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After Burundi Cable, UN "Welcomes" Govt Statement, Press Probes at Risk

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 28, more here -- While sources in the UN Security Council told Inner City Press on April 24 that they want an investigation of the April 3 leaked UN cable about the party in power in Burundi arming its youth wing, it was the media that first reached one of the Generals at issue, Nduwumunsi.

 The cable, as published by Inner City Press, stated that "General Nduwumunsi (currently Director General of former Combatants) and General - Major Niyungeko Jevenal aka KIROHO (currently head of the Office of military Cooperation) would be supervisors of these activities (distributions of weapons and military and police uniforms)."

  Now IWACU runs quotes from Nduwumunsi but concludes, "Pour les autres accusations des Nations unies sur une distribution d’armes, il a promis de s’exprimer ultérieurement." ("For other charges UN distribution of weapons, he promised to speak later.")

  Speak to whom - the UN? Apparently not: Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric on April 25:

Inner City Press: I wanted to ask you about Burundi. There was a consultation yesterday of the Security Council; Mr. [Jeffrey] Feltman went, some other people from DPA [Department of Political Affairs]. I was told afterwards that basically there’s a call to investigate that same cable, 3 April cable about distribution of weapons to the youth wing of the Government party in power. So I wanted to know what is, one, can you say whether the persona non grata DSS [Department of Safety and Security] chief…actually who left the country or if the protest has worked? And what is UN’s task from this in terms of investigating the contents of the cable?

Spokesman Dujarric: The DSS person, the person that was declared persona non grata, when that happened, was out of the country. He has not returned to Burundi. Can you rephrase the first part of your question?

Inner City Press: It was said afterwards by a participant in the consultations that there’s been a request by the Council that the contents of it be investigated. If DSS chief is not there, what is the role of either the country team, DSS or DPA to actually, more than expressing concern, actually look into the facts alleged in that cable?

Spokesman Dujarric: You know, obviously, this allegation of arms distribution… that allegation has taken more and more of a centre stage in political discourse in Burundi. We’ve noted the Government’s public statements rejecting the allegations and we welcome them. But we still call on the Government to investigate, to embark on a credible and transparent investigation into these allegations. We’ve offered assistance to assist in this credible and transparent investigation and we stand ready, but we have not been asked, but it is the primary responsibility of the Government to lead such an investigation.

  So the UN "welcomes" the government's statements on the cable - a vituperative denial?

   Meanwhile journalists in Burundi face demands to name and give up their sources: "Alexis Nkeshimana et Eloge Niyonzima, respectivement correspondants de Bonesha FM et RPA à Bubanza comparaissaient devant le substitut du procureur de la République à Bubanza, ce jeudi 24 avril, sur plainte du Cndd-Fdd" -- that is, a complain by the same CNDD-FDD party.

   Alongside our coverage of attacks on free press in Egypt and Ethiopia, along with the Free UN Coalition for Access, we hope to pursue this.

     Back on on April 24, a week after Burundi ordered out of the country the UN security chief who authored a leaked cable reporting the President arming his youth wing, a team from the UN Department of Political Affairs rushed into an unscheduled Security Council meeting. A Permanent Representative told Inner City Press the topic was Burundi.

   But afterward, despite the UN's claims about "Rights Up Front" and sounding the alarm, no one spoke at the UN Television stakeout to even summarize the meeting on Burundi.

   Off camera, a source who had been in the closed door meeting told Inner City Press, "their main concern was about the leak" of the cable. Inner City Press first published the cable; the full text is below.

Update of 7 pm -- After publication of the above, a proponent of the Security Council's performance on this told Inner City Press that while it's being kept quiet, there are requests that not only the leak but the substance of the cable be investigated.  Another questioned why all that the Council's "pen-holder" on Burundi belatedly put out about the April 24 was a tweet by its political coordinator. Inner City Press has posed questions. We'll see.

   On April 21, Inner City Press asked UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric if the "PNG-ed" UN staffer left, and about the president now meeting with his youth wing, video here:

Inner City Press: On Burundi, you’d said on Thursday that the UN was troubled by the “PNG” letter. I wanted to know, one, the head of security, has he complied with the letter from the Government and left. And does the UN have any comment on the President of Burundi since Thursday having done a meeting or a rally with his youth wing. The same youth wing that the UN memo said was being handed weapons.

Spokesman Stephane Dujarric: No. I have… I don’t know what the status of the staff member who was “PNG-ed”. We can check. And on Burundi, I think what we had to say last week stands.

   Is that good enough, to simply stand on a past statement as new fact unfold? On April 21 the Banque de la Republic de Burundi - the nation's central bank - was enveloped in smoke. The excuse? Burning bills. Meanwhile staff say there are threats. But old UN statements "stand."

  So Inner City Press asked the US State Department spokesperson, albeit in a Twitter Q&A, for a comment on the President meeting with the youth wing, and if the government did in fact ask US intelligence to help investigate the cable. So far, no answer: review here.

   Twenty years after the "genocide fax" from Rwanda to the UN in New York was largely ignored, for a week earlier this month there was little visible reaction to a strikingly similar cable from Burundi, about AK-47s being distributed to the youth-wing of the Hutu aligned CNDD party.

  And now one of the authors of the cable has been ordered to leave Burundi in 48 hours, see below.

  Inner City Press on April 9 put the cable online, submitting questions about it to UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric and on April 10 online and at the Security Council stakeout to Ambassador Gerard Araud of France, pen-holder on Burundi in the Council.

   But it was US Ambassador Samantha Power who took and answered the question, telling Inner City Press that it is very troubling, that there have been fast trials of 21 young opposition figures and a threat to change the constitution and now, these reports. Video here and embedded below.

  At the April 10 noon briefing, UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric who had sent Inner City Press a wan response to its April 9 questions about the cable (and about actions by one of the three addressees, Herve Ladsous of UN Peacekeeping) read out a list of contacts the UN had made.

  Inner City Press asked if the UN, whose cable it was and is, had done anything to check into the weapons given to the youth-wing: pistols in February, AK-47s since. Dujarric said he didn't understand the question and had nothing to add. Video here.

  Hours later, the UN Security Council issued a press statement, here.

  And now, a week later, one of the UN authors, Paul Dobbie of the UN Department of Safety and Security ("UN Burundi Chief Security Adviser") has been told to leave Burundi within 48 hours of April 17.

How will Ban Ki-moon's UN react? Inner City Press asked on April 17, video here.

    That the cable was in fact sent from the UN in Burundi to three top UN officials -- Jeffrey Feltman of the Department of Political Affairs, Herve Ladsous of UN Peacekeeping and Great Lakes envoy Mary Robinson -- was reliably confirmed. Inner City Press and the new Free UN Coalition for Access put this photo online here and here. Below, the full text of the cable is published.

  On April 9, UK Mission to the UN spokesperson Iona Thomas replied to Inner City Press that "I can confirm that Feltman raised this issue in the Council discussion on Burundi yesterday and members of the Council expressed their concern at the reports."

  UN Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric, in response to Inner City Press' request for confirmation that Ladsous, who was France's Deputy Permanent Representative at the UN during the 1994 Rwanda genocide against the Tutsis, had received the Burundi cable merely pointed to a read-out of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's April 6 meeting with Burundi's First Vice-President of the Republic of Burundi Prosper Bazombanza.

  That UN read-out says that "the Secretary-General expressed strong concerns about reports concerning activities of Burundian youth groups and urged the relevant national authorities to investigate these reports."

  But it is the government itself that is accused of distributing pistols, uniforms and AK-47s to the "youth groups," which the UN read-out leaves unnamed. Is this "Rights Up Front"?

  US Ambassador Samantha Power traveled from Rwanda to Burundi and issued a statement that the "United States will provide $7.5 million in assistance for the Burundian electoral process" and expressing concerns, here. It did not directly mention the alleged distribution of weapons to the Imbonerukure or the cable.

  France, in the same week that it snubbed the Rwanda genocide commemoration and called any suggestion it was complicit in the 1994 killings "disgraceful," holds the pen on Burundi in the Security Council.

   That is to say, it was up to France after Feltman came and raised the memo to then pen and push for fast adoption some output: a resolution or Statement. But this did not happen -- until a week after the cable.

  Instead, when at the end of a higher profile consultation with High Commissioner on Human Rights Navi Pillay including on Syria, where France is pushing a referral to the International Criminal Court, April's Council president Joy Ogwu of Nigeria emerged to speak to the press, there were only two journalists there including Inner City Press. She mentioned Feltman's briefing, but not the cable or its contents.

  Nine hours later, Australia's Ambassador to the UN Gary Quinlan tweeted, "#UNSC discussed deteriorating situation in #Burundi for 2nd time in 2 weeks - signs of political exclusion & oppression deeply concerning."

The French Mission to the UN -- the penholder on Burundi -- was even less specific: "Under Secretary General Jeffrey Feltman has briefed #UNSC on current political tensions in #Burundi."

  So is the main difference in 20 years since the Rwanda genocide the speed of leaks and of social media?

  Other questions are pending. Here is the full text of the April 3, 2014 cable:







DATE: 3 April 2014


SUBJECT: Reports of alleged distribution of weapons to the Imbonerakure

Summary: Informs on reports of alleged distribution of weapons [to] ruling CNDD-youth wing and actions taken by BNUB.

1. "This follows my cable CND-022 of 26 February in which I informed of allegations of distribution of weapons to the ruling CNDD-FCC youth wing the "Imbonerakure."

2. Yesterday UN Chief Security Adviser (CSA) in Burundi conveyed the following message from the DSS daily sitrep:

"After information gathered from key informants, there was distribution of weapons and outfits military and police during the months of January and February for youth affiliated to the CNDD - FDD (IMBONERAKURE) party and the demobilized ex-AIMP Rumonge. An ad-hoc meeting was held in a hotel call[ed] KUKANYAMUENZA belonging to a "General de Brigade" located Nduwumunsi in Rumonge. A night training for the handling of these weapons would be located on the side of the central prison of Rumonge (KUMUREMBWE) and the surrounding population would have heard gunfire. These same activities (distribution of weapons) would be considered to take place in the commune of Nyzana-Laca, Kibago and Mabanda in Makamba province. Another face which tends to confirm the news, these are the statements of people who participated in these meetings but refused to receive weapons.

Two generals originating in the province of BURURI ex-AIMP whose names follow: Bde General Nduwumunsi (currently Director General of former Combatants) and General - Major Niyungeko Jevenal aka KIROHO (currently head of the Office of military Cooperation) would be supervisors of these activities (distributions of weapons and military and police uniforms). In this meeting they emphasized especially, that the beneficiaries of these weapons must remain vigilant and that when there is a trigger that each take care of their opponents in their proximity / neighbourhood."

3. I have undertaken consultations with key embassies including United States, Belgium and the Netherlands, all involved in security sector support activities, to corroborate the information and plan to raise the matter with the relevant ministers. The ambassadors informed have confirmed the grave nature of the allegations which if confirmed may have implications for bi-lateral assistance programmes.


4. CSA in Burundi confirmed the reliability of the sources.

5. The Imbonerakure actions have been on the rise since the beginning of the year and are one of the major threats to peace in Burundi and to the credibility of the 2015 elections as they are responsible for most politically motivated violence against opposition. BNUB has documented 27 cases implicating the Imbonerakure so far in 2014, 23 of which have been politically motivated.

6. The Imbonerakure act in collusion with the local authorities and with total impunity. In the country side they have replaced the law enforcing agencies and act as a militia over and above the police, the army and the judiciary. Opposition parties have repeatedly complaint [sic] about the Imbonerakure violence.

7. One can only speculate about the purpose of the distribution of weapons and uniforms in Bururi which is a traditional stronghold of the UPRONA. However the last sentence of the message indicated a highly decentralized chain of command which is consistent with reliable information on Imbonerakure modus operandi on the ground.

8. In February BNUB had informed of the disappearance of 500 uniforms from military and police installations as well as the distribution of 9mm pistols. Although not confirmed there are indications that the weapons distributed this time can be AK-47 assault rifles. DSS has also informed in the past of radio messages for the population "to be ready."

9. We will continue to closely monitor the situation and keep you informed.

Now what? Watch this site.


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