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On Togo, Chambas Tells UNSC Opposition In Street Protests, Not of Deaths, ICP Asks Kazakh Prez

By Matthew Russell Lee, Video here

UNITED NATIONS, January 11 – After major protests in Togo were cracked down on with authorities shooting and killed two or seven protesters, Inner City Press on August 21 and 22 asked UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres' Spokesman Stephane Dujarric, with no UN comment whatsoever. Video here; UN August 22 transcript here, and below.

On January 11, UN envoy Chambas said "In Togo opposition parties continue with their street protest" - without mentioning they're being killed -- then played up mediation. Afterward, Inner City Press asked the president of the Security Council for January, Kazakhstan, if the killing in Togo (and abductions in Nigeria) had been addressed.

The Q&A is in this Periscope video; the Council's Pollyanna elements to the press began: "Council members commended the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), Dr. Mohamed Ibn Chambas, for his continued efforts to promote peace and stability in the sub-region, in close cooperation with relevant sub-regional and regional organizations, which has contributed to positive progress in several West African countries; They encouraged UNOWAS to continue its efforts in the areas of mediation, good offices, early warning and prevention action."

On November 15, Inner City Press asked Dujarric's deputy Farhan Haq, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: in Togo, there have been these protests.  People have been killed, and now… now the opposition yesterday held a press conference and said that the President has called the protesters terrorists and has said that the army can easily put this down.  So they've said this is kind of a declaration of war on them, and I know that Mr. [Mohamed ibn] Chambas had gone there, was working on this issue.  In terms of conflict prevention, what does he think about the President's comments that protesters in the street are terrorists? And what's the UN, I guess, doing on this issue? Deputy Spokesman:  "Well, regarding that, we reiterate our calls to Togolese stakeholders to engage in dialogue in order to arrive at a speedy, consensual and negotiated resolution of the ongoing crisis, to refrain from violence and to ensure respect for human rights and the rule of law.  And we do stand ready to support the Togolese in finding a peaceful solution to the crisis.  And, as you know, Mr. Chambas is involved in that effort." On October 27, after Guterres and his envoy Chambas have done nothing but try to paper-over or cover up the crisis as in Cameroon, Guterres' former agency UNHCR has said, "UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is working with the authorities in Ghana to support over 500 recently arrived Togolese asylum-seekers, fleeing the recent political unrest in their country.  So far, 513 asylum-seekers have been registered by the Ghanaian authorities, after arriving in remote northwestern parts of Ghana, including Chereponi, Zabzugu and Bunkprugu-Yunyou. The majority of them are being hosted by local families and some in community centers. A joint UNHCR/Ghana Refugee Board mission is currently on its way to those remote areas to assess the situation. Togolese seeking safety, including women and children, told UNHCR staff that they had fled on foot, walking from their homes in Togo’s Mango region, bordering Ghana. They said they were fleeing human rights abuses after the recent political protests." Wasn't Guterres supposed to be all about prevention of conflict? He did nothing, now refugee flows, just as in Cameroon. Or will he make a pro-regime stop over in Lome too, as today in Yaounde? On October 24, it was the US State Department that spoke: "The United States is deeply concerned about rising levels of violence and restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly in Togo related to protests over proposed constitutional reforms.  We are particularly troubled by reports of excessive use of force by security forces and reports that Government-sponsored vigilantes are using force and the threat of force to disrupt protests and intimidate civilians. The United States is also concerned with the Government of Togo’s decision to restrict demonstrations during the workweek and to arrest a prominent imam in the city of Sokode. We call on the Government of Togo to uphold its citizens’ human rights, notably their freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and internet freedom and to ensure that all those arrested during demonstrations are afforded the right to due process. The United States deplores the violence that has claimed the lives of protesters and security forces alike.  We urge all parties to renounce violence.  We encourage the Government and opposition to engage in dialogue without preconditions, which is the only solution to the current impasse." On October 11, Inner City Press asked Dujarric again, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: I wanted to ask you about Togo.  I'd asked you before.  You said Mr. [Mohammed Ibn] Chambas went.  And now the Government has announced it's banning all weekday protests, which there have been a lot of protests.  And it seems like… I wanted to know what… what success has the UN had in this Chambas visit and good offices?  And does it have any comment on… on this restriction on the right to assemble? Spokesman:  We feel that people, as a matter of principle, have a right to demonstrate peacefully, and that right should be upheld in whatever country.  The discussions… I think Mr. Chambas’s office is continuing to look at the matter, and, obviously, the rising tension is an issue of concern for us. Inner City Press: And I th… again, I… I'm sorry to ask you this again, but I keep getting questions from people in Cameroon, when Mr. [François Louncény] Fall or his team or just for more details, given what's going on there, is there… do you have anything more… the working group? Spokesman:  I have nothing more to share with you. Inner City Press: Are they… I mean, have you asked them and they don't want to say or… Spokesman:  "No, I just… if I had something to share with you, I would try to offload it." After UN envoy Chambas reportedly gave his blessing to Gnassingbe staying in power until 2030, Inner City Press on September 11 asked Dujarric about this statement to a wire service, and whatever its accuracy, whether this is Antonio Guterres' position. Dujarric emphasized it was a call to Reuters (his partners in Press censorship, here and here), then said he was trying to check the quote and wouldn't say anything about Guterres position until he had. Then amid attempted follow up questions, Dujarric walked of the podium. On September 15, Inner City Press asked again, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: there's a couple of things that I'd asked you that I didn't hear you get back on.  One was Togo, where you said you were going to check the quotes of Mr. [Mohamed Ibn] Chambas, whether he, in fact, gave his blessing.  Now, that there's a big pro… actually, the parliamentary thing that you referred to, the opposition has said that it's much less than what was promised.  The protests are getting larger.  Did Mr. Chambas say the things that Reuters quoted him as saying? Spokesman:  My understanding is that he said what he was quoted as saying. Inner City Press:  Okay.  So is it the Secretary-General's view that it's legitimate for a family, whose father and son have now been in power for 50 years, to remain in power through 2030?  Is that the 2030… Spokesman:  "I don't think that's… the Secretary-General's view is that people should be able to choose their leaders." Inner City Press on the morning of August 30 asked Dujarric and his two top deputies: "In Togo, 15 supporters of the opposition Pan African National party (PAN), who were arrested during a protest against President Faure Gnassingbe 10 days ago, appeared in court yesterday and were given sentences ranging from five to nine months; the party’s Secretary General, Dr Kossi Sama, was sentenced to 18 months in prison including 9 months without parole. What is the UN's comment? And separately, what are the dates and itinerary of envoy Chambas' visit to Togo?" Hours later, nothing - nothing at all. On September 6, after Duajrric had refused to answer 18 of Inner City Press' 21 questions, Inner City Press asked, UN Transcript here: Inner City Press: in Togo, when you left, there had been the shooting of protesters by the Government and you or Farhan said that Mr. [Mohamed ibn] Chambas was going.  So, now that there's a protest there today, and quite a bit of crackdown, slowing down and turning off of the Internet, can you say if Mr. Chambas has gone and what the UN has done? Spokesman:  "Right.  I'll get… I don't have an update on his travels." Then on September 8, Inner City Press asked Dujarric, UN transcript here: Inner City Press:   On Togo.  There's been the use of tear gas, people stayed out all over night.  It's being widely described as a kind of possible either endgame for the Administration there or… has he reached out to the people that… the actual opponents in the street?  Or what's he doing while he's there? Spokesman:  he continues to be there talking to all the Togolese stakeholders, as we said, civil society, diplomatic corps, the presidents [?], and his message is the same to all, which is a call for calm, encouraging dialogue to resolve outstanding issues and advocate for the acceleration of the country's reform agenda." On August 23, after the French Mission to the UN's deputy ambassador Anne Gueguen said "we condemn all violence," Inner City Press twice asked her if France condemns, or is in any way concerned by, Togo shooting and killing protesters. Video here. She declined to answer; the transcript the French Mission put out omitted not only Inner City Press' Togo questions but even Gueguen's answer on Yemen. We'll have more on this. From the UN's August 22 transcript: Inner City Press: yesterday, I'd asked you about this crackdown in Togo, and I wanted to know whether… you said, you know, you were looking for something or the UN was monitoring. Spokesman:  No, I…Inner City Press: How many people do you think were killed in it? And are there any… there've been… some people have called for people to flee to Ghana and other nearby questions.

Spokesman:  I don't, I wish I had something for you, but I don't have anything on Togo for you today.

  Nor by the end of the day, nothing. UN August 21 transcript here: Inner City Press: Togo, as you may have seen, there’ve been major protests against the now 50-year rule of the same family, and several protesters were killed.  The Government says two, the opposition says seven.  I’m wondering, you know, you have an office on West Africa.  What is the UN… are they following this?  Do they intend to…

Spokesman:  We are following it.  I don’t have any language on Togo right now, but we’ll see what we can get.

   Five hours later, nothing. This is a trend, and not only in Cameroon. When UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres earlier this summer did a photo op (Periscope here) and meeting with Gabon's Ali Bongo, who along with his father Omar have consecutively ruled Gabon since 1967, it began a full 15 minutes late. Not because Bongo was picking up another dubious award on the sidelines of the sometimes dubious Ocean Conference (see here), but because Guterres had another, unlisted visitor. It was, Inner City Press saw, Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the UN, presumably about the standoff with Qatar. Guterres' holdover spokesman Stephane Dujarric has repeatedly said Guterres is not involved. We'll have more on this. On Bongo, he stayed upstairs for 45 minutes and then left with the media he'd brought in, in a caravan of vehicles with a police escort. Periscope viewers told Inner City Press Gabonese were protesting Bongo, who they call a killer, in front of the Peninsula Hotel. Now Jean Ping is calling for UN action, saying pointedly that he "cancelled plans to visit the United Nations and meet with U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres. 'I don’t need to be just received. But I have the impression that (anything beyond that) is a long way off because of the system.'" Reuters neglects to note that Ping was not only a chair of the African Union, but a President of the UN General Assembly. Then again, Reuters is barely reporting on the UN bribery trial of one of Ping's successors as PGA, John Ashe. We'll have more on this. Ali Bongo, fresh off this award(s) in New York, unilaterally suspended the media Echos du Nord, here. The UN itself evicted (audio) and still restricts Inner City Press, and when Inner City Press asked Guterres' spokesman Stephane Dujarric, who did it, about Gabon including as relates to the closed door briefing of Francois Fall of UNOCA set up in Gabon, Dujarric's response was about the sports team the New York Mets. This is today's UN.
Watch this site.  Guterres' holdover spokesman Stephane Dujarric declined to offer any explanation of the differences. As noted, under Ban Ki-moon he had Inner City Press thrown out of the UN Press Briefing Room and UN, where it is still restricted even as the Ng Lap Seng / John Ashe UN bribery case it was covering is coming to trial. Is the UN reforming? Watch this site.



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