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From DRC, Now 22 Rapes in Minova, MONUSCO Looted, Ladsous Storyteller?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 29 -- Under the $1.4 billion watch of the UN Peacekeeping mission MONUSCO, at least 22 women were recently raped in Minova, presumably by the Congolese Army, which MONUSCO supports.

   When UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous emerged from a closed door briefing of the Security Council on November 27, Inner City Press asked him, What about Minova?

   Beyond the rapes, there are reports of renewed fighting between the M23 mutineers and the FARDC. But Ladsous refused to answer, searching for any other questioner and  then taking favored correspondents with him into the hallway.

   On November 29, Inner City Press asked MONUSCO's Deputy Moustapha Soumare about Minova, now that the UN's own rape count has risen from 21 to 22. Video here, from Minute 7:22.

   Soumare acknowledged the presence then in Minova of FARDC troops "retreating from Sake." He said, "that has happened during the time the FADRC was retreating from Sake."

  Soumare claimed that MONUSCO was partially displaced to Sake due to the "looting of our warehouse and offices." He said, "MONUSCO was displaced into the Sake area... there has been some looting of our warehouses and our offices." Video here, from Minute 8:06.

   Inner City Press had asked Ladsous about this too: protests of and threats to UN premises and personnel he is responsible for in DRC.

  Ladsous refused to answer; later his spokespeople provided a vague purported response that did not specify any of the damages to MONUSCO premises, much less the now acknowledged looting of warehouse and offices. And by whom was this looting?

   UN Peacekeeping doesn't like to answer, which makes their supposed Human Rights Due Diligence Policy meaningless. They say they won't work with army units which commit abuses, then repeatedly refuse for example to state which FARDC units were in Minova, when the rapes occurred.

   This is what one of Ladsous' spokespeople sent Inner City Press about DRC on the evening of November 28, and Inner City Press' immediate response:

"Answers to your questions: On MINOVA, FARDC and Due Diligence Policy. We are aware of reports of human rights violations and abuses allegedly committed by FARDC troops. The mission is monitoring the situation, following up on the allegations and will report through appropriate processes.

"On the potential use of UAV: DPKO assets and resources are used in line with Security Council mandates, force requirements and guidelines. If and when we were to use new tools on trial basis in DRC or elsewhere, the usual procedures and consultations with legislative bodies will be respected."

Inner City Press immediately replied, to three of Ladsous' spokespeople and two of Ban Ki-moon's, with no response received as of 19 hours later:

"Thanks, but the answers on Minova and Human Rights Due Diligence Policy and on drones do not answer the questions I asked. On Minova, (a) which FARDC units were present in Minova when the 21 rapes took place? (b) What was MONUSCO's presence in Minova during this time? (c) What and where are the "appropriate processes" through which DPKO will report? Are any of them public, so that compliance with the Human Rights Due Diligence Policy can be assessed?

"For USG Ladsous to refuse to answer in any way the question of Minova, fighting there and what MONUSCO did and will do, is problematic. On drones, my question was and is clear: do DPKO and its USG believe that approval -- not just 'consultation' -- by the General Assembly or its committee is required before any use of drones?"

   Now the Italian Mission to the UN has sent out an invitation, including to Inner City Press, to an event where Ladsous and others will speak and presumably take questions on "telling the peacekeeping story better."

   This follows an absurd MONUSCO press release bragging of "MONUSCO's remarkable efforts in assisting the FARDC fight the M23 rebels." In Minova?

It's not just about telling a story - it's about the job being done, including protection of civilians and transparency in purported Human Rights Due Diligence Policy -- and about answering questions about it. Watch this site.

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