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On CAR After UN Suspends Video of Muslims' Plight, Says Done for "Balance"

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 17 -- While in the Central African Republic the UN large defers to the French Sangaris force, despite the UN's High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay having found that France put Muslim communities at risk, now some say the UN is engaged in censorship.

   There was a video put on the UN-affiliated IRIN (Integrated Regional Information Networks) website about the plight of Muslims in CAR, entitled "Bangui's Ghettos."

   But then it was taken down, with the notification that it was "temporarily suspended."

  Inner City Press asked UN Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric why the video was taken down, and he said he would ask his colleagues. Video here.

  Later on March 17, the spokesperson of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Amanda Pitt asked Inner City Press what it wanted to know. Inner City Press replied:

"At today's noon briefing I asked why the IRIN video "Bangui's Ghettoes" is now listed as "temporarily suspended" -- Some are troubled by this. Please explain."

  OCHA spokesperson Amanda Pitt sent this answer:

"I would imagine our IRIN and OCHA communications colleagues have been reviewing the CAR content and are perhaps just adjusting it... As you know IRIN is part of OCHA so it's really important that we are able to balance the content we put out and make sure it supports all the work we are doing in country and in the region."

  But it's already unbalanced in CAR...

  We are compelled to note that while Ms. Pitt has always been polite, the new head of OCHA Communications is Kieran Dwyer, previously the spokesperson for UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous, who has refused to answer basic Press questions including about the CAR.

  We are also compelled to note that not only was Ladsous France's Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN during the Rwanda genocide, arguing for the escape of genocidaires into Eastern Congo, but he is also the fourth Frenchman in a row to head UN Peacekeeping. Doubts grow as he refuses to answer questions, particularly about Mali and CAR given France's history there. Video compilation, including Dwyer's statement on why questions are not answered, here.

Back on March 7 when Chad's Permanent Representative to the UN Mahamat Zene Cherif came to the Security Council stakeout on March 7, beyond asking him about child soldiers Inner City Press asked him about those who have had to flee Central African Republic into Chad. Shouldn't they be able to return to CAR? Video here and embedded below

Mahamat Zene Cherif said while Chad will not force anyone back, they should be able to return. He said that eighty percent of the Muslims have been chased out of the CAR.

How can elections be held this way, he asked.

Inner City Press asked if perhaps those displaced could vote even while in Chad. Mahamat Zene Cherif said the UN could check the feasibility, but that Chad would hope the displaced could return to CAR.

  The day before, Inner City Press tried to ask French Ambassador Gerard Araud about a statement or report by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay that the French Sangaris force first disarming the ex-Seleka had left Muslim community vulnerable to attack by Christian anti-Balaka militias.

  Araud refused to take the question while at the microphone, then from the wings insisted there is no Navi Pillay report. Click here for that.

  What forces allowed 80% of the Muslims in CAR to be chased out? And what responsibility do they bear? Watch this site.


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