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On Congo, US Role Avoided as Austria Pushes Call for Planning Past France, UK and Uganda

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

UNITED NATIONS, February 17 -- In the wake of reports of hundreds killed in northern Congo by the Lord's Resistance Army, following an offensive against the LRA partially funded and planned by the United States, and another hundred civilians killed in the Kivus, the UN Security Council members met Tuesday and afterwards released a short statement of a "convergence of their views."

  Although bland, Council sources tell Inner City Press that the France, the UK and Uganda initially opposed issuing even this statement, which called on "all parties" to protect civilians, and for the "governments in the region to coordinate with MONUC," the UN Mission in the Congo. A new Council member so far little noticed, Austria, pushed to have the statement issued, gained support from fellow non-permanent members like Mexico and Costa Rica, and after some back and forth the three opponents gave in. In the Council's typical fun-house practice, France which initially opposed issuing a statement but which has much history in the region ultimately was the sponsor of the statement.

  The French-founded group Medecins Sans Frontieres has criticized MONUC for failing to protect civilians from the LRA. Inner City Press asked top UN humanitarian John Holmes about the critique, and he responded that MSF ought not to criticize the UN, but only the LRA. He said the Council had done its part by authorizing 3000 new troops for MONUC. Inner City Press asked how many of those will go to north Congo where the LRA continues rampaging. "That's up to the force commander," Holmes said. Video here, from Minute 2:28.

   So there does not appear to be a concrete plan in place to protect civilians from the LRA.

MONUC police, LRA and Council games not shown

  On the inclusion of Bosco Ntaganda, indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Count, in the Congolese army with which the UN work, Holmes said, "Let's see." Council president Yukio Takasu told Inner City Press that while Bosco was not raised by name in the Council's closed-door consultation, there was discussion that those who kill civilians should be prosecuted. Video here, from Minute 7:46. As Holmes said, let's see.

  Japan's Ambassador Takasu, who as president read out the Council's statement, likewise couldn't say how many of the 3000 troops would go to the north. He said more than troops are needed, mentioning helicopters and "planning." Inner City Press asked about the U.S. having helped the Ugandan military with planners, money and intelligence -- did Takuso or Council members think that the U.S. should have "coordinated with MONUC," as the statement called on "governments in the region" to do?  Did the US' role even come up inside the Council?

  "Not specifically," Ambassador Takasu said. Video here, from Minute 6:06. Council sources confirmed this. Perhaps the new US administration is getting a honeymoon at the UN and Security Council as well.

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.

* * *

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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