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On Congo, Obasanjo Is Optimistic, Theron on Abuse by UN Peacekeepers, General Wants Camouflage

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

UNITED NATIONS, November 17 -- The UN Mission in the Congo today condemned rebel general Laurent Nkunda for his forces continues advance on Goma, immediately after UN Envoy Olusegun Obasanjo was described as "optimistic" following his meeting with Nkunda. On BBC, Obasanjo said he believes Nkunda's statement that his assaults are intended only to protect minorities -- and not only Tutsis -- throughout the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Obasanjo did not mention the exploitation of natural resources, which is seen as driving much of the conflict.

  It appears that the UN's disarray extends to a lack of coordination between the the UN's Mission and its Envoy, and is not confined to the Uruguayan troops who reportedly fled from Nkunda, nor the Indian general who has criticized the use of white UN vehicles.

   Bipin Rawat, who commands UN troops in North Kivu province, was quoted that "camouflage and concealment are basic to any army. Here, I'm being expected to go into a jungle with white trucks and white armoured vehicles. The CNDP Nkunda's rebels] can spot us from two kilometers away."

  Inner City Press asked UN Deputy Spokesperson Marie Okabe for Ban Ki-moon's or his Peacekeeping hierarchy's response to their Kivu commander's critique. Video here, from Minute 17:29. "I have not seen anything from MONUC on this, I'd have to look into it for you," Okabe said. Then she cut off Inner City Press' next question, say "You've had two questions." But neither question was answered.

UN's white APC in Congo, UN night moves not shown

  Questions that are unanswered, and not even asked, involve Uganda's denial that it is running training camps for more anti-Kabila rebels, reportedly for Peter Kerim, a supposedly disarmed warlord who kidnapped and killed Nepali UN peacekeepers before being rewarded with a colonel's post in the Congolese Army. One might ask the UN if they have any idea about this claim and about Kerim. But what would be the point, if the UN in New York doesn't even know about the statements of its envoy or it Indian commander in North Kivu?

Footnote: the Indian battalion in North Kivu has been credibly accused of sexual abuse of young Congolese girls. At UN headquarters on Monday, a new UN Ambassador of Peace with special focus on violence against women was unveiled: Charlize Theron. Inner City Press asked Ms. Theron if she believes the UN does enough on violence against woman by UN Peacekeepers, given that the UN says it cannot discipline these blue-helmeted soldiers but only only their home country does so. Video here, from Minute 11:19.

    "Of course I have a responsibility," Theron answered, saying that "everyone in this Organization feels the same." That is debatable, but time will tell what Ms. Theron does on the issue. Another movie star Ambassador, George Clooney, spoke out about a UN corruption case of a no-bid contract to military firm Lockheed Martin, finally leading the UN official Jane Holl Lute to admit that mistakes were made. Might Ms. Theron accomplish something of the same on reigning in sexual abuse by UN Peacekeepers?

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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