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Film as Journalism, CAR Worse Off After "The Ambassador," French Connection

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 25 -- A film about the Central African Republic, "The Ambassador" by Mads Brugger, opened in New York a year ago. Using hidden cameras it cover efforts to purchase diplomatic credentials from Liberia and to deal in conflict diamonds in the CAR under the Bozize government.

  A year later, Bozize has been thrown out -- although he has resurfaced in Paris. He was not ousted due to his corruption, but by the Seleka rebels, now themselves accused of child soldier recruitment and other abuses.

  While there is much hand-wringing, for example from European Union official Kristalina Georgieva and the UN's Valerie Amos, about the crisis in the CAR, the UN Security Council has not this month as expected passed any resolution about the country.

  As first covered by Inner City Press, the reason for inaction is that French Permanent Representative Gerard Araud and others in the French Mission are on vacation for the month, and France "holds the pen" to draft all resolutions in the Council on the CAR, as it does on other former French colonies like Cote d'Ivoire and Mali.

  In "The Ambassador" -- trailer here, 1.6 GB download for $8.50 here -- the CAR's head of state security Guy-Jean Le Foll Yamande says on hidden camera that it is France which "taught corruption" in the CAR. He is later tortured and killed.

  In full disclosure, Inner City Press appears in the film, in connection with exposing the reasons and results of the UN pulling out of Birao. Due to lack of planning by the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations, troops from the MINURCAT mission thrown out of Chad also left Birao in CAR -- and rebels took over the town immediately after that.

  The UN's DPKO has been run, for times in a row now, by Frenchmen. The current head of DPKO Herve Ladsous refuses to answer Press questions about his past, including during the Rwanda genocide in 1994, when he was France's Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN, arguing for the escape of the genocidaires into Eastern Congo.

Now Ladsous commanders an all-African Intervention Brigade to "neutralize" armed groups like M23 which Congolese leader Joseph Kabila doesn't like. Plus ca change.

While Liberia fought back against the film -- see for example Toga McIntosh's speech, here -- and while Brugger may have played a bit fast and loose, troubling questions remain about the head of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's Unity Party Varney Sherman.

A promise was made to Brugger, playing Mr. Cortzen, that he could get his credential when Johnson Sirleaf returned to Monrovia from the UN General Assembly in September 2010, and that the money he paid would go toward her re-election.

What is amazing almost two years after that General Assembly, and a year after the film opened in New York, is how little has been done. While again noting some unresolved question about whether some of the purported hidden camera video was in fact agreed to, we and the Free UN Coalition for Access recommend the film, including as journalism. Watch it.


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