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Watching or Whitewashing UN's FIB, of DRC Bombs & Reuters Spying for UN

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 25 -- Who will watch the UN's FIB, its Force Intervention Brigade in Eastern Congo?

  When the FIB's component from Tanzania practiced raiding a medical tent clearly marked with a red cross, Al Jazeera was there to film it. When it went on-air, Inner City Press at the UN in New York (before Al Jazeera America became UNviewable there since August 20) saw it and wrote a story, dubbing this practice for violating the Geneva Conventions, here.

  In fairness we note that the reporter on the piece told Inner City Press on August 25 that he "saw it as rehearsal attack against an empty tent. Not on a medical camp."

  While some humanitarians who have contacted Inner City Press disagree, it seems a fair point, when coupled with recognition that the UN's FIB needs a hard look.

  But who will give that hard look? We have shown, just last week at the UN in New York, that wire service Reuters was willing to channel an unnamed UN official's spin that the M23 rebels had entered the no-weapons security zone, even as the acting chief of UN Peacekeeping Edmond Mulet told Inner City Press and a different, less UN-useful wire service that there had been no violation of the security zone.

  Compared to the re-type shop (and worse) its UN bureau has become, Reuters has relatively better reporters in Kinshasa and Cote d'Ivoire. The latter, we've met and so held off saying this. But to unself-consciously say that MONUSCO of course must respond to protect civilians -- "they have a clear obligation to respond" -- without mentioning that MONUSCO and UN Peacekeeping are still assisting the Congolese Army units which raped 135 women and girls in Minova, seems to require noting.

  As then does calling the "UN far and away the most credible source" or observer -- after the UN covered up and stonewalled on not only the Minova rapes, but its own role in bringing cholera to Haiti. (Al Jazeera's recent 30 minute documentary on the topic was not viewable in the UN, as protested by the new Free UN Coalition for Access, @FUNCA_info)

  Deeming the UN, from the outset, the most credible source may be a less than journalistic approach -- for purposes of this piece, in the Congo, but in Syria and elsewhere as well.

    For now on DRC this still remains outstanding: at Friday's noon briefing, video here from Minute 10:15, Inner City Press asked the UN's outgoing deputy spokesperson Eduardo Del Buey about the answer, when Inner City Press and another journalist asked UN Peacekeeping acting chief Edmond Mulet Thursday if the M23 rebels had entered the security zone established around Goma.

  "No," Mulet said. "Just mortars." He went on to refer to the separate "red line" established when M23 agreed in Kampala to pull out of Goma. (The portion of that agreement that gave M23 one third of the security force at the Goma airport remains unimplemented.)

  But later on Thursday, the wire service Reuters reported "a senior U.N. official, who asked not to be named, said that on Thursday the rebels entered a security zone surrounding Goma" -- which Mulet, the acting chief of DPKO, had just denied. Inner City Press and the other journalist waited to ask Mulet again, and got the same answer.

  So who is this "senior UN official who asked not to be named"? In UN Peacekeeping, only Herve Ladsous is senior to and could over-rule Mulet.

  Ladsous has in the past spoon-fed answers of dubious veracity to this same Reuters UN bureau bragging for example about the Congolese Army imposing accountability for the 135 rapes in Minova in November 2012.

   But with only a few arrests for the 135 rapes, Ladsous' DPKO continues supporting the 391st Battalion, even as it is now implicated in corpse desecration.

That the UN would try to use Reuters, willingly, resonates with a documented instance in June 2012 when Reuters UN bureau chief Louis Charbonneau gave to UN official Stephane Dujarric an internal UNCA anti-Press document, three minutes after saying he would not do so. Story here, audio here, document here, in which Charbonneau tells Dujarric, "You didn't get this from me."

  So is Reuters' "senior UN official who asked not to be named" someone junior to Mulet, or as another journalist suggested, no one at all?

  On August 23, Del Buey said he knew what Mulet had said, and has "seen other reports." He said he'd have to check. But August 23 was his last day at the UN (the Free UN Coalition for Access wished him well, video here at Minute 9:55).  So we'll see. Watch this site.


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