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At UNSG Guterres Presser, Inner City Press Asks of Cameroon & UN Bribery for CEFC, Here

By Matthew Russell Lee, photos, video

UNITED NATIONS, January 16 – When UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres held a press conference on January 16, it was his first public media question and answer sessions at the UN in months. Inner City Press arrived early and kept its hand raised; as the 14th questioner it was able to ask Guterres about the ongoing UN bribery case and about ten abductions in Nigeria by / for Cameroon, which he visited in October. On the latter, Guterres said that the UN is active and has gotten some people released. This may be a reference to Felix Aghbor Balla and others. But what of those still held in Nigeria, where as Inner City Press pointed out his deputy Amina J. Mohammed has been for the past week? We'll have more on this. On the UN bribery indicted against Cheikh Gadio and Patrick Ho of the China Energy Fund Committee, to benefit CEFC China Energy which is still a member of the UN Global Compact, Guterres focused on this part of the question, saying he would look into the Global Compact membership. It's worth nothing that when Ng Lap Seng was indicted in 2015 for UN bribery, his Sun Kian Ip foundation was dropped by the UN and money returned. Here, UN DESA still used $1 million of CEFC even after the indictment. As Guterres seems not to know, the case and Inner City Press' coverage has been reported all over the world, from China to Uganda and Senegal to the Czech Republic. We'll have more on this as well. Here's the UN's January 16 transcript: Q: Matthew Lee, Inner City Press, on behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access, hoping for more question and answer in 2018, as you said.  In November, there was an indictment announced in Federal Court downtown of the head of an ECOSOC (Economic and Social Council)-accredited NGO for bribing, allegedly bribing, the President of the General Assembly, Sam Kutesa, to benefit the China Energy Fund Committee. And I wanted to ask you, that remains still in the Global Compact, and there hasn't been even an audit or anything created. Why haven't you started an audit in that case? Why is the beneficiary of what's described as bribery in the UN still in the Global Compact? And how do your reforms preclude or make impossible this type of bribery that's now happened twice under John Ashe, may he rest in peace, and under Sam Kutesa? And, also, on Cameroon, you visited, I know, in late October. Since then, some Anglophone leaders have been arrested or abducted in Nigeria, where I know your deputy was. I wanted to know what the UN system is doing about this now cross-border problem. Thanks a lot. Secretary-General:  Well, as a matter of fact, in relation to that, we have done several initiatives, and some of them even led to the release of people, and we will go on engaging with all the states involved. In relation to other cases, I would like to say that I'm not aware of presence in the Compact or whatever. I will have to look into it. I will look into it. What is clear for me is that we don't want the Compact to have companies that do not abide by the set of principles that were defined in the constitution of the Compact. There is a code of conduct that is there, and that should be respected. So, I don't know exactly what happened in the compact in that regard. I will look into that." Back on June 20, 2107 when Guterres held a press conference, it was his first in UN headquarters since he assumed office 168 days ago. He took nearly 20 questions, including two from Inner City Press, on the UN having brought cholera to Haiti, and sexual abuse by peacekeepers in the UN Mission in Central African Republic.

   On Haiti, he announced that he was just today - minutes later the announcement went out - naming as his dollar-a-year special envoy on Haiti Josette Sheeran, formerly the director of the UN World Food Program and now the head of the Asia Society. Video here. Transcript here and below. He seemed to say the UN was never going to compensate individuals or families impacted by the cholera the UN brought.

We'll have more on this: Inner City Press will be accompanying and covering, in as much detail as possible, the UN Security Council's visit to Haiti from June 22 to 24 (a protest at the UN's “logbase” is planned.)

   On sexual abuse in CAR, SG Guterres said that before making the announcement, the Republic of Congo must be told. Inner City Press asked why the Burundi contingent is not being repatriated after 25 rapes alleged by the UN OIOS. He said there is a process. The Security Council meets about Burundi later on June 20, and Inner City Press will cover it. Watch this site.

Footnote: on behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access, to which Guterres' spokesman Stephane Dujarric does NOT "lend" the briefing room and which has never and will never ask for a journalist to be thrown out or restricted, Inner City Press urged Guterres to more routinely take questions, for example on his way in and out of the Security Council. We'll see.

From the UN's transcript:

Inner City Press: Matthew Lee, Inner City Press. On behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access, thanks for the briefing. Glad to have it. Stakeouts would also be useful when you speak to the Council.  But I wanted to ask you about cholera in Haiti. As you may know, while you were away, your deputy gave... gave the speech, and many people in Haiti interpreted it as a... as a pulling back from the idea of compensating victims of the cholera that was brought. Maybe they misunderstand it, but they put out a press release. There's a protest planned there on Thursday during the Council's visit.  So I wanted to ask you, I know that Member States haven't come forward with what they might have, but are you going to put more time in? Do you think that the idea of actually compensating the people whose family members were killed by cholera is still alive?  And, also, I'd understood that there was going to be an announcement about the Congo Brazzaville contingent being repatriated... being repatriated from Central African Republic. Is it going to happen? And, if so, what's the standard?  Because the Burundians were found to have 25 soldiers accused by OIOS (Office of Internal Oversight Services) of sexual abuse. Is there some... is there a number or what determines when people are repatriated? Thanks a lot. I appreciate it.

Secretary-General:  First of all, in relation to Haiti, the policy that was announced by my predecessor had two dimensions. One is fighting cholera, and the other is the possibility to support, namely, to support communities impacted. It was devised, not as individual support, but community support for the communities impacted.  As you mentioned, there has been little voluntary funding for these projects. So we have presented a proposal for the amounts that were not spent in the previous mission in Haiti and that should be given back to countries, for countries to be ready to accept not to receive those amounts back in order to be able to fund the cholera programme.  And, at the same time, we have just appointed Ms. Josette Sheeran as my Special Envoy for Haiti, centred, of course, in the fundraising for cholera. She was, as you know, the World Food Programme leader a few years ago. She is now President of the Asia Society, and she accepted, with a salary of $1 per year, she accepted to be fully engaged in fundraising for a programme that, indeed, until now, has received very little support but that is very important from the point of view of the people and from the point of view of the credibility of the UN.  In relation to what you mentioned, there is a procedure that is now being adopted systematically. That procedure involves an evaluation. That evaluation was concluded in relation to the Republic of Congo. There is a necessary contact with the authorities of the country before a public announcement of the measure. So I will ask for a little bit of patience, because you'll soon have the public announcement of what we have decided to do. But it will be, I mean, impolite and unacceptable in the context of our bilateral relations before a number of contacts that need to be established with the country to announce it.  This procedure will now be applied across the board, and it's an evaluation that is done by a group of experts on the situation. It depends on the capacity of countries to... even if something happened to correct what has happened or if we feel that there are more systemic failures that cannot be addressed and that require the withdrawal of the force we are discussing.


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