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In DRC, UN Confirms Destruction of Telecom Tower, Blind Quote Stands?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 23 -- After the Congolese Army destroyed a Vodacom telecommunications tower, on Thursday Inner City Press asked the UN to confirm and comment on it.

  Isn't that an attack impacting civilians, including for example their ability to report rapes like those in Minova and Walikale before that?

  More than 24 hours later, the UN sent this to Inner City Press:

Answers to questions on DR Congo: MONUSCO can confirm that one telecommunication tower in the Munigi area appears to have been destroyed.

  But no comment on its impact on civilians. At Friday's noon briefing, video here from Minute 10:15, Inner City Press asked the UN's outgoing deputy spokesperson Eduardo Del Buey about the answer, when Inner City Press and another journalist asked UN Peacekeeping acting chief Edmond Mulet Thursday if the M23 rebels had entered the security zone established around Goma.

  "No," Mulet said. "Just mortars." He went on to refer to the separate "red line" established when M23 agreed in Kampala to pull out of Goma. (The portion of that agreement that gave M23 one third of the security force at the Goma airport remains unimplemented.)

  But later on Thursday, the wire service Reuters reported "a senior U.N. official, who asked not to be named, said that on Thursday the rebels entered a security zone surrounding Goma" -- which Mulet, the acting chief of DPKO, had just denied. Inner City Press and the other journalist waited to ask Mulet again, and got the same answer.

  So who is this "senior UN official who asked not to be named"? In UN Peacekeeping, only Herve Ladsous, long absent from UN Headquarters, is senior to and could over-rule Mulet.

  Ladsous has in the past spoon-fed answers of dubious veracity to this same Reuters UN bureau bragging for example about the Congolese Army imposing accountability for the 135 rapes in Minova in November 2012.

   But with only a few arrests for the 135 rapes, Ladsous' DPKO continues supporting the 391st Battalion, even as it is now implicated in corpse desecration.

That the UN would try to use Reuters, willingly, resonates with a documented instance in June 2012 when Reuters UN bureau chief Louis Charbonneau gave to UN official Stephane Dujarric an internal UNCA anti-Press document, three minutes after saying he would not do so. Story here, audio here, document here, in which Charbonneau tells Dujarric, "You didn't get this from me."

  So is Reuters' "senior UN official who asked not to be named" someone junior to Mulet, or as another journalist suggested, no one at all?

  On Friday, Del Buey said he knew what Mulet had said, and has "seen other reports." He said he'd have to check. But today is his last day at the UN (the Free UN Coalition for Access wished him well, video here at Minute 9:55).  So we'll see. Watch this site.


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