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Accident Shows UN Police Guard Liberia Ministry, Can't Use Toilet There, Loj on Base

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 20 -- From Liberia, Inner City Press received troubling whistleblower reports earlier this week and sought confirmation, on matter ranging from the deaths of UN peacekeepers and the facilities they are provided, to the unique lodging arrangement of the UN's Special Representative in Monrovia.

To a series of UNMIL spokespeople, Inner City Press asked:

Please confirm or deny, and comment: A member of India’s all-female police unit deployed by UNMIL has been seriously hurt in a traffic accident on or about 17 Oct, in Monrovia.

Please confirm or deny, and comment: Ms. Sheena, a constable, is battling multiple fractures of limbs and head injuries at a local hospital.

Please confirm or deny, and comment: the injured constable, a member of the team guarding the Liberian President’s office round the clock, was crossing the road past midnight looking for bush cover to relieve herself due to lack of adequate toilet facilities at the deployment site for the female police team.

Please confirm or deny, and comment: female peacekeepers have to rely on bush cover at night to answer nature’s call;

Please confirm or deny, and comment: So far three Indian peacekeepers have died while on UN peacekeeping duty in Liberia since their deployment four years ago;

Please confirm or deny, and comment: two of them in traffic accidents and one due to lack of proper and timely medical attention for illness.

Please confirm or deny, and comment: the SRSG in Liberia living in a UN-furnished, UN maintained apartment lavishly decorated at the expense of the United Nations.

Please confirm or deny, and comment: the free, UN maintained accommodation is part of her contract.

Please confirm or deny, and comment: the rest of the staff in the UN Mission in Liberia, including 2 Deputy SRSGS and the entire staff stay in rented houses paying between US $1,000 and 3,000 every month.

  Inner City Press sent these questions to UNMIL spokesperson Yasmina Bouziane then to Michael Sahr, Margaret Odoch-Jato and Zayzay Kolubah, finally receiving responses from Ms. Bouziane, 24 hours after the stated deadline:

Subject: Re: Press questions re UNMIL, on deadline from resident correspondent at UN HQ
From: Yasmina Bouziane
Date: Wed, Oct 20, 2010 at 11:46 AM
To: Matthew Lee [at]
Cc: Martin Nesirky, Farhan Haq, Nick Birnback, Susan Manuel, George Somerwill, Anayansi Lopez, Josephine Guerrero, Ben Malor, Michel Bonnardeaux

Dear Mr. Lee,

Please find below responses to the queries you raised on behalf of Inner City Press.

Regarding the traffic incident on the 17th of October involving an UNMIL Female FPU in Monrovia, the investigation is still on-going to determine the exact circumstances of the incident.

The UNMIL FPU member is in stable condition after being treated at the UN Level 3 Jordanian medical hospital, for a minor head injury and a broken arm and leg. Last Sunday 17th October, the President of Liberia, accompanied by the UNMIL SRSG, paid a visit to the patient at the hospital. The President and the SRSG expressed their support and appreciation for the commitment of all UNMIL FPU staff in carrying out the duties mandated to them.

UNMIL is indeed saddened to have lost 3 Indian FPU staff since the beginning of the mission; two (one man and one woman FPU member) died in the course of performing their duties and one woman succumbed to illness with complications caused by malaria and typhoid; the Police Contributing Country expressed satisfaction at the level of care that was given to the FPU staff at the time.

On your query regarding lavatory facilities for the FPU guard post located outside the Ministry of Foreign Affairs building: Existing arrangements are in place for access to the near-by UNMIL Headquarters Annex building, which is a 2 minute walk from the guard post.

Loj & female peacekeepers at UNMIL, toilet and apartment not shown

As for your queries about accommodations:

The UNMIL SRSG lives in a simple furnished apartment within the UNMIL headquarters. The SRSG pays for the accommodation herself, according to the UN rules and regulations that govern all staff members who are provided with UN accommodation.

The SRSG’s acceptance to stay within the headquarter premises saves the mission resources it would have otherwise used to provide security arrangements, if she had taken up an outside residence.

As for all other UN staff members, they are responsible for obtaining their own accommodation which must have a UN mandated minimum level of security, known as MORSS compliance. The costs of the accommodations are borne by the staff members and it is up to the discretion of an individual staff member how much he or she wishes to spend on living space within the local price range available.

  Sticking for now to the accommodations questions -- it is amazing that the UN would send its peacekeepers to guard a Liberian ministry without making provision for them to use the toilet there, and that the President of Liberia would accept this, even after her visit -- it remains to be seen how much Ellen Margrethe Loj pays for this on-base housing.

In Darfur, executives like in four contiguous trailers in what's called “Guantanamo Bay,” surrounded by barbed wire. Liberia is described as much safer -- except, it seems, for Indian peacekeepers. To be continued, watch this site.

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Fear & Loathing in Darfur, Of UN's Curfew & Low Morale, Gambari VIP Culture

By Matthew Russell Lee

EL FASHER, October 8 -- Even as spruced up Thursday for the visit of the UN Security Council, there was a feeling of fear and boredom and low morale at the joint African Union - UN Mission in Darfur. After the Council's delegation was met by protests at the gate of the El Fasher airport, its convoy rushed into UNAMID's compound, surrounded by concertina wire and earthen barriers against suicide car or truck bombs.

  At and even before the Council's first meeting, limiting the program and visits was the topic, even though Internally Displaced People in a nearby IDP camp had been quoted as waiting to be visited by the Council.

  Inside the UNAMID compound, when Inner City Press sought to leave the air conditioned space into which the media were shepherded, a UNAMID minder said “You are really not supposed to be wandering around. [Wherever you go] I'll go with you.”

  Along the path to the restrooms, men lounged on the sidewalk, and offered greetings to Inner City Press. Later, without the UNAMID minder, Inner City Press was approached by and spoke with a range of people inside UNAMID's so called Super Camp, which military contractor Lockheed Martin was given a sole source contract to build, unsuccessfully.

  UNAMID staff described a curfew imposed on them: none of the required four wheel drive vehicles can be used after 7 pm, and no two wheel drive vehicles or walking outside the camp after 10 pm.

  Even staff whose job would seem to require leaving the Super Camp told Inner City Press they rarely if ever leave. Their highlight seems to be going on vacation.

  After six weeks, these staff are given five days vacation and two travel days, seven consecutive working days in total. Those interviewed said they largely go to Europe, only to return against to what one called an unhealthy house arrest.

  Isn't there a gym or work out facility? There is, was the response, but it is not a good one and is poisoned by what is called UNAMID's “VIP culture.” It was noted that UNAMID Joint Special Representative Ibrahim Gambari flies about in a Lear Jet, unlike his counterpart in South Sudan.

UNAMID 4x4, curfew, low morale & Gambari's Lear Jet not shown, (c) MRLee

  This virus seemed to spread to the Security Council's dinner Thursday night. While initially two tables for journalists had been set up in their room, before it began the tables were moved outside. Even though two UNAMID staff later asked the Press if offense had been taken, the VIP message resonated.

  Earlier on Thursday, when the UN plane from Juba was found to have one too many people aboard, a Sudanese journalist who had been permitted for the flight and to report from Darfur was ordered by UN Security to get off the plane or be “forcibly” removed.

   After his backpack was thrown to the floor, the three other Sudanese journalists left with him in solidarity. Still the Council has had nothing to say about what's viewed as disparate treatment or even, to some, discrimination.

What is being accomplished by the Super Camp bound UNAMID? Inner City Press had wanted to ask UNAMID chief Gambari about detailed reports it has received about UNAMID peacekeepers refusing to leave their bases to protect civilians, saying they must await “permission.”

Inner City Press earlier obtained and published an internal UNAMID document to this effect, show inaction after the murder of at least 47 people in the Tarabat Market:

“At about 1800hrs on 02 Sep 2010, UNAMID Police Advisors received unconfirmed information from locals in Tawilla IDP camp that unidentified armed men attacked Tabarat Market near Maral village about 28kms southwest of Tawilla, where about 30 people were killed and more than 70 others were injured.

“The information was received by the PF Force Commander Major Aimable Rukondo from relatives of victims in Tawilla IDP camp. At about 2030hrs, people from the Tawilla IDP camp gathered near the gate of Tawilla UNAMID Base requesting for assistance to evacuate their relatives who were in Tabarat market. The PF Commander together with the Acting Team Site Commander advised the relatives that prior approval from El Fasher Headquarters is needed before proceeding to the place and with that they were advised to be back to Tawilla Base tomorrow morning for possible medical evacuation movement to Tabarat market once it has been approved by the higher Headquarters.”

  Gambari has yet to explain this document. But on Thursday night, Gambari approached Inner City Press, not about this but another exclusive publication of leaked documents: Gambari's drafts to Sudanese foreign minister Ali Karti, showing Gambari on the verge of turning over five supporters of rebel Abdel Wahid Nur to the regime of Omar al Bashir, already indicted for genocide and war crimes. These documents have led Abdel Wahid Nur to say that if the turn over occurs, UNAMID will have become complicit in genocide.

After Gambari's outburst -- first reported here -- Inner City Press was told that there had been a “security incident” regarding which no further description would be provided to Inner City Press, since “you'll probably get the scoop.” A UNAMID staff member was kidnapped. In a guest house surrounded by barbed wire and patrolled -- virtual house arrest -- Inner City Press sat down under an overhead Pak Fan and set about transcribing Gambari's remarks. Watch this site.

Watch this site, follow on Twitter @InnerCityPress.

 Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

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.

* * *

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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