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In DRC UN Only Supports Army, As On Minova Rapes, HRW Soft on Ladsous

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 29 -- After the UN repeatedly said Congolese President Joseph Kabila would sign with the UN a Joint Directive for military operations against the FDLR, and a week after the UN's Herve Ladsous refused to answer Press questions about it, the UN put this out:

"'MONUSCO will provide full support to the FARDC, both operationally and logistically,' declared Martin Kobler, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General in the DRC. FARDC Chief of Army Staff, General Etumba announced the launch of military operations against the FDLR on Thursday 29 January 2015 in Beni, during a press conference, in the presence of MONUSCO Force Commander, General Dos Santos Cruz. Prior to this meeting, the Chief of MONUSCO, Martin Kobler finalized the details of the cooperation between the FARDC and MONUSCO with General Etumba."

  So was the joint declaration signed, and if not, why not?

  UN Peacekeeping providing "full support to the FARDC" has a bad record - under Herve Ladsous, full support continued to two FARDC units involved in the mass rape of over 100 -- or "at least 76" -- women and girls in Minova in November 2012.

 Today's Human Rights Watch report says

"A year after the mass rape of at least 76 women and girls by soldiers in and around Minova, Congo’s Military Operational Court opened a trial on November 20, 2013, for 39 soldiers, including five high-ranking officers, on charges of war crimes and other offenses. On May 5, the verdict was announced, with only two low-ranking soldiers convicted of rape."

  But, typically soft on the UN, HRW does not mention the UN's claimed Human Rights Due Diligence Policy much less its underminer-in-chief Herve Ladsous.

(By contrast, even the International Peace Institute reports that "After [MONUSCO SRSG] Kobler referred to the UN’s stated Human Rights
Due Diligence Policy, Inner City Press asked him if any UN support was withdrawn over the DRC Army’s 130 rapes in Minova and only two convictions.Kobler’s answer did not mention any aid suspended.”)

On January 22 Ladsous made a speech about freedom of the press in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the UN Security Council, and made excuses for not acting to “neutralize” the Hutu FDLR rebels as the UN did the largely Tutsi M23.

Then Ladsous came to the Security Council stakeout, ostensibly to take questions.

  Inner City Press asked, “On the neutralization of the FDLR, what is the hold up?”

  Ladsous said "I don't respond to your questions, Mister." Video here and embedded below.

   Then Ladsous turned and gave the question to Reuters. When that back and forth was over, Inner City Press asked if any of the countries in the UN's Force Intervention Brigade are well than willing to attack the FDLR, as senior diplomats at the UN have told Inner City Press.

   Ladsous refused to answer this question, and gestured that Ban Ki-moon's envoy to the DRC Martin Kobler, standing behind Ladsous at the stakeout, shouldn't answer it either. Reuters took or was given another question, distancing the FDLR from genocide.

   Finally Inner City Press asked both men what if anything UN Peacekeeping has done as the Kabila government has frozen the accounts of the Panzi hospital for rape victims.  Ladsous waved this off -- for months he waved off Press questions about mass rape in Minova by his partners in the Congolese Army, video here -- and walked away with this spokesman.

 (One can only imagine the advise this “communications professional” is giving Ladsous. Perhaps he can help Ladsous address his history with Hutu groups as evidence in this memo. These are Press questions.)

   Kobler to his credit told Inner City Press he would come back and answer, and he did, albeit only some, and off camera. That will be another story. Because the story here is, how can a person in charge of UN Peacekeeping be allowed to refuse particular media's questions in this way? While, in classic UN fashion, giving a speech about freedom of the press, elsewhere? The weakness of current UN leadership comes to mind.

  But as many ask, WHY does Ladsous refuse to answer Inner City Press? While he has refused to answer that, too, it began when Inner City Press reported that Ladsous was not even France's first choice for the position - Jerome Bonnafont was.

   Tellingly, an Agence France Presse member of the Executive Committee of the so-called UN Correspondents Association complained about this Inner City Press story, and soon the Executive Committee of UNCA, under then and now president Giampaolo Pioli, made more complaint about that story, and another about Sri Lanka, demanding it be removed from the Internet.

   Inner City Press quit UNCA and co-founded the Free UN Coalition for Access, which demands that all UN Under Secretaries General answer questions. UNCA, for course, has said nothing about Ladsous' refusal. It is the UN's Censorship Alliance. More on this -- including video -- to follow.


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