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As Nigeria Jails UN Peacekeepers for Mutiny, UN's Le Roy Advocates for Indulgence

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

UNITED NATIONS, June 25 -- Following questions about Nigeria imposing life sentences on 27 soldiers who had served as UN peacekeepers and then were not paid, top UN peacekeeper Alain Le Roy provided an update to the Press on June 25. "I raised the point myself with the Minister of Defense of Nigeria," he told Inner City Press. "The peacekeepers did a good job where they were, they came back and they considered themselves unpaid, and made a demonstration."

   Inner City Press asked Mr. Le Roy why they had not been paid. Le Roy sited a "mistake in name, other were paid instead of them. Some were condemned and punished." But, he added, "the Nigerians said that soldiers' demonstration is considered as mutiny. According to military law, for mutiny there is only one sentence, which is life in prison."

    What then is going to be done? "They are now appealing, two times if they lose the case," Le Roy said, adding, "I advocated for that, I considered that the solider had made a good job on the terrain.... Military courts, we are all fine with that. But we hope there will be a, how do you say, indulgence."  This last was said with a French accent.

Alain Le Roy in the Congo, Bosco not shown (but told)

  Later on Thursday, Le Roy stopped Inner City Press again, to emphasize that Nigeria is a sovereign country and has made no promises about the outcome of the peacekeepers' appeals, nor about granting any indulgence -- it has only been asked for.

Footnote: Le Roy confirmed that Nigeria General Martin Luther Agwai will be leaving his post as Darfur mission force commander at the end of August. Inner City Press ran by Le Roy the nationality of his replacement and there was nodding, along with a statement that it hasn't yet been made public, "it is not official yet." In this case, in context, we can and will wait. Watch this site.

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In Sudan, Nepali APCs Grounded Due to UK Trainers, UNMIS Strike Averted by Dollars

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

UNITED NATIONS, June 1 -- The complexity of the UN's presence in Sudan was on display at UN Headquarters on May 29. In a press conference on the international day of peacekeepers, UN official Alain Le Roy and Susana Malcorra were asked about a range of UN - Sudan issues. The real answers, at least as regards grounded peacekeeping police in Darfur, were given after the press conference.

  Inner City Press asked Ms. Malcorra to explain why a unit from Nepal of more than 100 police were in Darfur while their armored personnel carriers are stuck in Port Sudan. Previously, the UN told Inner City Press vaguely that it was a training issue, that the Nepalis had to go to the Czech Republic for training on the APCs they'd bought.

  But Friday, after Malcorra and Le Roy had both said that the Nepali APC problem was being solved by training, Inner City Press was told by a UN official who asks that his name not be used that initially the Nepalis had shown up with British trainers on how to use the Czech APCs. But Sudan, he said, did not let the British trainers in, thereby causing a waste of money and police power in Darfur.

UN's Le Roy in Sudan, British APC trainers not shown
   Inner City Press asked, why wasn't this foreseen? Why did the UN contract with Nepal for APCs they didn't know how to use, and trainers from a country whose Ambassador to the UN has said he didn't go to Sudan because then he'd have to meet a war criminal, the president? We can't tell TCCs [Troop Contributing Countries] which nationality of trainer to bring, the UN official said. If the UN mission is supposed to be saving people, why not?

    Inner City Press asked Ms. Malcorra to confirm or deny that the UN's staff in the UNMIS mission in South Sudan are or were in the verge of going on strike. Malcorra to her credit confirmed it, explaining that due to a lack of Sudanese currency, the UN had been paying the staff in U.S. dollars.

   Then, the UN reverted to Sudanese currency without any advance notice, and the staff rebelled. The UN has gone back to dollars for this month and next, she said, but the UN cannot "continue with hard currency" now that there's enough Sudanese currency in the area. Who knew?

   Of Mr. Le Roy, Inner City Press asked for a comment on Sudan's complaint that the spokesman for UNAMID in Darfur improperly disclosed the location of Sudanese troop fighting an incursion from Chad by the Justice and Equality Movement. Le Roy countered that part of the UN's mission is to report on facts on the ground, they'd just gotten it wrong in this instance. But why then is the UN so resistant to reporting on or even confirming casualty figures in Sri Lanka?

  Going further than Mr. Le Roy did when Inner City Press asked on May 10, Ms. Malcorra on May 29 said that the UN will begin publishing on its web site at least how many peacekeepers were in fact disciplined by the country after charges of sexual abuse or exploitation. We'll see.

  Le Roy also went further than on May 10 in saying that on the case of the 27 Nigerian peacekeepers given life sentences for their complaints against not getting paid for their UN service, he will raise it in Nigeria next month. Malcorra said she would look into the case of a female Nigerian peacekeeper who has alleged being pressures for sex while in UN service, as raised by the Guardian's correspondent. Malcorra also said she will read a study about how air transport companies involved in illegal arms running are also used for peacekeeping. We'll see. Watch this site.

Footnote: one question that couldn't get asked or answered on May 29 is whether, as Russian sources say, there was a split between the Department of Political Affairs, as it is run, which wanted the name "Abkhazia, GEORGIA" in the Secretary-General's recent report, and DPKO which was fine with just the numbers of the applicable Council resolutions. This question, about splits among UN Under Secretaries General, should be answered. Watch this site.

Georgia Accuses Russia of "Blackmailing" UN on Abkhazia, Ban's 2nd Term Mentioned

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

UNITED NATIONS, May 27, updated May 28, DPRK draft here -- Russia "blackmailed" the UN Secretariat of Ban Ki-moon into changing Mr. Ban's report on Abkhazia, Georgia's Ambassador to the UN Alexander Lomaia told the Press on Wednesday. Inner City Press asked if he meant that Russia threatened to veto the resolution to extend the mandate of the UN observer mission there, or as many have speculated threated to veto a second term as Secretary General.

  Ambassador Lomaia said he has heard that, but that the threat he knows of "first had" is to veto the resolution to extent the mission's mandate, set to expire on June 15. Video here, from Minute 25:39.

  Since the conflict of last August in which, after Georgia sought to retake to frozen conflict zones, Russian recognized as independent both Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Russia has urged changes to the name of the "UN Observer Mission in Georgia," UNOMIG. To Russia, these areas are not longer Georgia. Therefore, according to Lomaia, Russia walked out of the talks on the areas in Geneva, until the UN re-titled its report.

  Lomaia mentioned Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's visit with Ban Ki-moon on May 11 as part of the "pressure of Russia on the Secretariat." Video here, from Minute 13:19. After Ban Ki-moon wouldn't call Kosovo's breakaway from Serbia illegal, rumors circulated that Russia was threatening to veto Ban's future bid for a second term. Since then, Ban's position on Kosovo was become more pro Serbian and Russia, and now the report on Abkhazia [Georgia] is renamed. Lomaia called it blackmail. Only two journalists asked questions.

Georgia's Lomaia, who says UN's Ban's Secretariat was "blackmailed" by Russia

   Inner City Press asked about the unrest in Georgia, and also whether the country recognizes Kosovo's declaration of independences. Lomaia, whose predecessor Irakli Alasania is now a major opposition figure, said that Georgia respects the rights to free speech. On Kosovo, he said as he had to that Georgia does not recognize Kosovo's independence. When Inner City Press pointed out that on this, non-recognition of Kosovo, Georgia has the same position as Russia. Lomaia scoffed. He said that unlike Georgia's, Russia's commitment to sovereignty and territorial integrity is selected.

  Comparative analysis: Given Russia's support of the Abkhazians' and South Ossetians' breakaway from Georgia, Russia's decided opposition to independence aspirations by Tamils in the northern part of Sri Lanka is striking. Russia focuses on the LTTE as terrorists, and anaogizes to Chechnya or the terrorist taking of the school in Beslan. Georgia claims that Abkhaz and South Ossetians engaged in ethnic cleansing, but does not use the word terrorism. Selectivity is everywhere. Watch this site.

Diplomatic footnote: after a by-invitation only briefing at the US Mission to the UN Wednesday afternoon, unrelated wire service  stories were published quoting unnamed... "U.N." diplomats that an agreement in principles on sanctions against North Korea had been reached. On May 28, France's Ambassador briefed selected journalists in the UN Delegates' Lounge, reportedly leading to a protest by uninvited television journalists perceived to be more interested in the Middle East. By contrast, Georgia's Ambassador Lomaia made his charges on the record on UN TV and took questions from any journalist who chose to come.

   Russia is somewhere in the middle: Ambassador Churkin spoke only briefly in English on UN TV -- Inner City Press asked for Russia's view on Ban's security zone proposal, Churkin said, Too early, video here from Minute 1:11 -- but then long longer to Russian media. It was translated for Inner City Press as including that Russia will seek an embargo against offensive weapons to Georgia. Lomaia bristled that Georgia has a right to reach what agreements it wants. And to say whatever it wants, apparently. We will continue to cover this.

Update of May 28 -- the following was put out by the UN:

Subj: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Georgia
From: unspokesperson-donotreply [at]
To: Inner City Press
Sent: 5/28/2009 1:33:57 P.M. Eastern Standard Time

The claim by the Georgian Permanent Representative that the Secretary-General amended his report on Georgia in response to “Russian blackmail” is categorically rejected. The statement itself is very unfortunate.

The principal concern of the Secretary-General in the drafting of his Report has been that all concerned parties should engage on the substantive issues in question, more specifically on a mechanism to guarantee safety and security in this troubled region. The adoption of the title was meant to avoid unnecessary politicization of the debate among members of the Security Council and reflected his view of what all members could live with.

The Secretary-General rejects any suggestion that any threats were made to him in this connection.

   Note the phrase "any" threats...

Update of May 28, 6:20 p.m. --
Russian Ambassador Churkin came out of the Council's North Korea consultations to speak, not about the draft DPRK resolution which Inner City Press obtained and exclusively published Thursday morning, but rather about Georgia, and mostly in Russian. Inner City Press asked if he denies Georgia's claim that Russia blackmailed Ban Ki-moon into changing the title of the Secretariat's report on Abkhazia / Georgia. Yes, he denies it. Amb. Churkin asked, You don't speak Russian yet? Watch this site.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

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

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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