desired change of venue?

Spokesman:  Sure.  Let me, I'll check with Mr. Benomar's team.

 Six hours later and counting, nothing. 
 On January 4, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric about the threats to peacekeepers, the challenged deployments to the UN mission in the Central African Republic and reports of rapes largely in opposition neighborhoods.

  The UN Spokesman had no comment on the rapes, or the threats; he said "I've mentioned the case of the Lt. Colonel, I have no further update from that, or on the other two officials you've mentioned.... The Secretary General's Special Adviser is in New York and I believe you'll probably hear from the Security Council President that they will hear from him at some point in the coming days."

 On January 7, with the UN still not having responded on the rapes, Inner City Press for the Free UN Coalition for Access asked Dujarric about a Burundian minister's threat against the RFI journalist who compiled the rape report. The minister said, "the authorized government services will take the necessary measures to deal with this journalist’s disruptive activities."

  Inner City Press read this quote to the UN spokesman, who replied the UN is against intimidation. He still had nothing on the rapes. Video here, transcript here:

Inner City Press:  On Burundi.  On Monday I'd asked you about this story about rapes by the Government militia in opposition neighbourhoods by an RFI (Radio France Internationale) reporter.  And now basically the Government has said that they will… will… I'm going to read the direct quote because it's pretty troubling… crack down on or… or take care of this reporter.  They said… they said, the authorized Government services will take the necessary measures to deal with this journalist's disruptive activities.  So many press freedom groups are saying this is a threat by the Government, and I wanted to know, one, what do you think of that?  What does the UN system think or do about that?  And also what about the underlying report of an increase in rapes targeted at opposition neighbourhoods?

Spokesman:  "I don't have anything specific on your second question.  Obviously, those kinds of reports of increases of sexual violence are extremely disturbing and need to be investigated.  On your first part, it is vital, as we've always said from here, that there is… that the media be allowed to report freely and free from harassment and especially free from personal harassment."

  Meanwhile whole parts of the UN system say little to nothing at all. Last week Inner City Press asked for the comment of Ban's Secretariat (UNlikely) or, specifically, UN Women on this cartoon in pro-government media. Nothing. Total silence.

  RFI reports in detail on rapes in Burundi, particularly in "opposition neighborhoods." While government spokespeople -- and wannabe government spokespeople -- attack the messengers, where is UN Women on this? Where is the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights?

  OHCHR has an office and ostensibly a presence in Burundi. But even as High Commissioner Zeid cranks out statements on other topics, OHCHR in Burundi has been unable or unwilling to confirm and speak on, for example, the rounds-ups in Mugamba.

 On January 2, Inner City Press asked four UN spokespeople this Burundi, along with two questions on Saudi Arabia and Yemen:

"On Burundi, does the UN have any knowledge of the rounding up of young men by the government in Mugamba & Matana (Bururi)? Is the UN doing anything?"

 A day later, while the UN issued a statement on Saudi Arabia, there was no answer at all from the UN about Burundi.
   Tellingly, sources tell Inner City Press that while at the end of the Entebbe “photo op” it was announced that a next meeting in Arusha on January 6 had been agreed to, in fact this hadn't even been discussed. Some pro-government sources tell Inner City Press their side is therefore “not wrong” to say they never agreed to go to Arusha.
   They say that with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni clearly occupied “in yellow t-shirt” with his run for re-re-election, those running the talks “are the same who profited off the M23 talks.” We'll have more on this.

  But this is part of why Inner City Press questioned Ban Ki-moon's canned December 31 statement, issued after Ban's spokespeople refused to answer actual Press questions submitted to them, about deployments to the Central African Republic and Pierre Nkurunziza's threat to peacekeepers.

Amid criticism that Burundi's Pierre Nkurunziza seeks only to negotiate with himself and not the real opposition to his third term, and of the mediation process as a mere photo-op as the UN deploys abusers into its peacekeeping missions, Inner City Press on December 28, 29, 30 and 31 asked the UN questions. See below for (non) answers.

 After refusing to comment or even respond to Press questions about Nkurunziza's threats against peacekeepers and deployment of alleged human rights abusers to UN Peacekeeping missions under Herve Ladsous, who also refuses Press questions, after 4 pm on New Year's Eve Ban issued this.

 Meanwhile here are Inner City Press' December 30 (unanswered) and December 31 questions to four separate spokespeople for Ban Ki-moon:

December 30: "Burundi's Pierre Nkurunziza in a press conference threatened attacks on peacekeepers. What is Ban Ki-moon's response to this?" No answer.

December 31: "On Burundi, beyond the still unresponded to questions, what is the comment of Ban Ki-moon and, separately, of UN Women to this cartoon in pro-government media this week?

 In response to that question, the UN Office of the Spokesperson sent a press release about another question (Haiti), but nothing at all on Burundi.

 Watch this site.

  On December 30 Nkurunziza threatened to have his forces attack peacekeepers proposed for the country. Inner City Press asked, if attacks on international peacekeepers are called violations of international law by the UN and its Security Council, what will the UNSC or Ban Ki-moon say about this threat?

  Ban's spokespeople have declined Press questions on Burundi for two days, and now Ban is on leave in Vienna. Will the UNSC penholder, France, be proposing any Press Statement or meeting, as some said would happen this week?

  As to next month, incoming UNSC President Uruguay has set its Program of Work press conference for January 4. We'll be there.

 On the morning of December 29, Inner City Press asked three separate UN Spokespeople Burundi questions including these:

"On Burundi, what is the Secretary General's or its Special Adviser's view of the inclusiveness of the CNARED group “representing” the opposition for the talks? In light for example of (1) this civil society critique, here and (2) Alain Nyamitwe statement that 'what happened was that the opposition was given only one slot, and of course we were not happy about the group which was selected, we do not believe that it is a legitimate group'?

"On UN deployments by alleged human rights abusers, beyond Majors Niyonzima and Rusheshe, please state whether the following are or will be deploying: Major / Lt. Col Casimir Nihankura and Captain / Major Eliezer Ndihokubwayo."

  This last is on a documented trend of the Nkurunziza mis-stating the rank of those it tries to deploy ("as rewards") - but the UN as since last week with Niyonzima and Rusheshe offered no answer.

 Of the five questions Inner City Press submitted to three UN Spokespeople on the morning of December 29, a partial response was received only to this one: "On Puerto Rico, please confirm (or deny) receip of the Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla's letter to Ban Ki-moon and response to the position that the US is reversing a decades-old understanding that Puerto Rico, while a U.S. commonwealth, governs through its own constitution."

Near 4 pm on December 29, the UN spokesman answered:

"From: Stephane Dujarric [at]
Date: Tues, Dec 29, 2015 at 3:53 PM
Subject: Press Qs in lieu of a Dec 29 UN noon briefing: Burundi, South Sudan, Puerto Rico/US, UNHQ, Jordan, still UN scandals / reforms, Yemen; thanks in advance
To: Matthew Lee [at]
Cc: FUNCA [at]

"Matthew--on Puerto Rico, we can confirm that we have received the letter from Governor Garcia Padilla. On the rest, if we have updates, we will share them with you."

 So, nothing at all on the Burundi questions.

  On the morning of December 28, Inner City Press asked the UN four questions, including: "On Burundi, any comment or update on the talks, or demonstrations including militia inside Burundi? And, as ICP asked before Christmas, what is the status of the deployment to MINUSCA for Burundian Majors Niyonzima and Rusheshe?"

 At 2 pm on December 28 the UN Spokesman replies with only this:

"From: Stephane Dujarric [at]
Date: Mon, Dec 28, 2015 at 2:11 PM
Subject: Re: Press Qs in lieu of a UN noon briefing: South Sudan, Burundi, UN scandals / reforms, Yemen; thanks in advance
To: Matthew Lee [at]
Cc: FUNCA [at]

"Dear Matthew, On Burundi, Mr Benomar is currently in Entebbe for the ceremony, having been in Bujumbura, Kigali, and Kampala before. On the other issues, if we have an update to share with you, we will."

  So even on the deployment, nothing on the two Majors involved in the hospital killings in Bujumbura in May -- even as the previous answer about (Lt) Col Baratuza is being questioned by some there. Nothing on the militia: just the photo op. And nothing on the other questions.

 By contrast, on December 28 the US State Department said this:

"we think today’s reopening of this dialogue, regionally mediated dialogue between parties to the Burundi crisis, is an important yet preliminary step towards putting Burundi back on the road to peace. I think it’s imperative that all Burundians renounce violence and intimidation and support peaceful, productive engagement and dialogue as a key to reestablishing in Burundi an atmosphere of openness and trust. We certainly appreciate the efforts of the Government of Uganda as well as President Museveni in hosting today’s session in Entebbe."

  So the US had 80+ words, while UN offered only the location(s) of its envoy. This as a time when Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, after rejecting Press questions in the run-up to the holiday, did a one on one interview with AP promoting himself for a possible Nobel Prize on climate change. On December 28, Ban issued a statement congratulating South Korea for its agreement with Japan on the comfort women issue. And on Burundi? We'll have more on this.

 Burundi's Pierre Nkurunziza government with the agreement of UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous has undertaken to deploy officers allegedly involved in human rights abuses into Ladsous' Central African Republic mission, MINUSCA, see below. Also below, civil society statement in advance of the talks in Kampala on December 28.

  Nkurunziza's Imbonerakure militia was quoted by AP that "We would like to warn African Union troops that the majority of Burundians don't want them and they should not impose themselves on the people of Burundi." Here is a video of the ruling party demonstrations, on Facebook
  - and now, a second video, on Twitter.

  Also on Facebook (but not Twitter), Burundi's Permanent Representative to the UN Albert Shingiro -- who blocks Inner City Press from his Twitter feed -- tried to mock a protest by follow Burundians which Inner City Press covered on December 23, here. (Shingiro, like the presidential adviser and his alter-ego(s) liked to channel Bill Gates.) Some diplomacy: banning the Press from his statements, mocking rather than seeking to dialogue with his countrymen. To this has Burundi sunk.

 And so, we publish today this Statement of the Campaign “Halte au troisième mandat” on the occasion of the official opening of negotiations between  stakeholders in the Burundi conflict:

"On the occasion of the opening ceremonies of the negotiations between stakeholders in the Burundi conflict, in Kampala-Uganda on December 28, 2015, Civil society organizations members of the Campaign “Halte au troisième mandat” release the following statement:

1. They welcome the beginning of negotiations between Burundi stakeholders for their objective is to find a solution to the Burundian crisis since they will now take place outside Burundi; the same allowing stakeholders to negotiate in conditions that guarantee their safety;

2. However, they regret that the mediation has accused a huge delay in the fulfillment of its mission and that prior consultations as well as the official opening of negotiations are conducted under conditions that ignore the Campaign Halte au troisième mandat, yet widely known as leading group in defending the dignity of the people of Burundi through peaceful protests that started on April 26, 2015.

3. They take the opportunity to reaffirm their support to various groups defending the agenda of the restoration and respect for the Arusha Agreement for peace and reconciliation and the constitution; including CNARED;

4. They rejoice that the CNARED received and accepted the invitation to attend the opening ceremonies of the negotiations. Following due assessment of the achievements of the citizenry movement CNARED and bearing in mind the pressing responsibility to focus and limit mainly on the defense of democratic principles and the fight against impunity in the Supreme interest of the people of Burundi, the Campaign “Halte au troisième mandat” decides to withdraw from CNARED. They will from now on defend the positions and proposals of civil society contained in the document entitled " Burundi Crisis: Diagnosis and proposed solutions by civil society" that was made public;

6. They pledge to keep committed to the fight against the violation of the Arusha Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation and the Constitution and reaffirm their determination to continue the struggle until the restoration of citizens' constitutional legality;

7. They reiterated their willingness and readiness to fully participate in the negotiations and that civil society group should be represented on a same basis as the government of Nkurunziza and the political opposition;

8. Finally, they warn all the stakeholders against any attempt to a deal maintaining Nkurunziza in the position he has usurped and any arrangement likely to provide an opportunity for some to enjoy impunity for crimes committed. Done at Bujumbura, December 27, 2015"

  This last has resonance in other mediations: we'll have more on this.

 On December 24, Inner City Press asked for the second time, video here:

Inner City Press: whether you have any... first, any readout of Mr. Benomar's travels and attempts to speak with the Government in the region.  I'm asking you... yesterday there was… you may have seen it; you may not have seen it… there was a protest outside the building by Burundians, and in speaking with them, they judge the performance of the Secretariat as weak.

And I wanted to know, just to get, I guess, your response to that, and if there's any update on the deployment of these two, Pierre Niyonzima and Jimmy Rusheshe, both of whom have been linked to the hospital killings in May…

Spokesman Stephane Dujarric:  On your second part, no, I have no update than what was given.  I know there are discussions going on.  I don't have an update to share with you.  On your first part, I think we can all agree on the frustration of the Burundian people as they see the violence increase in their country.  The Secretary-General, through the work of his Special Envoy, is very much focused on finding ways to move the political dialogue forward and to obviously see an end to the current violence that we're seeing.  He is currently in Kampala in Uganda meeting with local officials, and I believe there will be talks there early next week.

Inner City Press:  Will your office be sending stuff out during this break?

Spokesman:  Obviously, as I said, we'll be fully staffed.  If there are updates to share, we will share them with you.

   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:

Inner City Press: on Burundi, as you know, the African Union Peace and Security Council has made this proposal 5,000 peacekeepers and set a 96-hour deadline for the Government to respond.  The assembly has met and rejected it and said it would be a violation of the sovereignty of the country.  So, I wanted to know, what is the Secretariat… Mr. [Jamal] Benomar, what do they… you think of both the [African Union Peace and Security Council] taking a seemingly fairly aggressive protection of civilian stance and the Government rejecting it? 

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, first of all, regarding that, I believe that the discussions will continue with the African Union and the Government of Burundi.  But, we certainly support the efforts by the African Union and its Peace and Security Council to deal with the protection of civilians in Burundi.  We've made clear our alarm at recent developments and the need for there to be additional steps to bring the tensions on the ground to a halt.  As you know, the Security Council itself has been apprised by the Secretary-General of various options for the way forward, and we await their guidance on that.  Meanwhile, Mr. Benomar has started some of his travels.  I believe he was in Washington, D.C., in the last few days, and he is expected to head to the region shortly.

Correspondent:  And then… thanks a lot.  I wanted… something a little more specific.  It has to do with this vetting of troops from Burundi, but I guess you could say elsewhere.  I know it was said last week that Gaspard Baratuza, a Deputy Spokesman of the army, was being repatriated.

Deputy Spokesman:  Yes.

Inner City Press:  But, I've since seen a letter… it was his deployment letter, but it also involved two other majors in the army who are said to have been involved in the… the assault on a hospital in May, right after the coup attempt in which people were killed in their beds, and these involve Mr. Pierre Niyonzima and Jimmy Rusheshe.  And both of them, according to a letter from the Burundian Army, are… were being deployed to the UN in the Central African Republic.  So, I wanted… I guess I want to ask you, like, what does the vetting consist of?  What was the vetting that Mr. Baratuza failed that these two individuals apparently don't fail, given their involvement in extrajudicial executions?

Deputy Spokesman:  As we get information… if any information causes us to have concerns about deployment, it is reviewed in that light.  In that light, Mr. Baratuza, his suspension was first delayed, and then he was repatriated.  And so, depending upon the information, as we get it, we'll act upon it.

Inner City Press:  So, does… I guess what I'm saying is does the… either the human rights presence of the UN in Burundi have information about those who commanded the assault on this hospital, it's called Bumerec Hospital, in May and the connection to the people that were being deployed?

Deputy Spokesman:  Like I said, we… yes, we do have a human rights presence in Burundi.  As we get information, we act upon, and that includes anyone being deployed.

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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