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As UN Quietly Re-Starts Military Help in Congo, Says Not With Zimulinda

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 4 -- The UN Mission in the Congo under Alan Doss increasingly has been under fire for working with army units charged with war crimes. In late 2009, the UN's own special rapporteur Philip Alston criticized MONUC for working with Colonel Innocent Zimulinda, charged with rape and murder. But MONUC apparently didn't have enough evidence.

  On March 2, UN spokesman Martin Nesirky told Inner City Press that MONUC's new operation with the Congolese Army, Amani Leo, had not yet begun. But the following day it emerged that the operation had begun on February 26, with MONUC providing logistical support to up to 18 Congolese battalions.

  At the March 4 noon briefing, Inner City Press raised this to Nesirky, asking if the "logistical support" includes transporting weapons and ammunition, and asking for a list of the 18 battalions MONUC will work with, to cross check against war crimes lists. Video here, from Minute 7:20.

  Nesirky, as he had about the job action against MONUC by its local workers, told Inner City Press to ask MONUC. But he went on to describe MONUC's screening criteria. Inner City Press asked, does that mean the UN will not work with Zimulinda, sometimes known as Zimurinda?

Graves in the Kivus, MONUC and 18 battalions not shown

By the UN's own summary of the briefing:

In response to a question, the Spokesperson noted that the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) has a set of conditions, in line with Security Council resolutions, concerning the way in which it supports operations by the Congolese Armed Forces. Primarily, MONUC provides logistical support limited to Congolese operations that are underway, including such things as fuel, transport and evacuations of wounded personnel.

That assistance, Nesirky said, was taking place for Operation Amani Leo, which technically began on 1 January but has moved into an operational phase recently.

Asked about UN involvement with Congolese Armed Forces units that have been linked to human rights violations, the Spokesperson recalled that MONUC has an agreed procedure in place with the Congolese Armed Forces, which it has used to screen all units and commanders directly involved in operations that MONUC is called upon to assist. This includes joint planning of these operations as required by the Security Council.

Asked about any involvement by the United Nations with Colonel Innocent Zimulinda, Nesirky said that units commanded by Zimulinda are not receiving any assistance from MONUC.

We'll see. Meanwhile, the supposed investigation by the UN of Alan Doss' six line email urging the UN Development Program to show him "leeway" and give a job to his daughter has, eight months later, still not been completed. The UN cannot be a void for accountability in the Congo or elsewhere when there is no accountability by even the chief of MONUC....

* * *

In Congo, UN National Staff Tell Doss They Will Strike, UN-Clarity on War Crimes

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, March 3, updated -- The UN Mission in the Congo, MONUC, is not only under fire for having worked with accused war criminals in its operations in the Kivus, and for MONUC chief Alan Doss' presumptive nepotism in asking the UN Development Program to show him "leeway" and give a job to his daughter. Now, MONUC faces another strike by its national Congolese staff members.

  Inner City Press has obtained, and is putting online here, a list of demands sent to Mr. Doss and others by MONUC's national staff union. The union accuses MONUC of having obstructed its activities and communications, have violated re-classification rules and engaged in pay disparities.

  A work stoppage is planned for March 3 to 5. Watch this site. Meanwhile, Inner City Press has against asked the UN for a simple answer to the question of whether it will work with Congolese Army units controlled by Colonel Zimurinda (or Zimulinda), accused of war crimes by the UN's own special rapporteur Philip Alston.

  Last time he was at UN Headquarters, Doss declined to talk to the Press: he has resorted to a series of letters to the editor, playing out the clock. At the March 2 noon briefing, Inner City Press asked

Inner City Press: About MONUC [the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo] 50 Congolese human rights groups and Human Rights Watch have written to the Government there saying that Colonel Zimulinda, or Zimurinda, should be prosecuted for war crimes in Shalio. And they have also raised separately a concern that the UN’s Amani Leo operation that’s about to begin in the Congo will somehow, may work with Colonel Zimulinda’s unit. I’ve asked DPKO [the Department of Peacekeeping Operations], but I am not clear on their answer. Is MONUC… does it hear the call of the groups and does it preclude working with Colonel Zimulinda, or would it consider working with him on Amani Leo?

Spokesperson Nesirky: Well, there are a number of questions there. Do we hear the voices of different NGOs? Clearly, we hear lots of voices out there, including the Security Council, which laid down very strict parameters on what is admissible and not admissible in the way that MONUC conducts operations with the forces in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. That would be very strictly adhered to. In other words, if there is evidence that anyone has been involved in atrocities, crimes against humanity, the UN, MONUC, is not going to be working with those people. And that’s very clearly spelled out, and that’s what’s being looked at, as you quite correctly said, this follow-on operation has not yet started, and it’s precisely because MONUC is very carefully looking at the contingents that it will be working with.

Question: I would follow up, except I know time is limited.

  But ever afterwards, there was still no answer.

UN's Doss walks, strike, nepotism and Zimurinda not shown
   DPKO sent Inner City Press:

Subject: Zimulinda - further clarification
From: DPKO
Date: Tue, Mar 2, 2010 at 6:52 PM
To: Inner City Press
Dear Matthew,

Following your question on Zimulinda during today's briefing and after consultation with Martin, since you mentionned that you were unclear about our answer on Zimulinda, kindly find herebelow some further clarification in addition to what Martin has told you today :

* Units commanded by Zimulinda are not receiving any assistance from MONUC.

* MONUC has an agreed procedure in place with the FARDC, which we have used to screen all units and commanders directly involved in operations that MONUC is called upon to assist. This includes joint planning of these operations as required by the Security Council.

  But, as the human rights group have asked, WILL the UN work with Zimurinda? Watch this site.

Update:  When on March 3 when Inner City P ress asked about this national staff job action against MONUC, Nesirky said to "ask MONUC." He assked dismissively that there was not work stoppage, only "casual workers" and a few national staff engaged in a protest. Video here, from Minute 7:12.

  After Nesirky read out a response about the UN's Mission in Lebanon, rather than saying "ask UNIFIL," Inner City Press asked about the difference. Video here from Minute 15:45. "It's very clear," Nesirky said. "There is a difference between speaking with colleagues in MONUC and having the guidance." Moments after the briefing, one of Nesirky's assistance emailed this MONUC "guidance" to Inner City Press:

Subject: answer to your question on Monuc
From: Yves Sorokobi at
To: Inner City Press
Date: Wed, Mar 3, 2010 at 12:48 PM
"Work stoppage" or "strike"

There has been no work stoppage or strike at MONUC. Approximately 100 "casual daily workers" and 8-10 Congolese staff of MONUC demonstrated peacefully outside MONUC Headquarters in Kinshasa today. The rest of the 2,700 national staff (of whom 798 are in Kinshasa) and some 3,000 daily workers reported to work throughout the country.

On MONUC leadership willingness to engage in dialogue with national staff

The Administration has met repeatedly with representatives of the national staff and has remained open to discuss grievances. The Mission has worked with DFS to improve conditions of service within the constraints of the MONUC budget and UN rules and regulations. The SRSG has agreed to meet personally with a staff delegation at Mr. Nondo's request.

On Nondo's status

Mr. Nondo was absent from work for some five months without authorization. He was repeatedly asked to return and did not respond. He remains a staff member of MONUC. The MONUC leadership has continued to engage with him as a representative of the national staff, although the association, under his leadership, has refused to hold general elections for [almost]* three years. UN Staff Regulations (8.1 (b)) require staff elections to hold general elections at least once every two years. A number of staff are now demanding new elections.

MONUC facilitates the work of the National Staff Association by providing paid time to the president and vice president to conduct association business and providing offices, communications facilities, transportation and other support.

On the grievances

These have to do with issues faced by national staff and other national employees in many peacekeeping missions, including delays in results of UN system surveys to set local salaries, the status of "casual daily workers" and other questions that are governed by rules and regulations established by the UN's administrative and budgetary bodies. MONUC has worked continuously with DFS to address these issues within the constraints of its budget and UN rules and regulations.

At the March 3 briefing, after Nesirky tried to say to "ask MONUC," Inner City Press asked, but wasn't DFS, at headquarters, involved?

*- after initially saying "over" three years, the UN subsequently changed it to "almost." The UN levels tihs same charge at its New York union. Are the UN best practices in union busting or divide and conquer?

 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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