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At UN, Ban's Handpicked Q Ignore Africa, Rape Scandals, Syria Sound Cut

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 29 -- When UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon did a rare question and answer stakeout after addressing the Security Council about Syria on July 29, it preempted and canceled the day's UN noon briefing about the UN's work all over the world.

  But Ban in his opening statement mentioned only Syria and Yemen. One of the questions handpicked by his spokesman touched on Afghanistan; neither Ban or de Mistura, who said nothing, answered it. There was not a word about Africa, well over half of the Security Council's agenda and UN's work.

  Ban Ki-moon for example recently implicitly gave his blessing to Burundi strongman Pierre Nkurunziza's unconstitutional third term. Ban opined that Nkurunziza's re-election or coronation was "broadly peaceful," despite media being closed down and refugees fleeing from the country. But no question to Ban has been allowed. The Free UN Coalition for Access protests this.

  There are rape scandals surrounding the UN, from cover-up of French soldiers' rapes of children in Central African Republic by Ban's (French) head of peacekeeping Herve Ladsous to the UN's refusal to provide any accountability for an aid worker allegedly raped INSIDE the UN's "Protection of Civilians" camp in Bentiu in South Sudan. But not a word on this from Ban, or in the handpicked questions.

  After Ban left, taking the taciturn de Mistura with him, the president of the Security Council for July, Gerard von Bohemen of New Zealand, did a stakeout. Inner City Press was able to ask him if there was any discussion if the Syrian National Coalition will participate in de Mistura's "working groups" (he said, not in the room), and about the upcoming MH17 vote.

  But when Syria's Ambassador Ja'afari came to speak at the stakeout, it was nearly empty. Soon, the sound went out. (@InnerCityPress restarted its live #Periscope broadcast, here for 24 hours, since the UN had stopped.) Ja'afari said, this is not the first time this has happened. Inner City Press asked him about Turkey - but that's another story. This is the story of what the UN has become, or is becoming. Watch this site - and

   Ban on July 29 was the opening act for his envoy Staffan de Mistura, who was supposed to make a new proposal.

 What de Mistura set out, however, was a mere "deepening" of the Geneva Consultations he's been engaged in since May 5. In what seemed like form over substance, de Mistura said:

   “What I am today proposing is deepening the Geneva Consultations format. I now intend to invited Syrians to parallel, or simultaneous, thematic discussions through intra-Syrian working groups addressing the key aspects of the Communique, as identified by them in the first phase of the Consultations.”

   These key aspects were bullet-pointed by de Mistura as “Safety and protection for all, including ending sieges, ensuring medical access and releasing detainees;

"political and Constitutional issues including essential principles, transitional governing body and elections;

"military and security issues including combating terrorism, cease-fires and integration of forces; and

"public institutions, reconstruction and development, including institutions continuing to deliver public services under a top leadership acceptable to all and acting in accordance with principles of good government and human rights.”

  While de Mistura referred to a "Fear of the Black Flag" flying over Damascus, it wasn't clear who would be in these working groups. Nevertheless it was said that the Security Council was working on a Presidential Statement to support de Mistura.

  When Ban himself spoke, all the trappings of gravitas were given. The day's UN noon briefing was canceled, in deference to Ban's (scripted?) question and answer session set for 12:40 pm.

  Even before 10 am, Ban's personal rostrum or lectern was set up at the UNTV stakeout. Given that it was torn from the hands even of a member state's foreign minister - and later President of the General Assembly -- this meant the UN assumed no member state would want (or dare) to speak before Ban's 12:40 pm stakeout.

 This is today's UN.


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