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Biometrics in DRC Explained by IOM As UN Ladsous Dodges & Passes Bodies

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 5 -- After the Democratic Republic of Congo sanctions report was put online in full text exclusively by Inner City Press, the UN has refused to answer whether it supports the Congolese Army units depicted in the report raping, looting, recruiting child soldiers and supporting the FDLR militia.

Inner City Press asked again on July 5.  Associate Spokesperson Farhan Haq had no answers, but claimed that the UN always answers questions even if late. But why can't UN Peacekeeping say in six days if it supports these units? Isn't that information kept in a computer?

  (Now the BBC has joined Bloomberg News in crediting Inner City Press for the exclusive publication (or "leaking") of the report, here.)

  Meanwhile, by contrast, the International Organization on Migration gave Inner City Press a detailed answer to its question about IOM's “biometrics” pilot, mere hours after it and the Free UN Coalition for Access requested the information:

Subject: RE: Press question about IOM's DRC press release and biometric pilot, thanks
From: DE BOECK Laurent [at]
Date: Fri, Jul 5, 2013 at 12:53 PM
To: Inner City Press, FUNCA [at]

Dear Mattheuw, Thank you for your interest. Please find below the response to your queries.

What does the Biometric Registration System consist of?

IOM DRC is currently in the process of setting up a pilot biometric registration system to be implemented in targeted displacement sites in Goma, North Kivu. This is being done in response to a current gap in humanitarian operations in North Kivu. Lacking a national registry of population, and specifically vulnerable populations, IOM and other humanitarian organizations have had to use manual registration process relying on, typically, worn and outdated voter registration cards issued by the Government of DRC to identify and track beneficiaries of aid. The proposed biometric registration system is based on previous IOM implementation including, but not limited to, Sudan (pictures attached). The process consists of finger print devices and servers to store and cross-check the information.

How many people will it apply to – target beneficiaries ?

As a pilot phase, the project will start being implemented in Goma region, targeting about 150,000 individuals staying in 4 spontaneous sites and 1 camp.

How will the information be used and with whom will it be shared?

This information will be used to identify and verify Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in areas of implementation. Due to the value of such information, IOM will adhere to strict information management principles while also engaging in information sharing with humanitarian organizations in need to such information, including the World Food Programme who was a principal partner of us in the digital registration in Sudan. A digital process would allow for more efficient e-voucher programmes and smart cards for food distribution.

Associated problems with Registration (corruption, inefficiencies etc.)

In DRC, people do not have any ID. The only proof of identity is the electoral card but unfortunately, the majority of the IDPs do not have it. As a consequence, it is very challenging to control the real identity of each person which obviously creates a number of issues during distributions. Also, IDPs in North Kivu have been regularly displaced for the past few years. As a consequence, they are usually fully aware of the mechanisms put in place by the humanitarian community to give the assistance. In Goma, people will register in different sites/camps or will split their households in order to receive few NFI kits instead of one unique for the whole family. Moreover, it remains also challenging to distinguish autochthones from displaced people, above all in an urban context such as Goma.

  This response on the use of “biometrics” stands in contrast to whistleblowers' allegations that the chief of the UN Mine Action Service in Somalia David Bax shares genetic information with US intelligence -- which UNMAS and DPKO have refused to confirm or deny for 11 days now --- and with Herve Ladsous saying that the dead body of an assailant in Darfur has been kept to help identify who the assailants were.

  Inner City Press asked Haq about the legality of keeping dead enemies' bodies; he replied that Ladsous meant it was turned over to Sudan's government for keeping -- as if that's better. Ladsous met with ICC-indicted Omar al Bashir; the UN called it “strictly necessary.” Really? Watch this site.

But wait: from DPKO we do have one answer, this:

From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply [at]
Date: Wed, Jul 3, 2013 at 1:25 PM
Subject: Your question on DRC
To: Matthew.Lee [at]

Please see below the following from the Department of Peacekeeping Operations:
"The deployment of the Intervention Brigade, while a bit slower than we had wished, is progressing apace, especially given the preparations required for this type of intervention.
Two contingents (from South Africa and Tanzania) of the three are in place and have started local patrolling and staff exercises.

As it is sometimes the case in this kind of process, a memorandum of understanding is yet to be signed between South Africa and the UN. But this has no impact on the deployment of the Brigade."

  We'll have more on this. Watch this site.

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