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UN's New Rape Unit Eyes Colombia, Nepal and Kabul, Congo Trip, Menkerios Runs

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 27 -- Margot Wallstrom, the UN's Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, was asked Tuesday by the Press what countries outside of Africa she is looking to investigate for rape as a tool of war. She listed three: Afghanistan, Nepal and, to some surprisingly, Colombia.

  Nepal and Afghanistan are on the agenda of the UN Security Council, which Ms. Wallstrom briefed on Tuesday. But Colombia is not, and its representatives have in the past chaffed when their conflict has been mentioned even near the Council, such as by the UN's expert on children and armed conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy.

Ms. Wallstrom told Inner City Press she aims to have as many staff as "Madame Coomaraswamy's office." For now, Inner City Press has met staffers who assisted on her recent Congo trip working on a couch in front of the UN library.

  Inner City Press asked on camera when this mandate, called important by the UN, will actually have an office. Austria's Ambassador told Inner City Press his recent meeting with Wallstrom had been in "temporary quarters." Ms. Wallstrom said she is in the DC-1 building, but looking at space in what's called the Alcoa Building on 48th Street. Video here, from Minute 6:15.

  Wallstrom's first trip was to the Congo, where she said that the UN Mission should not leave. Council members are headed on a much abbreviated trip to Kinshasa on May 13. "We are staying over only one night," one attended complained to Inner City Press. "It's hard to see what we'll accomplish."

  This attendee recounted that U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice, too, said her colleagues should go to Eastern Congo -- but that French Ambassador Gerard Araud, who is leading the trip, wondered why Ms. Rice would complain if she herself is not going on the trip.

UN's Ban and Ms. Wallstrom, office space, Colombia and vetting not shown

  Inner City Press asked Ms. Wallstrom if she thought one night in Kinshasa was enough for this serious issue, and also about the UN working with units of the Congolese Army which are been accused of rape, even by UN expert Philip Alston. Wallstrom said "hopefully there will be a vetting procedure." Video here, from Minute 1:46. Yeah, hopefully.

Footnote: At least Ms. Wallstrom briefed the Press. Later on Tuesday the head of the UN Mission in Sudan, Haile Menkerios, briefed the Council about the elections there. While Department of Peacekeeping Operations staff had promised a stakeout by Menkerios, he ran up the stairs from the Council, thus taking no questions.

  This may be a shame, as we are learning more and more about his posting to UNMIS, the length and replacement(s). More on this anon.

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Congolese Doctor Says UN Witnessed, Contributes to Rape, Lumo Shows Pol Blaming Women

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

UNITED NATIONS, May 31 -- The pandemic of rape of women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has many complex causes but these include the United Nations, according to Doctor Roger Luhiriri of the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu in Eastern Congo.

  At a panel discussion in lower Manhattan on May 31 after the screening of the documentary film "Lumo" at Tribeca Cinemas, Dr. Luhiriri said that the outrages he has seen in the much-lauded hospital where he works are "the shame of the UN Mission," MONUC. Inner City Press asked him for an explanation and for his suggestions for the UN.

   Doctor Luhiriri noted that "at first MONUC was an observer mission, then they sent troops." Still, he said, "17,000 troops are incapable of Congo's crimes and sexual violence?" He gave an example, saying the rebel General Laurent Nkunda and one of his colonels mutinied in Bukavu and, in presence of the UN, his group engaged in rape.

   "All were present," he said, adding that "the UN contributes to rape in Eastern Congo, it has changed from a mission of peace to a mission war, a shame for the UN."

UN Security Council members at HEAL Africa, Lumo not shown

   The film "Lumo" is now two years ago, but has lost none of its luster. The director told the audience what has happened since. Lumo required another surgery, her sixth. Her village, Masisi, was overrun by rebels and she fell out of touch. Now she works for a halfway house in Masisi, and also runs a sewing business on the side.

   The UN Security Council visited Goma and HEAL Africa last month during the Council's annual trip to the Continent. On Monday, Inner City Press asked Burkina Faso Ambassador Michel Kafando, who's been the HEAL, about Lumo, the film and woman. He knew of neither, but raised HEAL - Africa's hospital.

   In June 2008, Inner City Press accompanied the Counicil on its trip, thought Djibouti, Sudan, Chad and to the Congo, where a UN security officer shot a hole in the UN plane. There the Council met the officials of the Governor of North Kivu, whose representative in Lumo says that rape happens due to how the women dress.

   In the audience in New York, people hissed at the comment. In Congo, MONUC apparently does nothing, but rather continues to work with the governor and his officials. And so it goes..

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.

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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

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