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UN Peacekeeping, in Bashir Run-Up, Pitches Haiti, Dodges Chad Fees and Lubanga

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

UNITED NATIONS, March 2 -- With UN Peacekeeping under fire from Sudan to Congo, its two largest missions, agency head Alain Le Roy told the Press on March 2 that there is "good news" in Timor L'Este and Haiti, elections to be held in Afghanistan, pay-offs and run-offs averted in Chad. Inner City Press asked if Chad's president Idriss Deby had tried to charge the UN for the airstrips the European Union mission has built in his country, as several Security Council ambassadors have said in confidence.

  Le Roy said it was difficult, but the outcome is that Chad will re-claim some of the airstrips built by the EU. We do not pay, he said. But at a closed-door Troop Contributing Country meeting in late 2008, several member states complained that Chad was charging landing fees. Transparency only goes so far at the UN.

  Le Roy's main pitch was about Sudan, in the run-up to the expected indictment of Omar al-Bashir for war crimes on March 4. Le Roy said the UN plan to keep moving peacekeepers in, from Egypt and Senegal, even Thailand and Nepal, to reach 80% staff-up by June.

  Inner City Press asked about the protest over the weekend by the UN's top man in Sudan, Ashraf Qazi, claiming he was misquoted that he gave information against Bashir to the International Criminal Court. Le Roy clarified that only "regular" information could be provided, reports already completed, "mostly" for the Security Council.

   Inner City Press had asked about the ICC's case against Congolese militia leader Thomas Lubanga, in which UN Peacekeeping gave information it demanded be withheld from the defense. These did not sound like "regular" reports. Nor would Le Roy confirm or deny, as Inner City Press requested, that the Congolese government of Joseph Kabila in March 2007 asked the UN to help arrest indicted war criminal Bosco Ntaganda, who is now working with rather than against Kabila's rag-tag forces. Again, transparency only goes so far at the UN.

UN's Alain Le Roy in Haiti, nothing but blue skies seen

  Still and all, Le Roy is one of the better informed UN Under Secretaries General who are trotted out to brief the Press.  Inner City Press has asked UN spokespeople about reports that Poland plans to pull out of UN peacekeeping missions, without any on-the-record response. Le Roy on March 2 said that Poland plans to stay in Chad until October, and that its reasons for pulling out are financial.

  The reality is that the UN pays countries for their peacekeepers. In fact, these payments are reported to have played a role in the deadly coup attempt in Bangladesh. The border guards who are said to have plotted the coup "make about $100 a month. Their resentment has been heightened by Army officers heading the border guards, who do not participate in United Nations peacekeeping missions, which bring additional pay."

  Thus, UN Peacekeeping can and does impacts in countries well beyond those in which it has formal peacekeeping missions. There have been no public updates on sexual abuse charges pending against contingents from Morocco, Sri Lanka and India. The previous official on the "zero tolerance" beat, Jane Holl Lute, is now in line to be the number two at the UN Department of Homeland Security. (Her "war czar" husband recently spoke at the University of North Florida.)  Where are the updates? Once again, transparency only goes so far at the UN.

Footnote: Le Roy mentioned "good news" from Haiti. That's not what a long-time Haitian journalist, standing Monday morning in the snow across First Avenue from the UN, told Inner City Press. In fact, some are alleging some UN complicity in the very crimes in Haiti being denounced. Ban Ki-moon, Le Roy said, is slated to travel to Haiti on March 9 and 10, with Bill Clinton. The snowy Haitian journalist has urged further investigations. We will have more on this.

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate including on MONUC

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

Click here for Inner City Press Nov. 7 debate on the war in Congo

Watch this site, and this Oct. 2 debate, on UN, bailout, MDGs

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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