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As UN Permits Kashmir in the Kivus, Congolese Critical of UN Peacekeeper Favoritism

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

UNITED NATIONS, June 14 -- If you listen to the UN in New York, they'll tell you they're doing the best they can in the Congo. But in speaking with Congolese, whether in Kinshasa, Goma or New York, you get a different story.

  Last week, Inner City Press asked UN Spokesperson Michele Montas about reports that the UN's Pakishretani peacekeepers in South Kivu are refusing to cross even an inch over the administrative border into North Kivu to protect civilians from the attacks of FDLR militias, because the UN has put an Indian battalion in charge of the province. It's a little Kashmir in the Kivus, and the UN has apparently done nothing to solve this entirely foreseeable and not new problem.

   Ms. Montas said she hadn't heard the report, despite them being on Reuters and elsewhere. She said, "I will check for you what happened there. I was not aware that there was a conflict." An answer was promised, but not received. And so on June 14 Inner City Press asked a panel of Congolese women what they thought of the UN's performance in their country.

  Jeanne Kasongo of the Shalupe Foundation, speaking in French, said that the UN peacekeepers do nothing when "the enemy attacks our people." There was an incident last year in which the commander of the Indian battalion in North Kivu openly praised CNDP militia leader and indicted war criminal Laurent Nkunda. The UN would probably have denied the incident, except it was captured on tape.

   Ms. Kasongo went on to say that many believe that UN is only there to assume corridors ("couloirs") for the exploitation of the Congo's natural resources. All you have to do to take our coltan, she said, is rape a woman and give her son a gun to go and get it.

   Gorethy Nabushosi said that a major effect of UN presence is to drive up housing prices, as the UN overpays, doesn't negotiate, destroys the market. They drive around in their big cars and do nothing, she said, most Congolese wish they would leave.

UN Security Council in Goma at Heal Africa, views of Congolese not shown

 The panel was set up by Friends of the Congo and followed a performance of the play "Ruined" by Lynn Nottage, set in Bunia, which won this year's Pulitzer Prize.

  Marie-Claire Faray, when Inner City Press asked what the UN Security Council should be doing, scoffed that France supported Operation Turquoise which brought the Rwandan genocidaires into the Congo.

  She added that the U.S. supports the neighboring governments in Rwanda and Uganda, both of which have sponsored militias in the Congo. How can the Security Council, she asked, solved the problems of the Congo when it had caused so many of them?

There are questions we will pursue.

From the UN transcript:

Inner City Press: In the Congo, there are these reports of civilians unprotected in the southern part of North Kivu, apparently because the Pakistani contingent refuses to cross the line from North to South Kivu due to some India-Pakistan issues within the Mission. Can the UN confirm that, and what’s being done to offer protection to people in this part of the Kivus?

Spokesperson Michele Montas: Okay, I will check for you what happened there. I was not aware that there was a conflict. But I can tell you one thing: that whatever the conflict, it will be resolved because it is the priority of the Mission to provide protection to the civilian population.

But see above. And watch this site.

Click here for August 6, 2009 update.

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UN's $8.2 Billion Peace Budget Faces 2.5% Cut, S. Korea Puts Congo Drones on Block?

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

UNITED NATIONS, June 8 -- Anyone can call for peace, but who will pay for it? That question was being debate, or at least discussed, in the basement of the UN past 10 p.m. on Monday night. The UN's Fifth (Budget) Committee had passed its end of May deadline and still the $8.2 billion peacekeeeping budget was in dispute.

  The U.S, Japan, European Union and surprise Westerner South Korea are proposing a 2.5 percent across the board reduction in all peacekeeping missions' budgets. The phrase, taken from the Western Sahara draft of June 6, was a decision "to reduce the Mission's overall operational costs by a further 2.5 per cent to be accommodated through efficiency savings." The Group of 77 and China are resisting.

  Take for example the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, known by its French acronym MONUC. The Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions' "recommendations on the financing of MONUC would entail an overall reduction of $66,818,200 or some 4.7 percent of the Mission's overall budget," mostly due to the local elections MONUC will support being put back into 2010.

  The African Group, on the other hand, "is concerned that the cuts proposed by the ACABQ could negatively impact on the effective functioning of the Mission."

  These quotes are from public speeches. Consider, however, the confidential presentation of the Secretariat to ACABQ, the slide script of which Inner City Press has been given by a well-placed source. The Secretariat argued that "the budget before you is not a maintenance budget based on routine operations." Instead the Secretariat proposed "an increase of $235 million compare to 2008/09... 168 new posts and positions directly related to the surge in troops."

This "surge" is the 3,000 additional personnel called for the Security Council during the CNDP fighting in the Kivus, before the house arrest and Nkunda and incorporation of indicted war criminal Jean-Bosco Ntanganda into the Congolese Army, where he has worked in connection with UN-supported operations according to Congolese records. While troubling, this should at least save money, no? No. The Secretariat still proposed ever-increased spending.

  The surge will come, the document says, from "troops from Bangladesh, Egypt and Jordan... The new Egyptian battalion will be deployed to South Kivu and the Bangladeshi will be deployed to Ituri... while the Jordan Special Forces company will be positioned in North Kivu."

  Interestingly, the budget includes "$18 million additional requirements for 2 UAVs" -- unmanned aerial vehicles, the drones MONUC chief Alan Doss requested at the turn of the year.

UN's Ban and Doss (not Mountain) in DRC, budget cuts not shown

  Several Fifth Committee sources emphasized to Inner City Press the news value of South Korea's position. Here you have Ban Ki-moon, one source spun, putting his name on proposals to increase peacekeeping budgets by almost five percent, while his home country South Korea has joined the push to instead cut the budgets by 2.5 percent.

   The source asked, "who's kidding who?" All we could say is "whom." (On this front it must be said that the Secretariat's presentation to ACABQ has some laughable typos. It refers for example to "the Pakistanese battalion." But we digress.)

   Upstairs in the Delegates' Lounge, a proponent of the Haiti mission's budget told Inner City Press that MINUSTAH, as it's known, spends 100% or more of its budget. Mission head Hedi Annabi is called Napoleonic. Other missions, in their start up phase or even earlier, like Somalia, might face even steeper cuts.

   During all of this, the chief of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations Alain Le Roy is slated to travel from June 9 to 23 to West Africa. He will stop first in Nigeria, where 27 peacekeepers have been sentence to jail for life for protesting not being paid after a UN mission. Another peacekeeper, female, says she was pressured for sex while on mission. As a now-dead rapper sang, More money, more problems.

   Le Roy will head to Cote d'Ivoire, where Laurent Gbagbo keeps putting off the promised election. When will the mission draw down? The force in Liberia, too, is called larger than needs be. In the basement, however, it is a question of whose ox is gored. 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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