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Despite Peacekeeping Missions, Fear In Central African Republic, UN Sounds CAR Alarm

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 10 -- The Central African Republic, one of the poorest countries in the world where people fearing both government and rebel forces flee into the bush, "suffers from a surfeit of multilateral interventions," UN Humanitarian deputy Catherine Bragg told Inner City Press on August 10.

  Ms. Bragg recently visited the CAR and on Monday she came to brief the UN press corps. Only two media outlets asked questions. Ms. Bragg began by marveling that there were as many reporters present as there were. (In a briefing just before Ms. Bragg began, a scandal occasioned by nepotism by UN Congo Mission chief Alan Doss was the topic of energetic questioning, click here for that.)

   The UN's still unsuccessful engagement with CAR ranges from a peacekeeping mission that is directed only at spill over from Darfur in Sudan, to a peacebuilding project repeatedly changes its name. As Ms. Bragg described it, there are sections of the country with no roads at all. Video here, from Minute 28:23.

  Still, she said when Inner City Press asked, the biggest problem is fear among the population. Despite local and international peacekeeping missions, there is still no peace. Former colonial power France contributes little.

In Central African Republic, forces of fear, French not shown
  It is a country so poor, some say, that it cannot even afford a more descriptive name than "Central African Republic."

   It is to Ms. Bragg's credit that she went, and that upon her return she sought to brief the press. But Inner City Press' final question remains unanswered: what is being done so that the same sad briefing is not given in two years, or in five years?

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UN Stonewalls as Alleged Biter Nixes Deal, Doss To Meet Hillary Clinton

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 10, updated -- In Criminal Court in lower Manhattan on Monday, former UN Development Program contractor Nicola Baroncini, who states that his job was stolen by the UN's top envoy in the Congo Alan Doss for his daughter Rebecca, rejected an offer of reduced charges and an anger management course in the assault case against him. His next court date is October 28.

  At the UN's regular press briefing later on Monday, UN Deputy Spokesperson Marie Okabe was peppered with questions about the pepper spray used on Mr. Baroncini, and from Inner City Press about about jurisdiction for investigation of Alan Doss, who is slated  in the midst of this development nepotism scandal to meet today with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

  Half an hour after the briefing, Ms. Okabe told the Press that UN Security, "as part of standard operating procedures, is looking into the incident" in which Officer Peter Kolonias was bitten, but only after Mr. Baroncini says he was tackled, handcuffed and pepper sprayed.

   Two months before the June 22 incident inside UNDP's building in which Mr. Baroncini was pepper sprayed and then bit UN Security Officer Peter Kolonias, Alan Doss wrote an email about awarding Baroncini's post as assistant to the Deputy Director of UNDP's Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific to his daughter.

   As first reported by Inner City Press, Doss asked to be shown "leeway" so that he could transfer from a UNDP to a UN Peacekeeping contract before or on the day she got to job, to evade anti-nepotism rules. Inner City Press first published the email on July 30, here.

   On August 10 in the courthouse at 100 Centre Street, Baroncini told the Press that July 1 was the last day Rebecca Doss could be given a UNDP contract that would not have to be reviewed by a higher panel. He insists, however, that for Rebecca Doss to have been considered and offered the job while her father was still with UNDP violated the rules. For 16 days now, the UN and UNDP have repeated that the matter is under review.

Alan Doss in the Congo, pepper spray and NY courthouse not shown

   The question arose Monday if immunity applies to Baroncini, or to the testimony that would be required later in the case from UN Security Officer Peter Kolonias. Some opined that Baroncini's immunity was lifted, by operation of law or by UNDP Administrator Helen Clark, who after more than 100 days in the post has yet to hold a press conference.

   Others named Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, himself sensitive to questions about nepotism following the promotion of his son in law Siddarth Chatterjee at the UN in Iraq and this year at the UN Office of Project Services in Copenhagen. Inquiries among the press corp have begun into the related hirings of Mr. Ban's daughter. It is all coming to a head. Watch this site.

Update of  1 p.m., August 10 -- at Monday's UN noon briefing, all of the questions were about the man bites man story originated by Inner City Press more than two weeks ago. Reuters, which is now preparing a piece on the matter, asked if Mr. Baroncini had been pepper sprayed before any biting took place. The Times of London, which reported on the story over the weekend, asked about immunity. Inner City Press asked how Alan Doss, the UN's envoy to Congo and an employee of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, can evade full investigation of his conduct by limiting the review to the Office of Audit and Investigation of UNDP, which no longer has jurisdiction over him. Inner City Press requested (again) in person media availabilities by UNDP's Helen Clark and the head of the UN Department of Safety and Security Gregory Starr. Watch this site.

Footnotes: the proceedings Monday morning in Room 405 of the courthouse at 100 Centre Street involved, one after the other, a defendant in a Miami Heat "Wade" jersey, handcuffed behind his back; another defendant, female, with a baby strapped in front; a defendant named Mamadou Bah with a seemingly disinterested assigned counsel; the removal of a camera from the Press, and admonitions to those in the courtroom not to wear caps, eat, drink or talk.

   One wondered how documented nepotism by the UN's top Congo envoy could devolve into retaliation against a whistleblower down this level. Don't call me the biter, Baroncini asked. I don't want my child (now two years old) to have that impression in twenty years. Okay then. We will continue reporting this story, with an array of related puns: the whistleblower's mordant critique of the UN's toothless protections against retaliation, the gnawing problem in the UN of nepotism, leading to an open and shut case.

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 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.

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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

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