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On Child Soldiers, UN's Ban was Mute in Myanmar, But Spoke in Nepal

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 4 -- When UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon last month visited Myanmar, the most active recruiter of child soldiers in the world, he did not raise the issue. Now the UN's envoy on the topic Radhika Coomaraswamy is "dispatching a team" to Myanmar this month, mostly to talk with "non-state actors who have entered into peace negotiations" with the government.

  Mr. Ban held a staged meeting with such groups too when he was there. He did not raise child soldiers, and later one of the group confided that its talking points were prepared by the government.

  Inner City Press asked Ms. Coomaraswamy if Ban had raised the child soldier issue while in Myanmar. She said he'd raised it in Nepal, but not necessarily in Myanmar. Video here, from Minute 15:42.

  Afterwards, Inner City Press asked her what countries may be added to the "Annex II" list, now that the scope has been broadened to include maiming and sexual violence. We'll have to see, she said.

  Inner City Press also asked again about the child soldiers captured along with the Justice and Equality Movement force in Omburman, Sudan in May 2008. Has any recruiter of these child soldiers been charged with a crime? Ms. Coomaraswamy said that JEM is subject to investigation by the International Criminal Court. We'll wait for Moreno Ocampo, then .

UN's Ban and children in Myanmar, talking points not shown

  The recurring issue of minors recruited into violent criminal gangs, which Inner City Press has asked Ms. Coomaraswamy and Mexico's Ambassador Claude Heller about several times, is now said to be assigned to a new envoy, on the topic of Children and Violence. We aim to have more on that in the near future.

Footnotes: while some in the UN think it unfair to continue to enumerate what wasn't accomplished during Ban Ki-moon's visit, others on Tuesday contrasted that trip to Bill Clinton quick trip to North Korea resulting in the release of the two American journalists. One wag asked, "Why couldn't Ban have done that?" Why indeed.

  On Myanmar, Team Ban has gotten bitter even about Hilary Clinton's announcement that the U.S. would invest if Aung San Suu Kyi is released. A Ban official asked Inner City Press, "Why didn't she coordinate with Mr. Ban?" Why didn't Bill Clinton?

* * *

UK's Sawers Explains Leaving Sri Lanka Off UN Council Agenda, on LRA No Answers

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 4 -- The UN Security "Council has to take decisions on each country on its merits," outgoing UK Ambassador to the UN John Sawers told the Press on Tuesday. Inner City Press had asked Sawers to explain why, despite saying that he had the votes to put Sri Lanka on the Council's agenda, the choice was made to keep the issues of civilian casualties and now detentions on the margin of the Council, in the UN basement, for the sake of Council unity.

  "There is always a judgment to be made," Sawers answered, "was to whether Council unity at a moderate level of agreement is better than division on a more ambition level of agreement." Video here, from Minute 32:08.

   The UK Mission under Sawers put sanctions on Zimbabwe to a vote in the Council, foreseeing and obtaining a double veto from China and Russia. On Sri Lanka, it never pushed for vote, even though on procedural matters such as additions to the Council's agenda no country has a veto.

  This decision during the tenure of Sawer and France's Jean-Ma
UK's Sawers and France's Ripert: ils son va, Sri Lanka not on Council agenda

   Inner City Press also asked Sawers what the Council's plan is, if any, to deal with the Lord's Resistance Army, which in recent days made deadly incursions from the Democratic Republic of the Congo into the Central African Republic and Southern Sudan. Video here, from Minute 31:44.

  On the latter, Sawers appeared to conflate the documented LRA attacks with the separate tribal conflicts on which, he said, UN Peacekeeping chief Alain Le Roy would brief the Council later Tuesday.  Sawers acknowledged of the LRA that the "Council needs to address" to issue, after the "exhaustive efforts of former president Chissano." But what is the plan?

  Sawers fielded questions ranging from Iran -- a topic on which he's said less and less to the media after being named the head of the UK's intelligence agency MI6 - to Afghanistan. On the latter, no one asked Sawers to square the statements of his minister David Miliband and the UN's Kai Eide, who critiqued Miliband's call for talks with Taliban "local commanders." Eide said they are not important enough. But who does Eide work for?

   Sawers deftly deflected a question about reports that Myanmar may have a nuclear program supported by North Korea, saying he would take the correspondent's scheduling suggestion under advisement. Sawers got his hackles up with a South Asian correspondent wondered why the UK doesn't give helicopters to the UN and African Union Mission in Darfur, UNAMID.

  Do you think Sudan would accept them from us, Sawers pointedly asked. The correspondent persisted until Sawers said, we've had enough on that. He noted that the Rwandan contingent in Darfur still has its APCs trapped in Port Sudan. The "heavy lift" air support the U.S. bragged of was not mentioned.

Footnote: The partying for the departure of Jean-Maurice Ripert has already begun. On August 3, La Francophonie threw him a bash. Now Ripert is organizing his own farewell, seeking to invite the UN Security officers who went on the Council's African forays. Will the officer who shot through the UN plane in Goma last year, leading to a bus ride to Kigali, be invited?

* * *

  Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

* * *

These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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