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ICP Asks UN of DRC's Crackdown on LUCHA, Nothing, Now US Speaks

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 22 -- Amid the arrest in the DR Congo of youth activists for democracy, Inner City Press on September 22 asked if the UN had any comment:

Inner City Press: in the DRC, there's been a lot of, there's been unrest.  There were firing of the government coalition partners of Mr. Kabila that oppose a third term and there's been violence in the streets, so I was waiting to see what MONUSCO had to say.  Have they had anything to say?

Spokesman Stephane Dujarric:  I haven't gotten anything from them today.

Inner City Press:  Mr. [SRSG Martin] Kobler's been tweeting that he's on a farewell tour throughout the country.  When does he leave?  Who's the next…

Spokesman:  I think he announced, he announced his own departure a few weeks ago.  When a replacement will be announced, we will announce it.

Inner City Press:  And is he Libya-bound?

Spokesman:  Matthew, it's… We will announce the replacement for people who are leaving when we're ready to announce them.

  Nothing was announced by the UN about the DRC; later on September 22 the US issued this:

“The United States is concerned by the September 18 convictions of four young activists and members of the group “LUCHA” (Lutte pour le changement or "struggle for change") by the Superior Court of Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo, and the impact that cases such as this could have on the stability of the country.

Authorities charged the youth with inciting public disobedience while they peacefully expressed their political views at an April 7th rally. The four activists – Tresor Akili, Sylvain Kambere, Gentil Mulume, and Vincent Kasereka – organized and participated in a protest to bring attention to the arrest and detention of fellow activists Fred Bauma and Yves Makwambala, who also were convicted for peacefully protesting against the Kabila government. They remain in custody in Kinshasa.

Such arrests, detentions, and convictions of political activists have a chilling effect on freedom of organization, assembly, and expression in the DRC. It is particularly important that the government protect these constitutionally accorded and internationally recognized rights during this period of active campaigning and public political debate as the DRC prepares for elections. As the four LUCHA activists pursue their appeal of this decision, and Mr. Bauma and Mr. Makwambala await their trial, we urge Congolese institutions to ensure a free, fair, and open legal process."

 And still the UN, with UN Peacekeeping under Herve Ladsous having its largest mission there, has nothing to say. And no progress against the FDLR, either. This is called... failure.

With the DR Congo's decision to ban a film about rape-treatment doctor Dennis Mukwege and the Panzi Hospital giving rise to protests from all over the world, the silence of the UN has been striking. So Inner City Press on September 4 asked the UN Spokesman, video here, transcript here:

Inner City Press: I may have missed it, but the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo has banned the screening of a film about Dr. [Denis] Mukwege at Panzi Hospital called "The Man Who Mends Women".  It's viewed as basically an outright censorship or an attempt to sweep under the carpet the sexual violence that Panzi Clinic tries to help women with.  What's the comment and sort of… I don't think MONUSCO (United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo), have they said anything?  Has the Secretary-General?

Spokesman Stephane Dujarric:  I don't think they have.  Obviously Dr. Mukwege is a good… is an amazing humanitarian, has done tremendous work and recognized internationally and by the UN and we would hope that his message is heard clearly, both nationally and internationally.

  So the UN hadn't commented. For UN Peacekeeping, under recalcitrant Herve Ladsous, it's not surprising: Ladsous even refused to answer a Press question about the Panzi Hospital, see below.

 But what about SRSG Martin Kobler?

 Kobler is being touted -- by unnamed diplomats using their scribes -- as Bernardino Leon's replacement as the UN's Libya SRSG. Could that be why he has not spoken out against censorship in his current post, the DRC? We hope to have more on this.

Back on January 22, UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous made a speech about freedom of the press in the Democratic Republic of the Congo Thursday to the US Security Council, and made excuses for not acting to “neutralize” the Hutu FDLR rebels as the UN did the largely Tutsi M23.

Then Ladsous came to the Security Council stakeout, ostensibly to take questions.

  Inner City Press asked, “On the neutralization of the FDLR, what is the hold up?”

  Ladsous said "I don't respond to your questions, Mister." Video here and embedded below.

   Then Ladsous turned and gave the question to Reuters. When that back and forth was over, Inner City Press asked if any of the countries in the UN's Force Intervention Brigade are well than willing to attack the FDLR, as senior diplomats at the UN have told Inner City Press.

   Ladsous refused to answer this question, and gestured that Ban Ki-moon's envoy to the DRC Martin Kobler, standing behind Ladsous at the stakeout, shouldn't answer it either. Reuters took or was given another question, distancing the FDLR from genocide.

   Finally Inner City Press asked both men what if anything UN Peacekeeping has done as the Kabila government has frozen the accounts of the Panzi hospital for rape victims.  Ladsous waved this off -- for months he waved off Press questions about mass rape in Minova by his partners in the Congolese Army, video here -- and walked away with this spokesman.

 (One can only imagine the advise this “communications professional” is giving Ladsous. Perhaps he can help Ladsous address his history with Hutu groups as evidence in this memo. These are Press questions.)

   Kobler to his credit told Inner City Press he would come back and answer, and he did, albeit only some, and off camera. That will be another story. Because the story here is, how can a person in charge of UN Peacekeeping be allowed to refuse particular media's questions in this way? While, in classic UN fashion, giving a speech about freedom of the press, elsewhere? The weakness of current UN leadership comes to mind.

  But as many ask, WHY does Ladsous refuse to answer Inner City Press? While he has refused to answer that, too, it began when Inner City Press reported that Ladsous was not even France's first choice for the position - Jerome Bonnafont was.

   Tellingly, an Agence France Presse member of the Executive Committee of the so-called UN Correspondents Association complained about this Inner City Press story, and soon the Executive Committee of UNCA, under then and now president Giampaolo Pioli, made more complaint about that story, and another about Sri Lanka, demanding it be removed from the Internet.

   Inner City Press quit UNCA and co-founded the Free UN Coalition for Access, which demands that all UN Under Secretaries General answer questions. UNCA, for course, has said nothing about Ladsous' refusal. It is the UN's Censorship Alliance. More on this -- including video -- to follow.


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