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As UN Peacekeepers Are Mourned, Ending Impunity and Exposing Corruption Are Key

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

UNITED NATIONS, May 29 -- With 107 UN peacekeepers killed in 2006, Under Secretary General Jean-Marie Guehenno said Thursday his focus is on individuals, on "the lives of the peacekeepers we have lost."

             At a briefing, Inner City Press asked Mr. Guehenno about one of the 107: Gyan Bahadur Akhikari of Nepal, killed by Peter Karim's FNI militia in Eastern Congo on May 28, 2006.

            Mr. Karim went on to kidnap seven more peacekeepers and hold them hostage for more than month. Immediately after releasing them, Karim was named a colonel in the Congolese Army. Now it emerges that since 2005, well before the UN's deal with Peter Karim, the UN was aware of and ostensibly investigating claims that Pakistan peacekeepers traded gold and guns with the FNI. Inner City Press asked Mr. Guehenno to address the appearance of impunity, and also why the "guns and gold" investigation has taken so long, in light of reports that the investigations was buried to placate Pakistan, a major troop contributing country. Video here, from Minute 31:04.

            "Impunity is not a good foundation for peace," Mr. Guehenno responded. He said "there might be a time for flexibility... that is for the Congolese authority to judge." But when a killer and kidnapper of UN peacekeepers is openly given a new uniform and position, is it any wonder if the lack of rule of law trickles down? And now the UN through UNICEF is once again relegated to counting the child soldiers Karim recruited, without taking any action against him.

            Mr. Guehenno declined to comment on the specifics of the gold and guns investigation of the UN's mission in Congo, MONUC. Previously, he and others are DPKO were tight-lipped about the torching of the Congolese village of Kazana, until DPKO -- and not the Office of Internal Oversight Services, OIOS -- churned out a typo-strewn self-exoneration.

    Tuesday, on guns and gold, Mr. Guehenno offered a generic defense, that often the accusers "have their fingers in the pot, and more  than their fingers." He said that "the job of our colleagues in OIOS [the ] is not an easy one." That an understatement in this case, if the reports that OIOS' investigators were held captive by Pakistani peacekeepers is true, click here for that.

Mr. Guehenno and Mr. Ban: looking at and into the narrative below?

            Because apparently it takes the UN's OIOS well over a year to conduct an investigation (which might never have been publicized if not for the BBC's reporting), and in the wake of numerous questions and requests from comment from DPKO having gone entirely ignored, from the mailbag, this narrative:

Subject: Corruption in UN DPKO.

From: [Name withheld]

To: Editorial [at]

Sent: Fri, 18 May 2007 1:06 PM

   I am a former UN DPKO Staff Member. I worked, first in Kosovo (UNMIK) and then in Congo (MONUC). Because of my position, I was very well involved with IT equipment requisitions, biddings analysis, procurement, deliveries, etc. and mainly to the ones dealing with the Indian companies (Telecommunications Consultants India Ltd - TCIL, Thunderbird Industries LLC, etc.). Most of these "activities" very well connected to "irregular" provisions of contractual staff, as well as to US$ millions in "missing" equipment (computers, radio-communication, tele-communication, etc.) in both UN Missions.

   In 2000, after a duty mission to UN DPKO Logistics Base in Brindisi, I realized many "wrong-doing" activities.  Investigating them further, I found many, many of them. I wrote related reports, and I tried -- for all ways -- to call the attention of my supervisors, about the so many, so many bizarre cases, in two of the UN DPKO Sections: "EDP" and "Communications" (today, both are merged in one: "CIT," Communications and Information Technology Section), without success. 

   In the Congo Mission, only for one-year budget, I discover that US $8 million in IT equipment was considered "missing," in related budget listings.(Here, I should say that most of the "in house developed" computerized applications, done by DPKO CIT, were completely useless, maybe related to some "interests." The "funny" issue was that all this equipment appeared in different UN DPKO budget documents as... already "delivered" (?!?)  Following many complains and discussions, I succeeded to "recover" US $3 million, but for the other US $5 million, the common answer always was: "nobody knows where they are."

   It was investigating about this "missing" equipment, that I discovered many "funny," related and  completely uncontrolled systems. Systems that fully profited different "holes" in the UN Control Procedures, like the one called "inter-mission equipment movement." A very important part of the most expensive CIT equipment was declared "missing," following these transfers. Another funny related method consisted in keeping, new and very expensive equipment, in the CIT Warehouses.  Following some funny rules, all equipment, after two years in the warehouse, "must" be declared "obsolete." Afterwards, most of this equipment also disappeared and again, nobody knows where they are. When you realize that, only a satellite dish (of a total of near 100, bought only using the MONUC budget) costs US $150,000 dollars !  The market streets in Kinshasa, and other main Congolese cities, were full of all this equipment ! complete and/or in pieces ...

   Galaxy, the current UNHQ automated recruitment system, was developed using the funds of the Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK).

[Editor's note: Inner City Press has recounted this tale of Jonathan Blankson before, most recently regarding this role in the still-withheld "List of Staff of the UN Secretariat," click here for that.]

   Galileo, the current UNHQ automated recovery system, was developed using the funds of the Mission in Congo (MONUC).

   If somebody quickly analyses the real costs of these "in-house" developed systems (there are so many, so many others, similar ones) staff, premises, hardware, software, logistics, administrative, will found out that they cost in reality: 50 to 100 times, the price of any similar system, currently in the market. Now if somebody takes the time, and analyses them deeply, the found-outs will shake the foundations of UN and DPKO.

   I will never forget the IT needs and requirements of PAE Daher, the aviation company, to operate the airports in Congo.  They were requesting equipment, sufficient to operate all airports in Africa !   I would like to help to avoid more corruption in UN DPKO. I would like also help in the current re-organization process; mainly in what I know very well: Information and Communication Technologies.  Thanks indeed of your kind attention.

            And that... is another side of the spirit of the UN peacekeeping, offered here in the spirit of listening to voices throughout the UN system. We also note that DPKO not long ago made its own accusations, insisting on anonymity, accusations that although disproved by the public record have never been retracted or even updated. To be continued.

Update, 6:15 p.m. May 29 -- At the opening of a UN Peacekeeping photo exhibit in the lobby, Jean-Marie Guehenno said that DPKO must live up to the highest standards, for the literally millions of people who count on the UN. The photographs include one of the German frigate Schleswig-Holstein, part of UNIFIL off the coast of Lebanon. DPKO has resisted disclosing how much Germany is being paid. But there are also profiles of, among others, Dr. Rinku Thapa of Nepal, serving in Ituri, and Captain Paul Ung, a Cambodian in Liberia. That, is what it (and the Day) are all about.

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