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On Child Soldiers, UN to Obo Only With Armed Security, Thai Resolution Backstory

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 28, updated -- While the Central African Republic's Obo region has now gotten a visit from a UN official, Radhika Coomaraswamy, it remains unclear if or when the UN will respond to calls to serve the area.

  Inner City Press asked on Monday and was told that there are "discussions" of UNICEF opening a regional office, and that on her trip Coomaraswamy had armed security. One wondered: where were the US military advisers in the area to help hunt the Lord's Resistance Army?

  Back in May, Inner City Press reported on requests

"to establish at least some kind of UN presence in CAR's Haut-Mbomou prefecture and its capital Obo. Only two international medical NGOs serve the area, where children are abducted by the Lord's Resistance Army, according to Laura Perez of the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center. Inner City Press asked Ms. Perez why the UN was constrained from at least purporting to serve the area. She replied that there is a weekly airplane flight to Obo but that the UN Department of Safety & Security says UN staff can only go with a military escort."

  Now Coomaraswamy has gone. But when Inner City Press asked her if the UN is now establishing any presence in Obo, she said not yet, the UN serves it through an Italian NGO, later identified as COOPI. Video here, from Minute 11.

  Inner City Press asked if DSS still requires military escort. [The answer has been amended or supplemented below.] Yes, she said, she was escorted by "AMISOM" -- then she corrected herself, the Ugandan People's Defense Force, UPDF. Video here, from Minute 17:39.

  We don't always fasten on corrected misstatements. But here the fact that Ugandan troops serve as AU / AMISOM peacekeepers in Somalia seems to give them a different hue in the Central African Republic. Should the UN be traveling with the UPDF? Not all would say yes.

  Click here for photo of Coomaraswamy with UPDF in Obo.

Update: despite what was said at the noon briefing and reported above, late Monday afternoon after initial publication of this article Coomaraswamy's office told Inner City Press "The SRSG was not escorted by the UPDF or any military. DSS provided security. This was simply a mistake in the noon briefing."

   If NGOs stated in May that the UN was not providing service in Obo due to DSS saying they needed military escort, it is important that this be clarified.

  Inner City Press asked Coomaraswamy about the Thai-sponsored resolution that passed in the Third Committee, without a vote, during her absence, which earned the Western characterization as "Trojan Horse" resolution meant to send a message to Coomaraswamy to reign herself in. Click here for Inner City Press story, which is updated below.

  Coomaraswamy replied that the first draft caused some "alarm," but the draft that passed is "not of concern."

  Inner City Press is informed that the US, represented by John F. Sammis, asked that Thailand in its statement explicitly says that the word "continue" applied also to "acting in full observation" - in essence, that Coomaraswamy HAD been acting appropriately.

  Thailand did include this in its statement, but apparently Sammis did not hear it. He asked for a suspension and marched to the back of the conference room. Once he was shown the statement that was read out, he returned to his seat -- without apologizing, it is said. The US administration says it plays well with others at the UN - but does it?

  Finally, Inner City Press asked Coomaraswamy about Myanmar. She said, as she has before, that Myanmar may soon sign an action plan on child soldier recruiting, the remaining issues involve "access." Don't they always? We'll have more on this.

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Click here for Sept 23, '11 about UN General Assembly

Click for Mar 1, '11 re Libya, Sri Lanka, UN Corruption

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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

Click here for Sept 26, 2011 New Yorker on Inner City Press at UN

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