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UNICEF Dodges Questions of Congo Mass Rape and Rwanda MDG Irony

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 7 -- The UN and many of its NGO “partners” run scared of governments, even on issues like child poverty and mass rape. On Tuesday at the UN, new UNICEF chief Tony Lake presented findings that governments could benefit by focusing more on the poorest children.

   Beside him was the Chief Operating Officer of Save the Children, which in its own linked report criticized countries like India, Burkina Faso and Rwanda for focusing too little on the poorest quintile of children.

   But when Inner City Press asked about Rwanda, and Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's decision to name its president Paul Kagame as the co-chair of the UN MDG Advocacy Group, the Save the Children COO Ms Miles said they work with government, they understood the initial focus on low hanging fruit, which some call cherry picking. She did not address the irony of Rwanda and Kagame. Nor did Tony Lake.

Inner City Press asked Lake what UNICEF was doing in the Congo, in light of the mass rapes scandal. E-mail traffic provided to Inner City Press shows that such UN agencies as UNDP and FAO were informed of the rape(s) on July 30, but do not show UNICEF.

Lake gave a generic answer about monitoring, referring and tracking cases, and said that UNICEF does “name and shame.” Video here, from Minute 37:50.

  But the Congolese government has in its army the FARDC noted rapists like Colonel Zimulinda / Zimurinda, Bosco Ntaganda and Peter Kerim. Has UNICEF named and shamed them?

UN's Ban and Tony Lake, action on DRC rape, Rwanda MDGs not shown

 Lake said he has approached UNICEF's donors about these issues. We'll see.

The UN briefing room was packed for the press conference, largely with UNICEF staffers. Perhaps it was to make Lake feel comfortable. UNICEF has an enormous public relations staff - but to have so many of them in one place at one time, when for example they refused to answer questions about child malnutrition in Darfur only weeks ago, was surprising. Watch this site.

* * *

On Congo Rape Scandal, Khare Spins July 30 E-mail, Congo Army Rapes

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 7 -- On the Congo rape scandal, the UN's deputy chief of peacekeeping Atul Khare on Tuesday afternoon delivered a self-serving speech about how the UN Mission MONUSCO could not have stopped the 242 rapes in North Kivu between July 30 and August 2.

Khare said that on “30 July OCHA received unconfirmed information about possible attacks by FDLR on Mpofi... An unconfirmed case of rape in Mpofi was also reported... message was transmitted to humanitarian workers and NGOs by OCHA” in Goma.

Inner City Press has obtained this July 30 e-mail, including the list of UN and NGO individuals to which it was addressed. Each has been asked a series of questions by Inner City Press:

Upon receipt of the e-mail, what did you do? To whom did you pass the information? What was done in response? What is the policy of your organization on such reports of rape or other war crimes?”

Some responses have arrived, others are awaited, and will be reported soon -- including those who did not respond.

Meanwhile, Khare's briefing mentioned ten rapes by the FARDC -- the Congolese Army -- in Uvira on August 17, which he said the Security Council had asked him to look into, during the Council's August 26 session.

This is troubling not only because Congo's own army is involved.

UN's Ban and Khare: I shall not tell a lie? July 30 e-mail not shown
While Khare and DPKO are accused of withholding information from the Council, some now argue that the Council withheld from the public information about rapes by its partner, the Congolese Army.

Margot Wallstrom, in her testimony, talked about partnering with the Congolese government. On her way in, Inner City Press asked, Did MONUSCU have your cell phone number?

In the UN, everyone has each others numbers, she answered, apparently meaning that the landline of her (unoccupied) office was available to MONUSCO. For shame. Watch this site.

Update of 4:41 pm -- just after Khare's presention, the UN Spokesperson's Office belatedly confirmed the text of the July 30 e-mail, which Inner City Press published word for word last week. Why now?

Update of 4:47 pm -- here's why the UN finally confirmed July 30 email(s) -- Khare called the information uncomfirmed, but the OCHA email, obtained by Inner City Press and published last week, refers without qualification to the rape:

Message urgent pour les humanitaires -- Selon l’ANR Walikale, la localité de Mpofi 52km de Walikale vient de tomber aux mains des FDLR. Une femme y a été violée. Les humanitaires sont priés de na pas emprunter cette route pour le moment.”

[“Urgent message for the humanitarians - According to ANR Walikali, the locality of Mpofi, 52 kilometers from Walikali, has fallen into the hands of the FDLR. A woman there has been raped. Humanitarians are asked not to use that route for the moment.”]

  Now, the UN releases what is says was the underlying DSS email, which refers to "one woman was reportedly raped." Note: that's not what OCHA said.

Update of 5:37 pm -- a source in the consultations says Khare apologized again behind closed doors. The French have proposed a Presidential Statement. There will be a follow-up Council meeting on lessons learned. UN accountability? Not shown.

Update of 6:27 pm-- "elements to the press" on DRC have been agreed to, and will be read out once the Council finishes an "any other business" session on Darfur. Who will pay for the cell phone repeaters? No one knows. Much talk of sacntions on the rapists. But the DRC Permanent Representative told Inner City Press to the side of the stakeout that those responsible have no assets outside of the forest...

Update of 7:42 pm -- finally, the Turkish Ambassador came out and read a statement. Inner City Press asked him about the 10 rapes by the Congolese Army. It is a very serious issue, he said.
   Susan Rice said that the follow up meeting is at the US' request. Inner City Press asked about the 10 rapes by FARDC (and about Darfur). Ambassador Rice said that the US took seriously the clean up of the Congolese Army, that five names were given to the government. Inner City Press asked if Bosco Ntaganda, indicted by the ICC, isn't still with the Congolese Army. Not to my knowledge, Ambassador Rice answered.
  Finally Atul Khare came to the microphone. On this issue, Inner City Press asked about Ntaganda, who former UN official Patrick Cammaert says walks freely around Goma, and about Colonel Zimulinda / Zimurinda.  Khare mentioned officials he had met with, said that the 10 rapes will be prosecuted, but did not answer about Ntagana or Mr. Z.

  Inner City Press asked about the July 30 email, since Khare has said that even one rape is "a little bit too much." Khare said that in response to the email, about Mpofi, a patrol went out, and managed to get through to speak to the FARDC. Khare, to his credit, stayed and answered questions about Darfur, to be reported on this site later today.

* * *

In Congo, July 30 UN E-mail Spoke of FDLR & Rape, 22 Rapes Reported to UN Aug 6

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 2 -- As the Congo rape scandal develops, the UN's mis-statements become ever more clear. Roger Meece, the chief of the UN Mission in the Congo (MONUSCO) told the Press that the first MONUSCO knew of the rapes was on August 12.

  Then there was an account of a July 30 e-mail and an August 6 report by the International Medical Corps. Inner City Press has now seen the e-mails, which the UN initially said it couldn't find.

The July 30 e-mail, from the UN's Agustin Rwandarugari to a variety of UN and NGO parties, said in French:

Message urgent pour les humanitaires -- Selon l’ANR Walikale, la localité de Mpofi 52km de Walikale vient de tomber aux mains des FDLR. Une femme y a été violée. Les humanitaires sont priés de na pas emprunter cette route pour le moment.”

[“Urgent message for the humanitarians - According to ANR Walikali, the locality of Mpofi, 52 kilometers from Walikali, has fallen into the hands of the FDLR. A woman there has been raped. Humanitarians are asked not to use that route for the moment.”]

On September 2 in New York, Inner City Press asked UN acting Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq to square this July 30 e-mail with Mr. Meece's claim that MONUSCO only knew of rape from August 12 onwards. Video here, from Minute 10:33.

Haq tried to say that Meece had meant with “verifiable” information. But UN official Rwandarugari's above quoted July 30 e-mail, labeled “urgent,” said the village was in rebel hands and a woman had been raped.

  In fact, Mr. Rwandarugari was told, at the IMC compound in Walikali on August 6, of at least 22 rapes in Luvungi alone. He went there after he heard that an IMC convoy had been ambushed.

  Therefore he and the UN got notice of 22 rapes from a source, the IMC, which the UN has acknowledged as credible. This was verifiable information, on a date far in advance of the August 12 date used by Mr. Meece.

Inner City Press asked, what happens now?

UN's Meece, explanation of July 30 e-mail and Aug 6 report not shown

  Haq continued to point to the upcoming March 7 briefing (followed by closed door consultations) of the Security Council by Peacekeeping deputy Atul Khare and Sexual Violence in Conflict representative Margot Wallstrom.

September's Council president, the Ambassador of Turkey, held a press conference on Thursday, and Inner City Press asked if he and the Council had understood, despite the fanfare with which Ms. Wallstrom's office was set up in March, that it would be inoperative into August 2010, and become aware of the rapes only 15 (or 22) days after the UN in the Congo was aware of them. Video here, from Minute 17:58.

He said, you will hear on March 7. We'll be there -- but where is the accountability? Watch this site.

Footnote: on September 2, a month after the mass rapes and a week after being put in charge of coordinating the UN's response, Ms. Wallstrom greeted Inner City Press as she walked to a media interview on the second floor of the UN in New York. Still not in the Congo, someone said...

 Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

* * *

These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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