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In Azawad UN Met MNLA Not Ansar Dine, No Mali French Connection?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 14, video here -- When UN officials John Ging, Mabingue Ngom of UNFPA and Afshan Khan of UNICEF returned from Mali including Kidal in the north, Inner City Press asked them on November 14 to name the armed groups they had met with.

   Ging to his credit named them: MNLA (National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad), HCUA (the High Council for the Unity of Azawad) and the MAA (Arab Movement of Azawad.) Apparently the Popular Coalition for Azawad or CPA was not met with, just as they stayed out of the joint military command encouraged by the UN mission MINUSMA and the French forces in Mali.

  Inner City Press asked, just to be sure, if they had me with Ansar Dine or MUJAO. Ging said no, without saying the name of the two groups much less AQIM. Ging acknowledged there are parts of northern Mali where aid workers cannot go.

  Since UN Peacekeeping chief (and former French diplomat) Herve Ladsous met behind closed doors with the Security Council on November 10 about changing the mandate of MINUSMA, but takes no Press questions, Inner City Press asked Ging if OCHA was involved in the meeting and in the process. Ging said yes. We hope to have more on this.

 In late October near Kidal in northern Mali three more UN peacekeepers from Senegal were injured in an attack. With the UN mission in Mali MINUSMA under fire, Bert Koenders left UN envoy to Mali to become Dutch foreign minister.

  When Inner City Press first asked, the UN wouldn't confirm Koenders' departure; later they had no choice. What does it say, to leave MINUSMA at this time?

  And what does this UN quote, or paraphrase by Reuters with no fewer than two reporters, one writer and one editor: "David Gressly, deputy chief of the U.N. mission, which is known as MINUSMA, called on armed groups in talks with Mali's government to warn U.N. troops of any impending attack if they could."  If they could?

  The UN Security Council has issued a series of press statements on previous, deadly attacks. Will it this? With the Council speed up the selection process for Koenders' replacement?

  Inner City Press' Sahelian sources produced another European name as successor, saying "il est probable" -- the Belgian Louis Michel. Previously Michel excused himself for not even knowing the anti Internet privacy amendments submitted in his name because, he said, he was traveling in Mali. We'll have more on this.

  The new Free UN Coalition for Access would propose that the UN Secretariat seek commitments from prospective Special Representatives of the Secretary General to stay in their positions for some minimum period of time, and to not drop out when something slightly better comes along.

  Back on October 8 when UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous briefed the Security Council by video from Mali, he supported the government in Bamako's insistence on "no federalism." Then, the UN did not distribute his speech, even as it distributed what Mali said.
  Mali's foreign minister Diop said the Security Council should set up a rapid intervention force, and raised the specter of Islamic State or ISIS in northern Mali. When Diop has been at the UN, he has held stakeouts and taken Press questions. Not so Ladsous, video compilation here, UK coverage here.

  As to Ladsous, there is a history, including a recent one. When Ladsous arrived at the General Assembly stakeout on September 27 to try to do his question and answer on Mali early as he did on South Sudan, without the Press present, it didn't work. Video here., Vine here and embedded below. Ladsous blocked Inner City Press' camera with a file folder then walked away, summoning friendly media with him and canceling the public stakeout.

  On September 29, Inner City Press for the Free UN Coalition for Access asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric about it, if the UN of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon thinks it appropriate for an Under Secretary General to engage in censorship. Dujarric said he hadn't seen the video.

 It's here, and the Q&A with Dujarric is here. UN transcript:

Inner City Press: I had a couple DKPO questions. But this one is more fundamental. I wanted to know what the position of UN is on an Under-Secretary-General basically blocking a camera that’s filming from an entirely legal stakeout position which seems to be within the definition of kinda censorship. Why didn’t Mr. Ladsous in fact hold the stakeout on Mali on Saturday?

Spokesman Dujarric: I can look into it. I think there was a couple of scheduling issues. I can look into it.

Inner City Press: On tape he came up and put a file folder in front of a camera to stop it from filming.

Spokesman Duujarric: I’ll look into it. I’m not aware of the incident.

   Dujarric said there were "a couple of scheduling issues." But at least two wire services reported Ladsous' privatized spin without noting the censorship that took place right in front of them. If they censor this, what else is missing in their reports?

  In English Ladsous spun, "UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous told reporters later on Saturday that with the presence of French forces greatly reduced in the region, UN peacekeeping forces have to take a more dynamic stance and go in search of the attackers. 'We can't be sitting ducks,' he said."

  In French Ladsous spun, "'Je crois que c'est incontestable: les terroristes et les jihadistes, et sans doute aussi les trafiquants, ont repris du poil de la bête,' dans le nord du Mali, a déclaré Hervé Ladsous à des journalistes, jugeant 'intolérables' les attaques perpétrées contre les Casques bleus."

  Why couldn't he say this at the UNTV stakeout and take questions? What does it say about those who went to Ladsous' privatized spin-zone, which he began here, with Reuters, Voice of America and AFP? Old video here.

   As Ladsous stood at the stakeout, Inner City Press filmed as it did on September 26 when Ladsous refused to answer basic Press questions about his missions in Central African Republic and Golan.

  Ladsous demanded, What are you going to do with this? He and a staffer tried to block the filming with file folders. Then he got UN Media Accreditation to ask Inner City Press to put down the camera and stop filming. But this is the stakeout. The Free UN Coalition for Access defends the rights to cover the UN. (The old UN Correspondents Association has partnered with Ladsous, first along with Agence France Presse and then further.)

   Ladsous and one of his "publicity" staffers tried to block the filming with file folders. Video here. Finally Ladsous walked away with his team including the Reuters correspondent who has himself engaged in censorship, telling Google to remove from Search his "for the record" complaint to UN Media Accreditation, claiming it is copyrighted. It is a strange position from a media that claims exclusive leaks.

   After Ladsous stormed off, two of his staffers returned to say that the stakeout still might happen. But at 2:42 pm, an hour and forty-two minutes after it was supposed to happen, the UN said it was canceled - but not why.

   Before UN Peacekeeping held its September 26 meeting about the Central African Republic, Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric about Uganda deciding not to send its troops as peacekeepers to the MINUSCA mission, under Herve Ladsous.

Dujarric said he would try to get an answer, but none was sent six hours later. So when Herve Ladsous, the fourth French chief of UN Peacekeeping in a row, came to the General Assembly stakeout past 6 pm on September 26, Inner City Press several times put the question to him: What about the Ugandans? Video here.

  Ladsous made his opening statement only in French, then ignored the Press question in English about Uganda pulling out of his peacekeeping mission, at the same time that the Philippines is pulling out of Ladsous' mission in the Golan Heights after he ordered their troops to surrender to the Al Nursa Front extremist group, which still has their UN Peacekeeping vehicles, weapons and uniforms.

Instead, Ladsous pointed at Agence France Presse, which previously on Ladsous' behalf filed complaints against Inner City Press, including through UNCA, now the UN's Censorship Alliance.

  The first time was when Inner City Press reported that Ladsous was by no means the first choice to replace Alain Le Roy atop peacekeeping, but was deposited into the job after the UN decided that the first choice, Jerome Bonnafont, was too flashy. So they got Ladsous.

Ladsous on September 26 proceeded to brag about new countries coming into UN Peacekeeping, singling out Sweden. Inner City Press once again asked, what about Uganda pulling out of the CAR mission, and added, what about the Filipinos pulling out of his mission in the Golan? Video here.

Ladsous as has become his practice - compilation here, UK coverage here - refused to answer and walked away with two of his aides. They looked back over their shoulders as they went up in the elevator.

How can a UN official get (over) paid but answer no critical questions? How can an official under whose watch the Darfur mission has covered up attacks on civilians, and who has ordered at least two countries' peacekeepers to surrender to terrorists, keep his job?

  The questioning is spreading and one would think would come to a head in the upcoming review of peacekeeping, which Inner City Press has heard and reported will be headed by Louise Arbour. The new Free UN Coalition for Access asserts that UN Under Secretaries General should answer media questions, and there should be accounability. We'll see.


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