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In Cote d'Ivoire, UN Silent on Copters & as Journalists Arrested After UN Flight

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 3 -- As the Cote d'Ivoire strategy of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and his ONUCI envoy Choi Young-jin is described as unraveling, the ONUCI Mission and UN no longer answer basic questions. Inner City Press has asked about events on January 28, in which two journalists flown from Bouake to Abidjan on a UN plane were immediately arrested.

 UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq on February 3 said that “UNOCI has not comment on this,” and argued that the arrest did not take place in flight, but after landing. But if the UN can't even protect civilians or journalists the moment they get off a UN plane, how can they comply with their protection of civilians mandate?

Inner City Press had asked and is asking the UN to

please confirm or deny the UN's / ONUCI's awareness of the arrest below, please explain how journalists could be arrested while flying on a UN operated flight, and regarding the helicopters voted on by the Security Council more than two weeks ago, please state between whom the “discussions” in your response of yesterday are taking place, and on what topic. Also, what were these helicopters doing with UNMIL until until two weeks ago, and now? The reported arrests:

Sanogo and Charly left Bouaké for Abidjan at about 3 p.m. on 28 January aboard a flight operated by the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Côte d'Ivoire (ONUCI). They were arrested on their arrival at the Abidjan air base by members of the Defence and Security Forces (FDS).”

Also on January 28, UN peacekeepers engaged with “young people” with “moderate force.” Inner City Press since then has been asking the UN and its Department of Peacekeeping Operations how young these people where and what safeguards were in place -- without answer.

So on February 3, Inner City Press asked the UN's Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict Radhika Coomaraswamy about the incident, and what rules apply to UN peacekepers engaging with child soldiers or activists.

Ms. Coomaraswamy said she would call for the use of “minimal” force -- to be contrasts with the “moderate” force ONUCI says it used.

Mr. Choi & peacekeeper, copters, "young people" and arrested journalists not shown

But when Inner City Press asked Ms. Coomaraswamy if her office had been notified by ONUCI or DPKO about their engagement with “youth people,” she said no.

Also, with the helcopters voted on by the Security Council more than two weeks ago still no in Cote d'Ivoire, Inner City Press has asked, among other things, “Regarding the helicopters for Cote d'Ivoire / ONUCI voted on by the Security Council more than two weeks ago, please state between whom the “discussions” in your response of yesterday are taking place, and on what topic.” Watch this site.

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In Cote d'Ivoire, UN Copters Absent After 2 Weeks, UN Passes Buck to Licorne

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 2 -- Two weeks after the UN Security Council with fanfare passed a resolution to send three attack helicopters and troops to Cote d'Ivoire, the UN on Wednesday confirmed to Inner City Press that the helicopters had not yet arrived.

The UN said “discussions” were ongoing, without saying with thom these discusses were. With defiant leader Laurent Gbagbo? With Alassane Ouattara holed up in the Golf Hotel?

Others have questioned, if the UN Mission in Liberia could so easily give these helicopters up, what was the US-supported Mission doing with them anyway?

India's Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri, on his way out of the Security Council on Wednesday morning, told the Press that the issue of the helicopters would be addressed with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon when he returns from his long trip to Switzerland, Addis Ababa and London.

Inner City Press asked Ban's deputy spokesman Farhan Haq to confirm the helicopters had not arrived, and why, asking the UN in writing:

Can you state the status of getting the three helicopters (and peacekeepers and other equipment) called for in the most recent Cote d'Ivoire resolution of the Security Council into Abidjan? If they are not in, what are the obstacles? What is the time frame? What assistance is the UN requesting?”

While awaiting response, Inner City Press asked this month's Security Council president Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti to confirm that the helicopters had not yet arrived, and how the Council follows up. She said she was not aware but would look into it.

Later on Wednesday, the UN sent this answer:

From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply [at]
Date: Wed, Feb 2, 2011 at 1:24 PM
Subject: Your question on UNOCI
To: Inner City Press

Regarding a question on whether helicopters from UNMIL have been transferred to UNOCI: Discussions are continuing on the issue of helicopters and they have yet to arrive in Cote d'Ivoire.

Where are these discussions? With whom?

UN & Licorne, which UN says "supports ONUCI" then won't answer

The UN has rebuffed other Cote d'Ivoire questions. Day after day since January 22, Inner City Press asked:

In Abidjan, much is being made of the stated discovery of assault helicopter parts in a shipment supposedly of food for the Force Licorne peacekeepers. This is a request that the UN and its mission in Abidjan, which is sure to have seen the now day-old story, state its understanding of what was in the shipment, respond to criticism”

After ignoring the question for more than a week, the UN finally dodged it, telling Inner City Press “On Cote d'Ivoire, your question should be addressed to Force Licorne.”

But France's Licorne is there under a UN mandate, and the scandal surrounding it impacts the UN presence. Watch this site.

* * *

At UN, Deal with Russia on Cote d'Ivoire Resolution Has Bamba Staying Silent, Speaks Afterwards to Inner City Press

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, January 19 -- As the UN Security Council on Wednesday morning belatedly adopted a resolution increasing UN forces and focus in Cote d'Ivoire, the new Alassane Ouattara appointed Ambassador Yousoufou Bamba sat at the Council table but did not speak.

On Tuesday, when the UN troops four week period ran out and the resolution was supposed to be adopted, arguments in the Council's closed door consultations focused on the procedural question of whether Ouattara's Ambassador Bamba could sit at the Council's horseshoe table, and if he could speak.

Russia opposed this, as well as demanding that the phrase “without prejudice to the freedom of expression” be added before a call to halt Radiodiffusion Television Ivoirienne (RFI) from “incit[ing] hatred and violence, including against the UN and particularly UNOCI.”

After Bamba sat in the meeting for the vote approving the amended resolution but did not speak, Inner City Press sent Bamba a text message asking for his reasons. He emerged from the Council and told Inner City Press, “I voluntarily chose not to speak, with the support of the African members, not to create a breach in the unity of the Council.”

Later it was explained to Inner City Press by the Permanent Representative of an African country not currently on the Council that it was mostly South Africa which implored Bamba not to speak, in order they said that the world not see that the Council is not, in fact, united.

UN's Ban and Bamba at swear-in, (c) MRLee

Inner City Press asked Bamba about Russia's demand that “without prejudice to the freedom of expression” be added to the resolution. Bamba said that's “not to silence their side” -- seeming to say that the Gbagbo “side” is Russia's side.

After a pause, Bamba came back to tell Inner City Press that “on behalf of the Ouattara administration,” he appreciates the increase in UNOCI's “defensive force” - he pointed at the phrase about “three armed helicopters with crews from UNMIL” as he said this -- and the RTI paragraph and “especially,” he said “the lifting of the blockage of the Golf Hotel without delay.” We'll see.

 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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