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UN Confirms Its Congo Peacekeeper's Gold "Facilitation," While Denying Gun Trading

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN

UNITED NATIONS, July 12 -- The UN on Thursday confirmed that at least one of its peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo moonlighted in the "exploitation" of gold, a commodity which has fueled Congolese rebel militias.

            But, the UN bragged, it absolved itself of re-selling guns to the rebels. "We are pleased that no evidence was found to support the allegations of involvement in weapons trading," the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations said-in-a-statement, below. "We are concerned that the investigation found evidence that one officer may have abetted or facilitated the exploitation of natural resources in the DRC."

            What will happen to the officer? It is up to the "troop contributing country," of which the UN is also defensive.

            At Thursday's noon media briefing, Inner City Press asked about the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services' "acknowledged inquiry into the alleged trading of guns for gold by peacekeepers in the DRC." From the transcript:

Inner City Press:  There's a recent report now saying that that inquiry, although MONUC was made aware of it in December 2005, didnít begin until August 2006.  Whatís the status of that inquiry and why would it not have begun until eight months after MONUC was informed of the charges?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I think I'm going to have to get back to you on the latter because I did have something that I thought was for the briefing, but I don't seem to have brought it with me.  So I will get back to you after the briefing on that.

[The Deputy Spokesperson later said that the inquiry had found no evidence of weapons trafficking, but did suggest that one officer had facilitated the exploitation of resources.  She added that the United Nations remained very concerned by these, and all such, allegations. We regret that our internal procedures took such a long time to run its course, but we have an obligation of due process, the Deputy Spokesperson said.]

            The question was not only why the investigation of events in 2005 ran through mid-2007, but more specifically, why a serious and now upheld allegation of peacekeeper involvement in the gold trade which was made in December 2005 was not investigated, at all, until August 2006.

MONUC's (and U.S.') William Lacy Swing, now with his eye on moving to the International Organization for Migration

   Here is the longer statement that the Deputy Spokesperson provided to Inner City Press by e-mail, on behalf of the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations:

The report found no evidence of weapons trafficking. It does suggest that one officer facilitated the exploitation of resources (rather than profiting himself), we remain very concerned by these, and all such, allegations. We regret that our internal procedures took such a long time to run their course, but we have an obligation of due process, as well as due diligence. We are pleased that no evidence was found to support the allegations of involvement in weapons trading. We are concerned that the investigation found evidence that one officer may have abetted or facilitated the exploitation of natural resources in the DRC.

We have shared the OIOS report and with their permanent mission and we are confident that they will follow up and take disciplinary action as appropriate. It is important not to lose sight of the fact that the member state in question is a major troop contributing nation with a long and distinguished record of service with the UN in the cause of peace. The good work that they have done to help stabilize the DRC should also not be overlooked.

            Duly noted. Pakistan has contributed some 10,000 troops to UN peacekeeping operations. And UN Peacekeepers, generally, provide needed and often thankless service (for which their governments charge).

   But the question remains: on what basis is the UN "confident that they will follow up and take disciplinary action as appropriate"?  When Romanian peacekeepers, as just one example, killed demonstrators in Kosovo with 13-year out of date rubber bullets, they went back to Romania and have faced no trial or punishment at all.  Some justice...

Feedback: Editorial [at] innercitypress.com

UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540

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UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540