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In Congo, 3000 Troops But UN Still in White Fortresses, France - Rwanda Rift Downplayed

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

UNITED NATIONS, November 20 -- As the UN Security Council authorized 3000 more peacekeeping troops for the Congo, France tried to take a central role in an area it talks about a lot, the protection of humanitarian workers. Inner City Press asked French Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert if his country's public disputes with Rwanda, most recently about the arrest of President Paul Kagame's advisor Rose Kabuye, doesn't problematize France's role in the region. No, Ripert said, insisting that France has good relations with Rwanda.

  In fact, Rwanda broke off diplomatic relations and is threatening to indict former French official Dominique de Villepin and others for France's role in the 1994 genocide. If Rwanda is so central to the conflict in the Congo, as the UN admits by meeting with Kagame instead of the Tutsi rebel in the Congo, Laurent Nkunda, then France's rift with Kagame should preclude it from any central role.

  Who then will go to the Congo, and under what rules of engagement? Inner City Press asked Ripert to respond to the complaint of the UN's military commander in North Kivu that it is impossible to fight Nkunda's forces from bright white vehicle visible from kilometers away.  Ripert said to ask Alain Le Roy, the (French) head of UN Peacekeeping, while adding that the militarization of humanitarian assistance is essential. Thus are the phrases if not philosophy of Bernard Kouchner, the self-declared inventor of the Responsibility to Protect, present in the Council every day.

France's Ripert + 2, stylin' at the UN

  While Ripert spoke, no one was manning the microphones of UN Television. Inner City Press is told it is because there is a hiring freeze; the head of the outside contractor to whom the workers have been outsources recently had to resign. While the UN took and spent $25 million from the Spanish government, including from its International Cooperation budget, for a lavish ceiling in Geneva inaugurated this week by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, they cannot even afford to have a soundman for the French and UK Ambassador to the UN, speaking about the Congo. 

  Not needing a microphone or any amplification on Thursday was South African Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo, who loudly called out after Richard Stanley, the chair of the Stanley Foundation, who had just met with Ban Ki-moon. Stanley, a somewhat unexplained power behind the thrown at the UN, blurted out about the responsibility to protect. Somewhere, under a lavish ceiling, even more airy invective was prepared. Meanwhile, civilians in the Congo are left to wait outside UN bases as the fighting re-heats up.

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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