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With UN Peacekeepers' Equipment, Anything Apparently Goes, As Frequency Inhibitors Called National Issue

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

UNITED NATIONS, June 27 -- In the wake of Sunday's bombing deaths of six Spanish peacekeepers with the UN Force in Lebanon, Spain has disclosed that the vehicle in which its peacekeepers were killed was not equipped with frequency inhibitors which would have prevented the use of remote-controlled detonation devices.

            Wednesday at UN headquarters, Inner  City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson whether other of UNIFIL's troop contributing countries, including from France, Italy, Ireland, Finland, Portugal, Belgium, Ghana, India, Indonesia and Nepal, will now use frequency inhibitors.

            "All of the equipment of each contingent is national in origins," the spokesperson read out in response. "The Department of Peacekeeping Operations engages with troops contributing countries in discussions not only about the rules of engagement but also about equipment. But it is a national issue." Video here, from Minute 14:39.

Ban Ki-moon with UNIFIL

            Inner City Press has been informed of other circumstances in which countries have sent peacekeepers with insufficient equipment, in response to which additional equipment has been provided. Some contingents arrived for peacekeeping service without appropriate helmets, and after some deaths, better helmets were provided.  

            In terms of weaponry, Inner City Press has previously reported that the incident last year at Kazana in the Democratic Republic of the Congo was sparked by the UN peacekeepers' use of out-of-date and defective ordnance, which flew off-line. More recently, the UN peacekeepers in Kosovo were found to have used out-of-date and hardened rubber bullets, resulting in two deaths (and so far, no accountability either from the shooters or their superiors who arranged for the use of decade-old rubber bullets).

            DPKO's Hedi Annabi took questions from reporters at the Security Council stakeout on Thursday afternoon. After a half-dozen questions and answers about Darfur, Inner City Press asked Mr. Annabi for DPKO's position on the use of frequency inhibitors, in UNIFIL and other missions.  Mr. Annabi declined to answer, saying "one issue at a time." Video here, at end.

Notably, about Darfur and Sudanese president al-Bashir's statement that no Westerners will be allowed to serve in the prospective UN peacekeeping force there, Mr. Annabi said that sometimes it is good not to hear, not to listen.

     News analysis: Not listening is not the best approach, with regard to frequency inhibitors.

            Inner City Press also asked, at the UN's noon briefing, about three investigations of DPKO that have recently been mentioned, but never followed up. The alleged beating up of reporters by UN peacekeepers in Liberia, of which an immediate investigation was announced, has not been followed up -- and was not, at Wednesday's noon briefing. Inner City Press asked that an update be provided on that, and also on two UN Office of Internal Oversight Services investigations into the UN's Mission in the Congo, the alleged trading of gold and guns, and more recently allegations of detention and torture. It may be, as the UN's Mission in Sudan has recently trumpeted, that these allegations are false. But once the UN and its DPKO announce an investigation, and defer questions until it is completed, there should be follow up.

            Finally, on DPKO, the UN General Assembly's Fifth Committee is slated later on Wednesday to approve a watered-down version of Ban Ki-moon's loudly-announced reform. Dropped from Ban's proposal is the shifting of procurement functions to the new Department of Field Services. And the new Under-secretary General for DFS is only approved for one year, although UN Controller Warren Sach is slated to read out the Secretariat's understanding that it is really being approved for two years. Really?

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