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UN's Mali Commander Admits to ICP Africans Get Less Protection, As UN Hinders Press

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 19 – The UN's two-tier treatment in Mali and elsewhere of African versus European peacekeepers was confirmed on May 19 by the UN's Force Commander in Mali's MINUSMA mission Jean-Paul Deconinck. Video here. Inner City Press, now restricted in the UN for reporting on corruption, sought to go across First Avenue to asking him, though it would mean re-entering with tourists and missing most of an African Group press conference. On the way, the Department of Public Information's Hua Jiang, involved in the 15 months of restrictions on Inner City Press, nodded; at IPI Youssef Mahmoud told Inner City Press to keep its questions short. Even so, when it asked of restrictions on sharing technology with the African contingents suffering most of the casualties in Mali, a crew of Caucasian UN Peacekeeping supporters loudly opined, "Irrelevant." Back at the UN, later through metal detectors, Inner City Press asked the AU's Tete Antonio, who said he will answer. We'll stay on this - it's an outrage. Amid attacks on and mismanagement from UN headquarters of the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, MINUSMA, an "extraordinary" meeting for troop contributors was held on January 27.

  Inner City Press, which has covered the disparate treatment in MISUSMA between for example troops from Chad and Europe, wanted to cover it. But due to a retaliatory eviction order by the UN's Cristina Gallach, it could only do so with the UN "minder."

  Even so, UN Security officials demanded to know where its minder was, cutting off several diplomats who had approached Inner City Press to give it information.
  As the meeting wound down, Inner City Press worked around the minder to learn -- from UN official Atul Khare to his credit -- that there is discussion of moving the Senegalese "quick reaction force" from Cote d'Ivoire to Mali.

  It was not possible yet to ask about the recent mutiny / unrest in Cote d'Ivoire. Khare had to go, and Herve Ladsous refused to answer any Press questions, having been exposed linking peacekeepers' rapes to "R&R."

  Other diplomats, even as Inner City Press was being told to leave the second floor where other journalist were free to stay (though none were in fact staking out the Mali meeting), told Inner City Press that Egypt is offering a battalion.

  Troublingly, to some, Sri Lanka is being recruited by Ladsous' UN to provide "convoy protection," despite its military's record of killing in northern Sri Lanka in 2008 and 2009 and abuses since, to say nothing of sexual abuse in Haiti.

  Inner City Press wants to do more reporting into the UN's engagement with the Sri Lankan military. But Gallach's minder ordered Inner City Press to leave. This is censorship. To be continued.

As in The Gambia Yahya Jammeh moved on December 1 to shut off the Internet (and Viber, etc) for the / his election, there was again a deafening silence from the UN and its “communications” chief Cristina Gallach.

 On January 5, Inner City Press asked holdover UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric, video here, UN transcript here:

Inner City Press: about Gambia.  The electoral commission chief has gone into hiding, and the Government has closed three radio stations, one of which reopened with no news on it.  So what's the status of the UN's work on this holdover presidency?

Spokesman:  We've had… various UN officials have had contacts with parties involved, and obviously we would like to see and are very keen to see a peaceful resolution to the current crisis in the Gambia and, notably, the… for the President… the outgoing President to leave way for the President that was just elected.

 As of January 7, new Secretary General Antonio Guterres had yet to speak publicly about Jammeh and Gambia. Meanwhile the US issued a travel warning:

  "The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens against travel to The Gambia because of the potential for civil unrest and violence in the near future.  On January 7, 2017, the Department of State ordered the departure of family members and authorized the departure of all employees who need to accompany those individuals from the country.

The security situation in The Gambia remains uncertain following December 1, 2016 presidential elections.  On January 10, the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear the current president’s petition contesting the election results, which is a potential flashpoint that could lead to civil unrest.  The sitting government has begun taking restrictive measures, which include shutting down and restricting radio stations, and making politically motivated arrests.  The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has stated it may intervene if the president does not step down by January 18.

U.S. citizens should consider departing on commercial flights and other transportation options now, as airports and ferry terminals may close unexpectedly in the event of unrest.  All U.S. citizens should have evacuation plans that do not rely on U.S. government assistance.  U.S. citizens should ensure that travel documents (passports and visas) are valid and up-to-date.  Consular services, already limited throughout the country due to very poor transportation infrastructure and security conditions, may be further limited, including in Banjul itself.

U.S. citizens who decide to remain in The Gambia should prepare for the possible deterioration of security."

  We'll have more on this.


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