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As Cote d'Ivoire Says "Suppress" TV Station, UN Choi Says Nothing, Somalia?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 17 -- After Cote d'Ivoire Laurent Gbagbo delayed elections for the fifth time, his Ambassador to the UN Alcide Djedje complained to the UN Security Council on Wednesday that "the UN cannot validate a poll... with a private television in the area controlled by the rebels, which campaigns for one of 14 candidates."

Inner City Press asked Djedje at the stakeout that followed what he and the Gbagbo administration would like the UN to do about this television station. "It should be suprime," he answered: suppressed.

When the UN's envoy to Cote d'Ivoire Choi Young-jin came to the stakeout, Inner City Press asked him what the UN thinks of the Gbagbo administration's call to "suppress" a TV station.

I can only tell you the facts, Mr. Choi replied. There is a government station, and in Boike the rebel capital, there is "TV Ma Patrie."

But is the UN concerned by a government in a country with a large UN peacekeeping mission openly calling for the suppression of a TV station? We have to wait for the Ivoirians to deal with it, Choi in essence said.

So what about the UN's commitment to free press, or at least against government censorship or suppression? Inner City Press asked Ambassador Djedje what his government thinks of Choi. He is doing a good job, Djedje replied not surprisingly.

UN's Choi, Somalia not shown

Choi previously said that the voters list was fine. Now that Gbagbo wants 429,000 voters stricken from the rolls, Choi appears to have changed his position.

Choi himself may be changing position. Within the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, people have noted questions in Abidjan about Choi leaving the UN Mission in Ivory Coast. Inner City Press asked Choi. He replied that when he took the job two and a half years ago, it was to see the election held. "You'll be there a long time," more than one reporter retorted.

Senior UN officials approached Inner City Press later on Wednesday to talk about Choi moving to the UN mission on or about Somalia. Sure, Ahmedou Ould Abdallah, after calling for a moratorium on reporting on the killing of civilians by peacekeepers should many at the UN feel be replaced. But to pull Choi out of Cote d'Ivoire without holding the promised election? What this site.

Footnotes: Ambassador Djedje, after his stakeout, declined to give a business reporter his card. A business wire story included the day's price of cocoa, quoting a trader that its rise had more to do with weather than the atmosphere under Gbagbo. U.S. and European media views Cote d'Ivoire through a cocoa chocolate lens.

  Meanwhile a diplomat of a rising Asian power snarked to Inner City Press, why is France pushing so hard on elections, when elections can bring problems? French Ambassador Araud declined to speak at the stakeout, or in the hall, making a quip that seemed on the record but which we'll leave aside for now. The Asian diplomat wondered, of Myanmar as well, why the European powers are so openly obsessed about their former colonies. Why indeed.

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UN Says Ivorian Voter Registration "Is Over" Despite Dispute, Afghan Lessons Unlearned

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 13 -- In the wake of the UN's contested role in the fraud ridden election in Afghanistan, the Security Council on Tuesday met about the elections slated for November 29 in Cote d'Ivoire, where the UN has some 7000 troops. While Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo has dodged elections for some time, now he has been quoted that they're on.

Inner City Press asked the UN's top envoy to Cote d'Ivoire, Choi Young-Jin, about local reports that the registrations from some 213 registration stations have not been processed, eliminating eight percent of eligible voters. Video here, from Minute 4:32.

  "I think the processing is complete and credible," Choi Young-Jin ruled. "It's over." Video here, from Minute 4:32. He has used that word, "credible," before. But for example the Ivorian newspaper l'Expression

"blames what it called 'the scandal surrounding the voter registration' on the bodies that conducted the operation, namely, the National Statistics Institute and SAGEM (a French company), saying that they have botched up the work. The paper further revealed that the data which had been collected in some 213 registration centers were not processed, representing 8 percent of the total data that were not taken into account on the provisional voters' lists."

  Even beyond this eight percent, Mr. Choi acknowledges that 40% of the registrations have not been verified against historical records. He said he has a solution in mind, but wouldn't share it with the Press, but rather return to Cote d'Ivoire and play his "cards urgently and intelligently." He mentioned using mobile phone records.

  Inner City Press asked him if he could distinguish the UN's role in Afghanistan, where envoy Kai Eide is being called biases for incumbent Hamid Karzai. Mr. Choi answered, "I need my colleague in Afghanistan to answer you question." That would be... Kai Eide.

   One wag asked, but where is Mr. Choi's Peter Galbraith?

UN's Choi at stakeout, comparison to Afghanistan not shown

  When the Security Council President for the month, Vietnam's Ambassador Le Luong Mihn, came to the stakeout, Inner City Press asked him if there was any thinking to ensure that the UN's situation in the election in Afghanistan is not repeated in Cote d'Ivoire. "Today was on Cote d'Ivoire," he said. Video here, from Minute 2:53.
   Inner City Press tried again, asking if there was any analogy. "We did not discuss Afghanistan today," he insisted. But maybe they should have.

Footnote: Inner City Press also asked Mr. Choi if he or the UN had played any role in the settlement between Cote d'Ivoire and Trafigura about the toxic waste dumping. No, Mr. Choi said, that is a bilateral problem between Cote d'Ivoire and the company. A narrow mandate: but could it still blow up, a la Afghanistan? Mr. Choi said keep up the momentum. Watch this site.

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In Cote d'Ivoire, UN Calls Registration "Credible," Disagrees that Troops Aren't Needed

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 23 -- The UN's envoy to Cote d'Ivoire Choi Young-jin told the Press on Thursday that the contester voter registration process in the run up to long promised Presidential elections was "credible," and that there is no need to draw down UN peacekeeping troops in the country at this time. Local sources say that up to 20% of those who should have been registered to vote, weren't.

Meanwhile when Inner City Press asked Cote d'Ivoire's representative at the UN on Thursday if his country needs troops or peacekeepers, he said "no." An advisor to President Gbagbo told Inner City Press that the UN is spending over $400 million a year for reporting on crime, but will remain in the country "going to the beach" because that's how the UN works.

Another way the UN works in Cote d'Ivoire is to stay quiet. Inner City Press asked Mr. Choi if his office had any involvement in inquiring into the disappearance of journalist Guy Andre Kieffer, which an Army major recently blamed on those around the President's wife Simone Gbagbo. That is a bilateral matter, Mr. Choi twice said, declining to answer further. Video here, from Minute 9:29.

UN's Choi on July 23, response on missing journalist not shown

Later Mr. Choi made a sales pitch for his mission, saying it could become the most successful of all of the UN's 18 mission because Cote d'Ivoire has a budget of $5 billion a year, and 40,000 soldiers and police, all paid by the government. Inner City Press asked him, in light of the litany of negative reviews this month of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's first two and a half years, if he had any defense to offer, or if he thought his Mission was not praised enough by the press.

Choi largely avoided the questions, other than saying he is loyal to the Secretariat. That may have done without saying -- or, compared with the behavior and refusal to file financial disclosure and otherwise obey of certain other UN envoys, perhaps not. Watch this site.

Footnote: while Inner City Press didn't ask it this time, there has still been no reporting by Choi or the UN on what discipline, if any, was meted out to the Moroccan peacekeepers repatriated from Cote d'Ivoire in the face of accusation of sexual exploitation and abuse. A report should be given.

On the morning of June 5, Inner City Press obtained the draft resolution that, as a must-credit exclusive, it puts online here. Watch this site.

  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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