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After Gambia Coup Bid, UN Feltman's Visit Canceled, UNDP 404

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 10 – Going back to late December, the UN has said the coup attempt in Gambia was important to it, even as it was mis-reported. On February 4, the UN told Inner City Press its official Jeffrey Feltman was going to the country.

 On the morning of February 10, Inner City Press learned that the visit had not taken place, that by some accounts President Yahya Jammeh had canceled it, after publication of an article online.

 Inner City Press looked online and found an article that might have triggered this, calling the previous visit of the UN's Mohammed Chambas a failure, and saying "This time the UN is dispatching United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman to visit Banjul on 4 February 2015 for an audience with the country’s leader Yahya Jammeh, according to a press statement from the UNDP."

  So Inner City Press went to the website of the UN "country team" in Gambia, run by UNDP, but when one clicks "news" it leads to a message of "404." Failure.

 At the February 10 noon briefing, Inner City Press asked UN deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq about all this. Video here.

  Back on February 4, having seen mention in the African press, Inner City Press asked UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Stephane Dujaric:

Inner City Press: Can you confirm that Mr. [Jeffrey] Feltman is going to Gambia on a follow-up to Mr. [Mohammed ibn] Chambas' visit?

Spokesman Dujarric:  I do believe he is in Gambia, and we will get more details.

Inner City Press:  And is there some reason that his schedule is not public? I mean, this was reported in the press there.  It seems when he goes places, he's representing the Secretary-General.

Spokesman:  I think we try to share his schedules.  Sometimes things fall through the cracks.  But, we try to be as open and transparent as we can

Inner City Press / FUNCA: Can you ask [the Department of Political Affairs] to put it online?

Spokesman:  Thousands of [Department of Political Affairs] staffers are probably watching this briefing.

Inner City Press:  I’m sure.

  Not only are Feltman's schedules not made public, as now formally requested by the Free UN Coalition for Access - just after this exchange, Ban Ki-moon held a lunch with scribes the Q&A of which has not been released. Click here for that.

The Gambia coup attempt was discussed for a second time in the UN Security Council on January 8, but discrepancies emerged.

On December 31, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that he “encourages the establishment of a transparent investigation into the events of 30 December, in compliance with due process and respect for the rule of law.”

  The call for a transparent investigation was missing from the January 8 briefing by UN official Chambas, who told the Security Council  “I am planning to visit Banjul on 14-15 January and meet with President Jammeh. I will reiterate our firm condemnation of any attempt to seize power by unconstitutional means, and encourage the Gambian authorities to work with the support of international partners, to ensure the credibility of judicial procedures and the respect of human rights.”

  Afterward Inner City Press asked Chambas about the different, and on behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access about radio station Taranga FM, shut down during the coup bid and now told to play only music.

   Chambas told Inner City Press he had not heard of the station -- Inner City Press in the hallway urged him to tune it in while he is in Bangui, to see if it is only music -- and spoke of trying to liberalize West Africa. We'll see.

  Before 10 am on December 31, Ban Ki-moon issued a 123 word statement calling for restraint and an investigation of the attempt in the The Gambia, albeit not mentioning the name of the target of the coup, Yahya Jammeh.

  After the Security Council's 45-minute meeting, Inner City Press asked the Council's president who is supposed to do the investigation Ban had called for before the meeting. He responded that UN official Chambas will go to Banjul; Inner City Press later learned and published that this will take place on January 2.

  Reuters however reported that "Following brief talks at the U.N. Security Council, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for a transparent investigation into the events and also urged restraint."

 This is false.

   Ban's statement was at 9:37 am; the Security Council meeting didn't start until 10 am, and didn't end until 10:45 am. (At that time, Inner City Press asked Ban's Under Secretary General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman for more detail; he replied that since Ban had issued a statement, he had nothing to add -- all too common at the UN, as pointed out and opposed by the Free UN Coalition for Access.)

  Reuters was not present at the UN Security Council stakeout before, during or after the meeting on Gambia (Tweeted photo here), and apparently not in the UN building either. The crediting on the above quoted story is "Reporting by David Lewis and Diadie Ba in Dakar, Lesley Wroughton in Washington, Louis Charbonneau in New York; Writing by David Lewis and Matthew Mpoke Bigg; Editing by Giles Elgood."

  Six journalists listed; one outright falsehood. What does Reuters do in these cases? We've asked management including Stephen J. Adler before, amid censorship, with no real answer. #ReutersFail.

  Since then, African Union commission chief Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has expressed "preoccupation" and rurged deepening "democracy and the respect for human rights."

  By the time of Ban's 9:37 am December 31 statement, later misrepresented by Reuters, the US had already issued a statement: “The United States is aware of reports of a coup attempt on December 30 in The Gambia. We strongly condemn any attempt to seize power through extra-constitutional means. We regret the loss of life and call on all parties to refrain from further violence.”

    Thirteen hours later when Ban Ki-moon issued his statement, he went a bit further and cited calm and called for an investigation, apparently by Jammeh's government itself:

“The Secretary-General is following closely developments in The Gambia. He reiterates the United Nations principled condemnation of all attempts to seize power through unconstitutional means. Referring to reports that indicate that the situation in Banjul is calm, he calls for all parties to exercise restraint and to refrain from further violence.

“Noting the seriousness of any attempt to overthrow governments by force, the Secretary-General encourages the establishment of a transparent investigation into the events of 30 December, in compliance with due process and respect for the rule of law. In that regard, he urges the Government of The Gambia, and its security and defense forces to act in full respect for human rights. The United Nations will continue to closely monitor the situation.”

  When the UN Security Council meeting on the topic began at 10:10 am on December 31, there were tumbleweeds at the stakeout in front. Some may denounce The Gambia, but at the UN or at least in its press corp, there is not apparently much interest.

  When the meeting ended, in less than 45 minutes, Inner City Press asked Feltman about it. He said since the SG had issued a statement, he had nothing to add. In 2015, the Free UN Coalition for Access will be pressing for all UN Under Secretaries General to answer questions.

  Finally, the Security Council's president for December, from Chad, came and summarized the meeting, saying that UN official Chambas, previously the head of UNAMID in Darfur, will file a report. There have been problems with UNAMID's reporting.

 (Again in terms of micro-news, Inner City Press is exclusively told by sources that Chambas will go to Gambia on Friday, January 2. Since the UNSC President was asked on camera when Chambas would go and only said "soon," call it a coup scooplet.)

  Inner City Press asked the outgoing Security Council president about the December 30 closed door meeting about Sudan throwing out two UN officials, Yvonne Helle and Ali Al-Za'tari. He said he couldn't speak, nothing had been agreed to. Which is why the UN Secretariat should have spoken and taken questions, as FUNCA requested and will continue to request in 2015. Watch this site.


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