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At the UN, As Darfur Mission Described, Congo Misdeeds Unaddressed, Cote d'Ivoire Forgotten

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

UNITED NATIONS, August 7 -- "I am not a stevedore." So said the UN's head of Darfur operations Jane Holl Lute, using an archaic term for one who unloads ships.

            She had been asked about past complaints that the Sudanese government not only delayed, but also sabotaged, armored personnel carriers and other equipment sent via Port Sudan to the African Union force in Darfur

            Asked to respond to the claim by Sudan's Permanent Representative to the UN, Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem Mohamad, that the resolution as passed requires the UN to confer with the Sudanese government before endeavoring to protect civilians, Ms. Lute said she would let the Sudanese Ambassador's comments stand. Click here for a sample of his comments, and here for Ms. Lute's.

            Ms. Lute was dismissive of skeptics, including Jan Pronk, the UN envoy whom President al-Bashir threw out of the country for offending the Sudanese military, about whether the UN - AU hybrid mission to Darfur (UNAMID) will be hampered by its inability to engage in disarmament.

   For once, Ms. Lute did not say, "As a mother, as a soldier, I am outraged." The reason was, no questions about the various scandals surrounding UN peacekeeping were asked. Prior to the briefing, Inner City Press had e-mailed two questions to Ms. Lute and her spokesman:

"After the last DFS briefing in Room 226, I asked about a complaint, including of gem trading and other abuse, sent by email concerning MONUC, and asked to know how the complaint was investigated, and the outcome. Since then, sources in DRC have told us that a UN Peacekeeping "IndBatt simply stood by and took notes when FARDC Bravo Brigade looted non-food items distributed by UNICEF in North Kivu" in late July. This is a request for DFS' confirmation or denial, and comment."

            Perhaps UN peacekeeping, including Ms. Lute's Department of Field Support, feel that by neither confirming nor denying reports of wrongdoing by peacekeepers, the issues will go away or be forgotten. In this case, there's one problem -- Inner City Press asked the same question to UNICEF, which provided confirmation:

Subj: Kivu query 

From: [Communications at]

To: Inner City Press

Date: 8/6/2007 3:28:06 PM Eastern Standard Time

Dear Matthew, please see below a response to your question re DRC:

UNICEF is aware of the situation in North Kivu and sadly the looting by armed groups of civilians' possessions and supplies, including in some cases humanitarian non-food items, has occurred since the crisis escalated at the end of 2006.  UNICEF is not, however, aware of any populations who have received UNICEF assistance via partner organizations and have been deliberately targeted after having received this assistance.

            While UNICEF provides some reassurance, UN peacekeeping for now provides little.

Jane Holl  Lute: "I am not a stevedore."

At previous briefings, Ms. Lute has repeatedly pledged "zero tolerance," updates and accountability. But given an opportunity to shift the discussion to an upbeat, some say Pollyanna presentation of a projected UN solution in Darfur, complete with references to underground lakes of water and materiel suddenly flowing through Port Sudan, Ms. Lute provided not a single update on a single unresolved UN peacekeeping investigation.

            Not into the procurement scandal recently alluded to in the Congo, nor of the 700 Moroccan peacekeepers confined to base in Cote d'Ivoire. A recent returnee from Cote d'Ivoire tells Inner City Press of a UN peacekeeping battalion wherein visits to shopping centers and massage parlors are made at 11 in the morning. Ms. Lute previous challenged the press to let her know when reports of misdeeds are afoot. But if there's no follow-through, why?

* * *

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.

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

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