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UN Denies DRC Attack on Vodacom Tower, Accuses M23 of Firing into Rwanda

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 22 -- There is renewed fighting outside Goma between the Congolese Army and the M23 rebels. But what does the UN say about it?

At Thursday's noon briefing, Inner City Press asked outgoing deputy spokesperson Eduardo Del Buey about reports that the Congolese Army shelled a Vodacom telephone tower, and shot into Rwanda. Del Buey said he did not have that information and invited Inner City Press to "call MONUSCO." Video here, from Minute 9:25.

Just after the noon briefing, Inner City Press asked the UN Peacekeeping officials who gave an unscheduled briefing to the Security Council. Officer in Charge Edmond Mulet told Inner City Press M23 was attacking the MONUSCO force. Jack Christofides said his information was that it was M23 that fired into Rwanda.

This last seemed so strange that Inner City Press waited for the Security Council's 3 pm meeting to ask Mulet about it, on the record, as DPKO's acting chief while Herve Ladsous is on ongoing vacation. Mulet repeated the statement: that the UN believes M23 shot into Rwanda and then blamed it on FARDC, the Congolese Army.

"False flag?" Inner City Press asked. Mulet nodded. He again said he had no information about a telephone tower.

The tower is important, in part because the UN said a lot about using telecommunications to protect women from abuse, after the UN stood by and allowed the rapes in Walikale. US Ambassador Rice, now National Security Adviser in Washington, was critical of the UN's inaction.

So if a telecom tower has been destroyed, isn't it of interest?

Also on communications and Del Buey's advice to "call MONUSCO," it was for precisely that the the Free UN Coalition for Access has insisted with the UN Department of Public Information that it comply with what it promised: UN system telephones in the so-called "focus booths," on which you can call the Peacekeeping missions as a local call.

But DPI says it must give out the focus booths to media - while it gives three rooms to its UNCA Alliance. What about helping journalists cover the UN? What about DPKO coming forward with information about its claims about M23? Or is this just an information campaign in the run up to the Intervention Brigade? Watch this site.

Update of 3:35 pm - Inner City Press has been told there will be ANOTHER "Any Other Business" session on MONUSCO later this afternoon, and that a "Congolese minister called Ladsous or Mulet today."  Again we ask: run-up to Intervention Brigade?

Update of 4 pm:

ICP asks French Ambassador Béatrice Le Frapper du Hellen if seeking press statement. "Yes," she says. Or oui. More soon

Footnote: One observer joked that a breathless, error-filled press release from Human Rights Watch should be expected about now. Then again, they are busy issuing (and withholding) a study on Liberia, and promoting a story about Syria which mistakenly calls what was not adopted Wednesday a "resolution," when it was only a draft press statement. But who needs facts, right?


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