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Amid Calls to Probe UN Inaction on Congo Rapes, UNSC to Meet Aug 26, NGO Goes Silent

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 25 -- Two days after the UN belatedly disclosed some of its knowledge of the mass rape of at least 154 women in Eastern Congo less than 20 miles from the UN MONUNSCO Peacekeepers' base, Roger Meece of MONUSCO took questions from the Press. Meanwhile, sources tell Inner City Press that the Security Council will hold emergency consultations on the rape on August 26.

  While the UN on August 24 had denied that MONUSCO had been aware of the presence in the area of the FDLR rebels, Meece admitted that they became aware on July 31, before four days of mass rape. He said that MONUSCO's patrol on August 4 went away from the village of rape, and that the International Medical Corps only told the UN about the rape on August 12.

  Inner City Press asked Meece to respond to a call by the foreign minister of Belgium, the former colonial power in the Congo, for an investigation including of MONUSCO failure to protect civilians. Meece said he was not aware of the call. Video here.

  Inquiries with the International Medical Corps' 'California office found Margaret Aguirre saying that “We work closely with the UN agencies and we want to continue working with them.”

  William Cragin, who has said the UN knew of the rebels' presence still at least July 31, is now traveling and unavailable. Inner City Press asked about this, and Meece said if the implication was retaliation or cover up, he rejects it. We'll see.

   Inner City Press asked Meece about his Mission's failure to protect civilians from the Lord's Resistance Army, which the UN has blamed on the withdrawal of nine Indian helicopters. (India tells Inner City Press they gave the UN fore-notice, and still have other copters in the Congo.)

  Meece referred to the loss of copters, and said that the remaining ones had many uses and weren't suited for patrolling “densely wooded” area.

How, Inner City Press asked for the second day in a row, is the UN going to communicate with the civilians it is charged with protecting?

Meece and UN's Ban, investigation of MONUSCO inaction not yet shown

  Meece said there's cell phone service in only one of the villages. Here's a suggestion: with the UN spending a billion dollars on MONUSCO, maybe it could leave better communication in place? In the interim, flares or satellite phones?

The Security Council still has not issued any statement. Multiple Council sources, however, told Inner City Press that there will be consultations on August 26 at 10 am with an eye toward issue elements to the press. Later, after Number Two Peacekeeper Atul Khare and Sexual Violence and Conflict envoy Margot Wallstrom have assessed the situation, the Council may issue a more formal statement.

* * *

As UN's Inaction on Congo Rapes Triggers Belated Trips, Why No Flares or Sat Phones?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 24 -- The UN's belated response to the mass gang rape of at least 154 women in Eastern Congo became more surreal on Tuesday. Following up on questions it posed the previous day, Inner City Press asked UN spokesman Martin Nesirky to respond to an NGO's statement that the UN knew of the location of the FDLR rebels on July 31, before the four days of mass rape began. Video here, from Minute 8:50.

  Nesirky responded by reading out a timeline, that the UN Mission MONUSCO's North Kivu office only learned of the rapes on August 12. But the rapes took place less than 20 miles from the peacekeepers' base, and the international medical NGO was able to access the village from August 4 on.

  Nesirky said repeatedly that the UN peacekeepers conduct “routine patrols.” But how could these patrols leave them unaware of these mass rapes 20 miles away, from August 4 to August 12? Nesirky on Monday called the area “densely wooded.” On Tuesday he called it “vast.”

The UN's supposedly lack of knowledge -- other accounts say that the peacekeepers were aware but did nothing until the rebels left -- is attributed to the rebels blocking their victims access to the road.

Inner City Press asked what the UN does to ensure that the civilians it is charged with protection can in fact reach the peacekeepers -- flares? Satellite phones? Video here, from Minute 12:15.

Nesirky said, “the suggestions you've made [are] the kind of things people will look at.” But why only now, after the 154 rapes?

UN in Congo: equipment but protection of civilians, flares or sat phones, not shown

  Now, 12 days after the UN says it became aware of the mass rapes, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is sending the Number Two Peacekeeper Atul Khare to the Congo, and charging his expert on Sexual Violence and Conflict Margot Wallstrom with belatedly coordinating the UN's response.

But while the UN should clearly investigate its own peacekeepers' inaction, Nesirky on Tuesday insisted that “it's for the government of the DRC to investigate.”

The UN apparently does not accept the results of DRC Government investigations: the government has charged two members of the Pareco militia with killing three Indian peacekeepers in the Congo, but when Inner City Press asked Nesirky for the UN's comments, he declined. Video here, from Minute 30:59.

Nesirky dodged several questions by saying that on Wednesday by audio or video link up a UN official will brief the Press about the incident. The allegations that

(1) the UN knew as early as July 31,

(2) could have intervened at latest on August 4, as the unarmed NGO did, and

(3) delayed at least from August 12 onward in going public with the facts of the mass rape, all have to be answered. Watch this site.

 Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

* * *

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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