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In DRC, Scandal of Meece's Mills Widens, Cement Scapegoat, Goma PIO

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, April 23 -- As fighting rages again in the Walikale zone of Eastern Congo, where the UN stood by while mass rapes occurred and envoy Roger Meece's ill-conceived "Meece's Mills" project exposed by Inner City Press remains unrealized, the UN's response has been to blame Meece's failure on the unavailability or high cost of cement. Click here for UN response last week.

  But Inner City Press' sources say that this response is false. The plan, some sort of reparation to the victims of the mass rape UN Peacekeepers of the MONUSCO mission did nothing to stop, involved building five gas-powered grain grinding mills.

  Once Inner City Press reported it had failed, and Meece was often out of the country, the UN said it could not build the cement buildings planned in order to protect the mills (as the UN had NOT protected the women of Walikale.)

   But here is a rebuttal, that Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's UN and envoy Meece and DPKO should have to answer, point by point (while they have still not answered on DPKO's use of private military contractors beyond MONUSCO) --

1.The 'cement' story as the alleged main reason for delaying endlessly the implementation of the 'quick' implementation is baseless, false and contrary to the approved financial documentation for this QIPs project. The cement was never considered and approved as the building material for the Mills shelters because for of its excessive costs, unavailability in Walikale area and simply as unpractical. The five shelters to shelter five mills were approved by the LPRC to be constructed from wood and local materials and constructed by the local tradesman, artisans and workers from Walikale area. The QIP project was approved by the meeting of the Local Project Review Committee (LPRC), the Committee that approves Quick Implementation Projects in Goma in April 2011 with a maximum statuary limit of $25 000 and implementation deadline 3 months starting from March 2011. It is amazing that the Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson's / MONUSCO's response does not mention this crucial LPRC meeting although they refer to the earlier meeting in February that was dealing only with the partial cost. The total cost of the project as approved by the LPRC in April was as follows:

Five Chinese mills costing each $ 3,000 = $15,000. Five wooden construction shelters costing $2,000 each = $10,000. The total cost approved by LPRC = $25,000 that is a maximum allowable for QIPs projects. Note to investigators / prosecutors: the original copy of approved Minutes of the April’s LPRC are with the QIPs Unit in SRSG Meece’s office in Kinshasa.

The wooden shelters each costing $2,000 was designed by the Congolese MONUSCO engineers who knew the realities and the local conditions in the Walikale area, and were approved with the detailed cost breakdown for the labor and material (wood, sand etc) costs by LPRC in Goma in April 2011 and everything is on the record in the QIPs Unit directly under the SRSG in Kinshasa. The LPRC knew that the cost of construction the simple shelters from the cement that is unavailable in Walikale and too expensive otherwise is not acceptable.

Why build concrete bunkers in the middle of the jungle at a per unit cost that could not be accepted by any reasonable organization? Even $2,000 for one wooden shelter is an enormous amount of money that could be used for a construction of the house in Walikale area for but LPRC considered this as a form of assistance to the local workers. Unless SRSG Meece decided to pay from his own pocket and import the Chinese cement and workers to Walikale? But apparently there is no record of this, at least to our best knowledge..

2. The organization 'Coordination Locale des Actions Feminines pour le Developpment' or CLAFED is an organization essentially controlled by MONUSCO and was supposed only to assist MONUSCO in constructing the wooden shelters and spend $ 10,000 for these purposes and only after MONUSCO undertook to deliver the MONUSCO purchased Chinese imported mills (which in itself is breach of UN Procurement rules etc as no competive bids were considered) to the villages that unfortunately never happened even as they waited more than one year.

In the end as the result of the lack of the interest and support from the SRSG who did not allocate sufficient human resources and was not interested in supervising or overseeing the implementation of this project that was used only a propaganda stunt that went terribly wrong due to pervasive sleaze, corruption and incompetence. The local Auditors Team is perceived to be too cozy with the Mission leadership to ensure proper investigation. Somebody should be held accountable for this scandal and I think it warrants an urgent the investigation, by Office of Internal Oversight Services at UN Headquarters if it has any credibility, and certainly by others as well.

  We will be following up on this. Local sources point, below Meece and those already named, to the Goma PIO "who bought inferior equipment and pocketed the difference and is still making money from the deal."

  In New York as noted, DPKO under Herve "The Drone" Ladsous, the fourth Frenchman in a row atop UN Peacekeeping, has refused to follow through and provide any information about the UN's use of private military contractors beyond MONUSCO (regarding which it only partially answered, despite claims to the contrary by Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Martin Nesirky.)

  Additionally, Ladsous interest in acquiring drones, first exposed by Inner City Press, is now viewed in light of a company wanting to sell them to the UN: the French firm Thales. Watch this site.

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Click here for Sept 23, '11 about UN General Assembly

Click for Mar 1, '11 re Libya, Sri Lanka, UN Corruption

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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

Click here for Sept 26, 2011 New Yorker on Inner City Press at UN

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