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Reuters AlertNet 8/17/07

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In UN's Mission in Congo, National Staff Threatens Work Stoppage, Day Laborers Abused, Staff Say

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN

UNITED NATIONS, August 21 -- Within the UN Mission to the Congo, national staff members have threatened to go on strike on August 23. The build-up of pressure in this largest of UN missions, known by its French acronym MONUC, is detailed in Staff Council mission report noting that in MONUC

"sixty percent of the local staff are casual day workers (CDWs) who are paid $8 a day... Most of them have been working as CDWs since 1999 when the mission opened...By preponderantly recruiting national staff as CDWs and Independent Contractors, MONUC is exploiting poor people, especially from the eastern part of the country, whose fortunes were decimated by the wars."

            Even the national staff's efforts to communicate with each others are under attack within MONUC. The president of the Association du Personnel National de la MONUC (NASA) union, Guershom Nondo, tried to send a notice to other staff members. A supervisory e-mail involving Mr. Ghislain Maertens of Belgium said that mere national staff should only be able to use MONUC's Lotus Notes program with prior approval. Plus ca change....

            In a communique dated August 20, Guershom Nondo discusses the impending work stoppage on August 23 "if the Administration does nothing concrete" on such issues as the treatment and "integration" of casual day workers.

            The "administration" referred to is headed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo by William Lacy Swing, of whom the Staff Council report states

"the SRSG, Mr. William Swing, decided that MONUC should make proposals which would then be sent to New York for decision. Nothing happened thereafter... the local staff almost went on strike to demand that grade levels be matched with the functions they perform."

MONUC's William Lacy Swing, U.S. nominee to IOM, with Ban, striking casual day workers not shown (or heard)

            In New York, the top of the new Department of Field Support pyramid is Jane Holl Lute, who in recent press conference has promised aggressive and transparent inquiries into irregularities in UN peacekeeping including in the Congo. But when the charges of involvement in gold trading by peacekeepers was expose as being wider than had previously been said, nothing was said by DFS.

   Jane Holl Lute moved on to talk about Darfur, the next "largest peacekeeping mission ever." And will there be strikes there? Other problems are brewing in the peacekeeping missions in Liberia and Cote d'Ivoire. And for now, simple questions posed to DFS / DPKO have not been answered. Watch this site.

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Clck here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent 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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UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540