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On Congo Rapes, UN Inaction & Dissembling Stretches to Wallstrom, Meece, Higher

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 31 -- Of the mass rapes in Eastern Congo which occurred from July 30 through August 4, the UN's Special Representative on Sexual Violence and Conflict Margot Wallstrom only learn on “August 21-22 through emerging media sources,” Wallstrom told the Press on Tuesday. Video here, from Minute 1:50.

Inner City Press asked what steps she had taken, in her six months on the job, to try to ensure that UN peacekeeping missions like MONUSCO in the Congo actually inform her of mass rape, rather than leaving her to find out about in in the newspapers ten days after MONUSCO admits knowing of it. Video here, from Minute 14:19.

Ms. Wallstrom, apparently realizing how bad it looked to learn only from the media, changed her story and said “not the newspaper,” she had “reports and calls one by one.” Video here, from Minute 18:19.

  Beyond Ms. Wallstrom's shifting and self serving story, one call she did receive was from the Secretary General, calling her into action from where she was in Europe. Still, as of August 31 she had not gone to the Congo after the rape story broke, instead sending an underling from the office she has barely staffed in six months.

  She acknowledged that only four of ten posts have been filled; she said there was only been an office since June. She blamed this on the UN budget process.

Rather than offer a critique of the UN peacekeepers' inaction -- it has now been shown that the UN knew of at least one of the rapes on July 30, and of at least 25 by August 10 -- Ms. Wallstrom chided the media to keep the focus on the rapists.

  Inner City Press asked about known rapists still serving in the FARCD Congolese army: Bosco Ntaganda, an FARDC commander who walks around Goma at will, Colonel Zimulinda / Zimurinda, who the UN worked with even after UN expert Philip Alston named him as responsible for 50 rapes, and ex-warlord and kidnapper and murderer of UN peacekeepers Peter Kerim, made a colonel in the FARDC. Video here, from Minute 35:15.

UN's Ban and Wallstrom, action on, even knowledge of, mass rapes not shown

   In response, Wallstrom lamented that some in the FARDC are “people straight from the forest.”  But will her office call for their arrest and apprehension? Video here, from Minute 37:22. Wallstrom seemed to say yes. We'll see.

Regarding Wallstrom's "straight outta the forest" comment, an African UN official tells Inner City Press that Wallstrom's "language" is causing consternation. Ironically, but quintessentially UN, Wallstrom may face accountability if at all not for her inaction, but for her language.

Footnote: something to be established is whether Wallstrom even gave her cell phone number to Roger Meece and other peacekeeping officials. To be informed of mass rape known to UN peacekeepers does not require the full staff of ten.

  While Ms. Wallstrom said that the UN can't protect women in all conflict zones, it seems fair to ask why, while spending $1 billion, the UN can't protect women from mass multi-day rape 20 minutes from a UN peacekeeping base. Who will be held accountable? Those who looked away or those who dissembled after the fact? Why not both? To be continued.

* * *

On Congo Rapes, UN Can't Find E-mail, Won't Say Where Expert Wallstrom Was

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 27 -- How seriously is the UN taking the scandal of its peacekeepers' inaction on the mass rapes in Eastern Congo in early August? Well, at the August 27 UN noon briefing, more than 24 hours after Inner City Press asked about a late July UN e-mail telling humanitarian workers to stay away from the area due to the incursion of rebels, UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said the UN is “still trying to track down the e-mail.” Video here, from Minute 23:44.

While the UN's excuse for not stopping four days of mass rape 30 kilometers from its peacekeepers' base, and supposedly only learning of the rapes a week after the fact, is that the area is “densely wooded,” presumably this description does not apply to the UN's e-mail system. So why the delay?

Also on delay, Inner City Press on August 27 asked Nesirky why the UN Office on Sexual Violence and Conflict, six months after its ostensible launch, has filled only two of the six allotted staff positions. Video here, from Minute 25:46. The head of the office, Margot Wallstrom, reportedly only learned of the mass rapes on the weekend of August 21-22, when they became public in the media.

Inner City Press asked what procedures are in place for UN peacekeeping missions like MONUSCO to tell Ms. Wallstrom and her office when they learn of rape as a tool of war, as MONUSCO says it learned on August 12? In ten days, they couldn't tell even Ms. Wallstrom or her office?

It appears that Ms. Wallstrom was in Europe at the time; the statement Nesirky's office put out in her name did not have a dateline, unlike Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's statement of the same day. Nesirky told Inner City Press that Ms. Wallstrom's location was “immaterial.” Was it?

UN's Ban and Wallstrom, 2 weeks to know, e-mail and location not shown

It appears that the UN is trying to make the Congo rape scandal story die down, by delaying admitting finding the late July e-mail, and belatedly dispatching to the Congo Ms. Wallstrom and Peacekeeping Deputy Atul Khare. (Where, correspondents asked again on Friday, is top peacekeeper Alain Le Roy?)

The Security Council's presidency will soon pass from Russia to the next in the alphabet, Turkey, a country with its own concerns in the Council and a Permanent Representative who has to date spoken very little to the UN press corps. So, some correspondents opine, the UN is trying to “run out the clock and play for time.” 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.

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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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