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UN Accused of Inaction As LRA Kills in Congo, Denies But Without Specifics, No Bosco

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

UNITED NATIONS, February 4 -- Following the deaths of hundreds of people in Northern Congo, and a report by Doctors without Borders (MSF) blaming the UN for failing to protect civilians there, the UN on Wednesday denounced the MSF report as "totally unfounded." UN Peacekeeping officials have admitted to Inner City Press that they pulled forces out of Northern Congo to focus on another part of the Congo, the Kivus. So Inner City Press asked UN Deputy Spokesperson Marie Okabe if her categorical denial of the MSF report meant that the UN takes issue with MSF's report that UN peacekeepers stayed inside their base near Dungu during the attack by Lord's Resistance Army on November 1, 2008. Video here, at Minute 13:58.

   "I don't have anything specific on that," said Ms. Okabe, who had just denied the whole MSF report as "totally unfounded."

   Since the UN has used a figure near 600 for the civilians killed in the area, Inner City Press asked if the UN disagrees with MSF's figure of 900. "I don't have the number killed," Ms. Okabe said.  As part of her scripted denial, she had said that UN Peacekeepers support the Congolese army by providing "casualty evacuation." Video here, from Minute 12.

  MSF specifically faults the UN for not taking injured civilians out of the area, as the UN does even in Sri Lanka. Inner City Press asked Okabe about this. She replied that her statement had said that "casualty evacuation" is part of the UN Mission's mandate. But are civilians being taken out? MSF says no.

UN peacekeepers drive by in Congo

  The UN's main news on Congo for Wednesday was to brag about Hutu rebels it is repatriating from the Kivus, including the surprising news that Mai Mai fighters, some of the most vicious and disorganized, are being integrated into the Congolese Army, which the UN has chosen to support.  Not mentioned by the UN was that Bosco Ntaganda, indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court, appears also to be on the verge of integration into the Congolese Army. We'll have more on this.

News analysis: since the UN knows it should be doing more to protect civilians in Northern Congo, why do its spokespeople call a report to that effect by a respected humanitarian group "totally unfounded"? Why not admit that more could be done, and put at least some of the ball and blame back in the court of the Security Council? But like the worst of corporate Public Relations, the UN mechanically defends even the indefensible.

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

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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