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On DRC, Robinson Calls for Calm, Kobler on the Race Card, Reuters in the Tank

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 24 -- The UN has become schizophrenic, with its Congo envoy Martin Kobler vowing to "punish" groups opposed to Congolese president Joseph Kabila while UN peace envoy Mary Robinson speaks of calm.

  On Saturday without noting which country she was in, Robinson issued a statement which concluded:

"I strongly urge all authorities in the region to observe maximum restraint, to ensure that civilian populations are protected, and to minimize the risk of escalation of the situation. I am in close contact with all parties and continue to monitor the situation very closely. My Special Adviser is currently involved in consultations with relevant authorities in order to appeal for calm and restraint."

   The last line would to indicate that Robinson is not in the region, but rather probably in Dublin, just as the UN's envoy to the Sahel Romano Prodi purports to solve Mali's problems from Bologna, Italy.

  It seems the UN is becoming a club of former heads of state from Europe. In the Congo, Kobler was quoted decrying the M23 rebels playing the ethnic card -- apparently without irony or self-consciousness.

   Reuters chimed in with a story asserting that the shelling of Goma came from M23. How do they know?  After the UN bragged that the M23 rebels have been pushed back so their artillery can't reach Goma, it's the same UN which continues to ascribe the shelling to... the M23.

   But even more symptomatic of the UN further losing its way is a comment by UN envoy Martin Kobler, perhaps through this spokesperson, that the shelling "will not go unpunished," that the UN and its Intervention Brigade should launch an "energetic" response... and punishment.

   When did the UN get into the business of military punishment? WHO got it into this business? Inner City Press has tracked this shift in UN Peacekeeping under its fourth French chief in a row, Herve Ladsous.

  Given that Ladsous as France's Deputy Permanent Representative at the UN during the Rwanda genocide argued for the escape of the genocidaires into Eastern Congo, his Department of "Peacekeeping" Operations' vow now of "punishment" is even more striking. We will have more on this.

    For now this remains outstanding: at Friday's noon briefing, video here from Minute 10:15, Inner City Press asked the UN's outgoing deputy spokesperson Eduardo Del Buey about the answer, when Inner City Press and another journalist asked UN Peacekeeping acting chief Edmond Mulet Thursday if the M23 rebels had entered the security zone established around Goma.

  "No," Mulet said. "Just mortars." He went on to refer to the separate "red line" established when M23 agreed in Kampala to pull out of Goma. (The portion of that agreement that gave M23 one third of the security force at the Goma airport remains unimplemented.)

  But later on Thursday, the wire service Reuters reported "a senior U.N. official, who asked not to be named, said that on Thursday the rebels entered a security zone surrounding Goma" -- which Mulet, the acting chief of DPKO, had just denied. Inner City Press and the other journalist waited to ask Mulet again, and got the same answer.

  So who is this "senior UN official who asked not to be named"? In UN Peacekeeping, only Herve Ladsous is senior to and could over-rule Mulet.

  Ladsous has in the past spoon-fed answers of dubious veracity to this same Reuters UN bureau bragging for example about the Congolese Army imposing accountability for the 135 rapes in Minova in November 2012.

   But with only a few arrests for the 135 rapes, Ladsous' DPKO continues supporting the 391st Battalion, even as it is now implicated in corpse desecration.

That the UN would try to use Reuters, willingly, resonates with a documented instance in June 2012 when Reuters UN bureau chief Louis Charbonneau gave to UN official Stephane Dujarric an internal UNCA anti-Press document, three minutes after saying he would not do so. Story here, audio here, document here, in which Charbonneau tells Dujarric, "You didn't get this from me."

  So is Reuters' "senior UN official who asked not to be named" someone junior to Mulet, or as another journalist suggested, no one at all?

  On August 23, Del Buey said he knew what Mulet had said, and has "seen other reports." He said he'd have to check. But August 23 was his last day at the UN (the Free UN Coalition for Access wished him well, video here at Minute 9:55).  So we'll see. Watch this site.


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