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UN Leaves Civilians Outside Congo Bases, Peacekeepers are Absent, Kerim Is In Kinshasa

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

UNITED NATIONS, November 18 -- The UN admitted on Tuesday that it blocks civilians fleeing gunfire from entering the UN's bases in the Congo. Inner City Press asked the UN's Special Representative in the Democratic Republic of the Congo Alan Doss about reports that in Rwindi, some 150 civilians were left outside the UN base while bombs fells around them. Doss said he'd heard that, and that similar events have taken place in Rutshuru and Tonga, due to UN bases being "too small" to accommodate civilians, even those fleeing active fire-fights. Video here, from Minute 36:14.

  To some, this has echoes of Rwanda, in which a much smaller UN force stood by while civilians were hacked and shot to death outside UN bases. More recently in Abyei in Sudan, it is alleged that civilians were blocked from entering the UN base even as their town was burned down. Doss said nothing can be done, the bases are too small and there are guns inside. But what then does the UN Mission's mandate to protect civilians mean?

  Inner City Press also asked about a nagging discrepancy between Doss' and others' statements that there are 17,000 UN peacekeepers in the Congo, and the UN military coordinator's briefing to Security Council Ambassadors, that the number is 15,500. Doss said that there are always rotations and absences.  Some wondered, absences during a crisis like this? Rotations?

  There are complaints by Congolese authorities in Ituri region that Uganda has set up training camps for historically Uganda-aligned rebel Peter Kerim a/k/a Karim, who sought to overthrow Joseph Kabila until he was offered a position in Kabila's army. 

UN's Doss welcomed to N. Kivu, echoes of Rwanda not shown

  Inner City Press asked Doss if he could confirm or deny the reports, and where Kerim now was. "In Kinshasa," Doss said, taking the information from a UN military staffer left off-screen and unnamed.

    "He was brought in under some pretext," Doss said, and did not go "back to Ituri." Apparently he is not really serving with the Congo army either. Just as there was a warlord in the Waldorf -- click here for that Inner City Press story -- now there is a warlord, Kerim, who killed UN peacekeepers, cooling his heals in Kinshasa. We will continue to follow this.

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.

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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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