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On Haiti Cholera, UN Leaves It Up to Martelly, No Kerry Visit, MINUSTAH Gun

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 12 -- The day after the injustice of the UN's impunity for bringing cholera to Haiti was the subject of a religious service across First Avenue from the UN, photo here, Inner City Press asked the UN's spokesman Stephane Dujarric, video here:

Inner City Press:  About Haiti.  There was — yesterday afternoon, almost at the same time as the Ebola press conference, there was a religious ceremony held across the street of the Church Centre by both Haitians that live in New York who have had family members killed by cholera and also UN staff who feel that the UN policy of not directly addressing the claims for the families that were victims of the cholera is unjust.  I wanted to know if you were aware of that, if you have any response to it?

Spokesman:  I personally was not aware.  I think you know that the legal position of the UN as to this case is not, has not changed.  That being said, the UN continues to be very involved jointly with the Government of Haiti to work on the cholera issue in Haiti, to work on rebuilding the sanitation system, and I think the Secretary-General in his visit to Haiti in — over the summer, right?  In July, in mid-July, excuse me, in mid-July, I think, you know, went to one of the impacted village, prayed with the families and showed his empathy to the victims.

Inner City Press:  I understand that.  I don't think — people see the Secretary-General trying to raise funds for water and sanitation going forward.  I guess the question becomes for families that lost their breadwinner and, therefore, have kids who are unable to go to school with school fees, things like that, is there any — what's the UN's thinking?  Is the — the Government apparently has not addressed that problem.  So I'm wondering… I guess…

Spokesman:  I think whenever you have — whenever you have victims of any disaster, the issue of losing the breadwinner is an important one and one that needs to be addressed by national authorities in assistance with the international community.  Masood?

  Up to December 12, a item in the US State Department's public schedule read:

"COUNSELOR TOM SHANNON Counselor Shannon is on travel to Port-au-Prince, Haiti through December 12. He is accompanied by Haiti Special Coordinator Thomas Adams."

  Shannon and Adams have been in Haiti for days, it seemed preparing for a visit by Secretary of State John Kerry on December 12. Protests are planned, not least due to the US arguing in court in support of the UN's immunity, that is, impunity, and refusal to help its victims, families whose bread-winner was killed by the cholera UN Peacekeeping brought.

   Does the US read its own (incomplete) travel warnings?

 But at the UN State Department's December 12 briefing, the Department's spokesperson said "we believe elections are essential for Haiti’s democratic development and to advance progress made in reconstruction and development. The United States and, certainly, Counselor Shannon on his trip and Haiti Special Coordinator Tom Adams are certainly advocating strongly for dialogue and compromise among the parties that will lead to a Haitian solution to permit elections without further delay. Toward that end, we welcome the December 9th recommendations offered by the consultative commission established by President Martelly as a basis for dialogue. We understand he’ll speak today regarding the recommendations.

So our position as the United States is that we broadly support dialogue and compromise leading to a solution in Haiti that will permit elections without further delay, and we think that’s incredibly important to advance progress made there."

  There was no visit by Kerry. But, on Twitter, a photo of the UN's MINUSTAH using a gun to shoot, for which Inner City Press has asked the UN Spokesperson for a response. Watch this site.

  MSF Doctors Without Borders said on November 24 that "the population has slowly lost their immunity to the disease. Compared to the same period in 2013, the number of cases handled by MSF has almost doubled. The lack of sanitary infrastructure and of measures to clean water risk aggravating the epidemic."

  Inner City Press asked the UN to respond to this, on November 28, but the UN has refused. The US government has online, also dated November 24, 2014, a Haiti web page that (still) says, under Health, that "Incidents of cholera have declined dramatically  since a major outbreak in 2010." Click here for that.

  While that page was not changed or updated, on December 4 the US State Department put out a travel warning for Haiti which mentioned what MSF called the "lack of sanitary infrastructure" - but NOT that the UN brought cholera to Haiti, much less that the US is supporting the UN's claim of immunity or impunity for it. Click here for the December 4 travel warning.

   The new US Travel Warning does, however, mention the UN, in this way: "The United Nations’ Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) remains in Haiti to support the activities of the Haitian National Police (HNP). The HNP, with assistance from MINUSTAH, is responsible for maintaining order and rendering assistance.  However, given the possibility and unpredictability of spontaneous protests, their ability to assist U.S. citizens during disturbances is very limited."

  It must be said: some of these protests are ABOUT cholera, and are DIRECTED at the UN, having having brought it and for having done nothing for the victims, whole families left without their main breadwinner.

   The US page on Haiti, on Safety and Security, says "Please see our information for victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States."

  What about compensation for the victims of the UN in Haiti?

  Inner City Press continues to pursue this question at the UN. On November 20 when Jose Ramos Horta took questions about the UN Peacekeeping review panel he now chairs, he initially said that the UN bringing cholera to Haiti was beyond the panel's mandate.

  When Inner City Press was able to ask him a question, it was to challenge this. How could more than 8,000 people killed, and the continuing impact on the UN's credibility, be beyond the mandate of this panel? Video here.

  Ramos Horta replied that, on reflection, he would raise the issue of cholera in Haiti to the panel's members, which now include Sri Lankan former UN official Radhika Coomaraswamy as well.

  Inner City Press also asked about the cover-up scandals swirling around UN Peacekeeping, about rapes and more in Darfur. Ramos Horta replied about abuses by peacekeepers in Timor Leste, that there must be accountability (he praised Sergio de Mello in this respect.)

UN Peacekeeping has become subject, under Herve Ladsous, to mounting questions about its operations, from crashed drones, selective “neutralization” of some rebels groups and not others, like the FDLR in the DR Congo, covering up attacks in Darfur and lack of accountability for negligently introducing cholera to Haiti, to name just a few.

While Ladsous refuses and even blocks Press questions about these topics, recently Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has taken to saying that a major “external” panel will be set up to review the issues. On Friday, October 31, Ban’s spokesman Stephane Dujarric announced the 14-member panel, to be chaired by Ramos-Horta.

In a run-on sentence, Ban listed the panel’s topics: “the changing nature of conflict, evolving mandates, good offices and peace-building challenges, managerial and administrative arrangements, planning, partnerships, human rights and protection of civilians, uniformed capabilities for peacekeeping operations and performance.”

Inner City Press asked Dujarric about a word NOT in the list: drones. Earlier on October 31 in the UN General Assembly’s Fourth Committee, the representative of Ecuador said that UN Peacekeeping’s use of drones should be subject to review by the General Assembly’s C-34 Committee: that is, by member states. (Ladsous evaded the C-34, then deployed more drones than he’d mentioned to the Security Council, and won’t answer on the reasons behind the crashes; DRC envoy Martin Kobler told Inner City Press it was due to “wind.”)

Dujarric cut the question off, saying that it was “too granular” and that drones might fall — as one did in DRC — under “the changing nature of conflict.”

But the question is, should UN Peacekeeping and Ladsous be subject only to review by a panel picked by Ban Ki-moon, or by the member states? Dujarric said Ban’s panel’s report will go the the General Assembly.

It is called an “external” panel, but included not only a number of long-time insiders, but even the current Under-Secretary-General for Field Support, Ameerah Haq. This reporter asked Dujarric if this meant that Haq is leaving, and Dujarric said yes. The Free UN Coalition for Access opines: she is the wrong one to be leaving.

Strikingly, only TWO of Ban’s Panel’s 14 members are from Africa, where the vast majority of UN Peacekeepers are deployed. These members are from Ghana and Tunisia, not from countries with UN Missions like DRC, Mali, Cote d’Ivoire, Central African Republic if not to say Liberia, where Ladsous is said to be planning “emergency responses” with a government that has quarantined whole neighborhoods like West Point in Monrovia.

Recently during the Security Council proceeding to renew the mandate of the mission in Haiti, many ambassadors from Latin America said Troop Contributing Countries weren’t sufficiently consulted; Argentina said it would not participate in certain policing or repression activities. Will that be reviewed? We’ll have more on this.

Beyond Ramos-Horta, the Panel’s members include Jean Arnault of France — some wonder if he’s there to protect Ladsous — Abhijit Guha of India, Ameerah Haq of Bangladesh, Andrew Hughes of Australia, Wang Xuexian of China, Hilde Johnson of Norway after a troubled stint in South Sudan, Henrietta Joy Abena Nyarko Mensa-Bonsu of Ghana, Floriano Peixoto Vieira Neto of Brazil, Bruce Jones of Canada, Youssef Mahmoud of Tunisia, B. Lynn Pascoe of the US, whom Inner City Press reported was in the mix to replace Alexander Downer as UN envoy to Cyprus but was said to be blocked from getting it, Alexander Ilitchev of Russia and Ian Martin of the UK, who returned to the UN to mull mediation after starting the ill-fated UN Mission in Libya. Martin’s previous Board of Inquiry report on bombing in Gaza in 2009, Ban Ki-moon undercut with a cover-letter. We’ll have more on this, too.


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