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UN Conceals Winner of Drone Contract & DRC Army Units Supported

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 31 -- Some say for the UN to become a party to the armed conflict in Eastern Congo is a mistake.

But the UN is doing just that: on July 30 it set an August 1 deadline after which it will take offensive military action against anyone who doesn't disarm in what it calls the "Security Zone" between Goma and Sake.

  Some characterize this as "protection of civilians," as UK Ambassador to the UN Mark Lyall Grant did, tweeting that the UK "has supported the UN Intervention Brigade, precisely to help stop murderous activities by M23 (and other armed militia)" and that he didn't think "women suffering sexual violence in DRC would see UN Peacekeepers disarming militia as 'UN going to war.'"

  This ignores that, for example, 135 DRC women and girls were raped in Minova in November by two units of the Congolese Army, the 41st and the (US trained) 391st Battalions -- both of which the UN still supports, despite accountability measures that are shockingly limited, and now undisclosed.

  On July 31 Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson Martin Nesirky about the 41st Battalion, about which company signed a drones contract with UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous, and if the Geneva Conventions apply to the UN. From the UN's transcript:

Inner City Press: There was a MONUSCO [United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo] press conference today in which they described a joint surveillance cells that they had established with the forty-first commando battalion in Sake-Goma, which is the security zone. Since this is one of the two battalions that was implicated in the rapes in Minova, is this support for purposes of the human rights due diligence policy to establish these joint surveillance cells? Whatís the current tally of actual arrests or indictments made for those rapes, and is it possible to know which units of the Congolese Army MONUSCO would be providing support to, for purposes of the human rights due diligence policy as part of its newly announced disarmament initiative to begin in 24 hours?

Spokesperson Nesirky: Well, on the middle question, thatís one for the authorities. On the last part of your question and the first part of your question, for operational reasons with regard to the present circumstances, the Mission is not providing a full list of which units it is operating with and would support. So thatís the first bit. The second is with regard to the broader question you raised a number of times, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations is simply not putting into the public domain that information.

Inner City Press: One follow-up. How could the UN have a policy publicly announced like the human rights due diligence policy, which says they wont support abusive units and then refuse to disclose which units they do support? And when youíre saying itís up to the Congolese authorities to disclose the arrests, at least as described by Patricia OíBrien, the UN must seek that information in order to make its risk assessment of potentials of abuse arising from its support. Is it an entirely secret policy?

Spokesperson Nesirky: No, no, not at all. Those two parts are not mutually exclusive. Itís for the authorities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to provide information into the public domain on what arrests have or have not been made, who has been charged, who has been prosecuted. Thatís self-evidently for the authorities, the Congolese authorities to do. It is notÖ that does not mean that itís not possible for them also to provide that information to the peacekeeping mission there. And with regard to the more general point, this policy is about a process. You donít decide from one day to the other if a unit has been accused of some kind of infractions ó that is investigated under that policy and, of course, by the authorities, and thatís a process.

Inner City Press: Thanks a lot, I just wanted to get this out of the way. I wanted to ask two general things.

Spokesperson Nesirky: Just wait a second. I can see other hands in the room. Okay?

  After cutting away, when Nesirky returned he limited questions, disallowing one about Mali, and declining to name the beneficiary of a drones contract the UN has already signed:

Inner City Press: I have a question on Mali but I wanted to just finish on DRC. This seems to be something thatís right in the UNís mandate to answer, whether the Geneva Conventions apply to the operation that the Intervention Brigade or MONUSCO has just announced, i.e., would it be making the Intervention Brigade a party to an armed conflict? And the other question, Hervť Ladsous announced during the Bastille Day in France that the drone contract had been signed. Iíve checked various databases that are publicly available. Whatís the company that won? And if itís not yet public, how could the UN be signing a contract declaring a winner and not have it be public? Is it public and what is the name of the company?

Spokesperson: I will check. I donít believe it is public, firstly. Secondly, there is a very clear procurement process thatís in place, and with regard to the first part of your question, the mandate that the peacekeeping operation has in the DRC is fully compliant with international humanitarian law.

  Then Nesirky took no more questions on the topic, nor from Inner City Press about Mali or anything else. At a ceremony unveiling a new bike rack for the UN, when Herve Ladsous walked by Inner City Press asked him who won the UN drone contract. He did not answer. Video here. Watch this site.


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