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In Congo, 154 Rapes 30 KM from UN Peacekeepers Leaves UN Silent, P-5 In Disarray

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 23 -- Thirty kilometers from a UN peacekeeping base in Eastern Congo, at least 154 women were gang raped over the course of days without the UN doing anything about it. The UN Mission, MONUSCO, costs $1 billion a year, and is charged with protecting civilians.

  At the UN's noon briefing on August 23, spokesman Martin Nesirky read out a number of press releases and then asked if there were any questions. Inner City Press asked about the gang rapes, attributed by the UN to the FDLR rebels, and asked why the UN had done nothing. Video here, from Minute 3:12.

  Spokesman Nesirky replied that thirty kilometers might sound close by, but this is a “densely wooded area” and that the FDLR has “blocked the road.”

  Nesirky answered these and other follow up question be reading from a prepared statement he pulled out of a binder in front of him, saying “it says here.” Video here, at Minute 12.

   Inner City Press asked Nesirky why, if he had this statement, he had not read it out at the beginning of the briefing, but rather waited to see if a question would be asked. Video here, from Minute 21:38. This is important, in light of statements Nesirky has made about his asserted right to block questions, that there are no rules, that it is “his briefing.”

  Nesirky nevertheless told Inner City Press that he didn't read out the Congo statement because he knew questions would be asked, “if not by you then by someone else.” The statement is true of many of the statements that Nesirky does read out at the beginning of “his” briefings.

 Could it be that the UN knows that the gang rape of 154 women 30 kilometers from its facilities makes the UN look bad?  What will be done to improve MONUSCO's and the UN's performance on protection of civilians?

  And where, one wondered, is the UN's new -- for months -- Special Representative to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on sexual violence and conflict, Margot Wallstrom? This is a test case.

UN's Ban arrives in Eastern Congo, inaction on 154 rapes not shown

  In front of the Security Council, Inner City Press asked this month's Council president Vitaly Churkin of Russia if the Council would take up the issue of the gang rape of 154 women in a country with a $1 billion UN peacekeeping mission. Video here, from Minute 3:49.

Ambassador Churkin said it was very disturbing but “we have not yet consulted on whether we need to do something about it.” Inner City Press asked the spokespeople of two of the Western Permanent Five members of the Council if they intended to ask for a meeting or at least Press Statement -- that intention does not appear to be there. 
  By contrast, when French UN peacekeepers in South Lebanon had eggs thrown at them, the Council had an emergency meeting and issued a press statement. Watch this site.

Footnotes: Inner City Press also asked Nesirky if the UN was ready, belatedly, to say which rebel group was responsible for the killing of Indian peacekeepers last week. Video here, from Minute 18:33. (Note that the audio of the August 23 UN noon briefing was mixed with ambient sound, seemingly from the stakeout area in front of the Security Council.)

No, Nesirky said, adding that since the incident involved UN peacekeepers, there is a different procedure than for the gang rape of 154 women, which the UN has attributed to the FDLR. In fact, the Congolese government has already made arrests in the case of the killing of the UN peacekeepers by rebels who did not have guns. So why won't the UN speak about who did it?

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UN in Congo Washes Hands of 90,000 Displaced, As Sex Abuse Sees Slight Decrease

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 5 -- The UN's long and troubled history in the Congo has become, it seems, a footnote. At an hour-long press conference Wednesday by the top two UN Peacekeeping officials, more than 40 minutes were devoted to the Israel - Lebanon border. The UN spokesman barely allowed a single, final question about the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Video here, from Minute 59:06.

Inner City Press asked about the Congolese Army's operation against the Allied Democratic Forces rebels in North Kivu, which has displaced at least 90,000 people.

  DPKO chief Alain Le Roy and his deputy Atul Khare both emphasized that the UN had not provided logistical support for the operations. But shouldn't the UN, with such a large and longstanding presence in the Kivus, have something to say about the protection of civilians, in the face of this level of displacement?

Back in mid-July, in response to questioning from Inner City Press, the UN acknowledged that Indian peacekeeper Major R. S. Ghumman was under investigation for sexual abuse / exploitation. Since then, nothing has been said. On August 4, Inner City Press asked for an update.

Atul Khare, after arguing that SEA cases have “slightly decreased” - is this what “zero tolerance” means? - acknowledged that two peacekeepers are being investigated. He wouldn't confirm the nationality, but said that the troop contributing countries had been notified.

  Alan Doss, whose high handed rule helped turn MONUC into the diminishing MONUSCO, has gained impunity from the UN system, with a damning OIOS finding of nepotism being rejected in favor of UNDP drafted whitewash. This hardly has boosted MONUSCO's, or the UN's or DPKO's, credibility, which is a shame.

UN in Beni 2006, plus ca change, 90,000 displaced in 2010 not shown

Sources in the Congo have complained to Inner City Press that new MONUSCO force commander Chander Prakash does not speak French, while assigned to this Francophone country. Inner City Press had asked spokesman Martin Nesirky, and was told to ask Alain Le Roy. He replied that Prakash has a “working knowledge” of French, “I tested it myself.”

The draw down of MONUSCO began, it seems, by pulling out Francophone battalions from Senegal and Benin. Is this any way to run a peacekeeping mission? Watch this site.

 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.

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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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