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On DRC, Reuters to BBC Spun Only Burundi - Rwanda, ICP Published Full Report

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive publication

UNITED NATIONS, February 5 -- A mere two paragraphs out of a more than 20-paragraph UN Group of Experts report were trumpeted by Reuters on the evening of February 3: Rwanda is training Burundian opposition fighters, in DRC, citing 18 such combatants.

  Amazingly, BBC Radio then put on air the scribe who was handed the report, Michelle Nichols -- without the BBC apparently even looking for the full report itself. Audio here. Is this what mainstream or British journalisms has come it? BBC presenter Akwasi Sarpong said, "You've seen the report" -- as if he couldn't see it himself, here, merely with Google. Is this incompetence or more propaganda?

   There was, of course, much more to this 12-page UN report, including simply as one example that the UN Peacekeepers from Tanzania was described as meeting / working with the ADF rebels, mis-speaking and getting in a firefight with the Congolese Army. But this lead section of the report was not in Reuters February 3 lead story by its UN bureau chief Lou Charbonneau.

  Later Charbonneau would promote his propaganda protege Michelle Nichols' apparently, only about Rwanda, on BBC Radio - the torch as been passed? Note that it is Reuters, and Nichols, who in a murky process has been handpicked to "memorialize" the Security Council's interactions with the Great Lakes, along with a Voice of America scribe Margaret Basheer who "saw" Liberians while in Burundi last month.

 Inner City Press, having seen this before, put the entire 12 page UN DRC Group of Experts report online on the morning of February 4, here, and asked about it at the February 4 UN noon briefing, transcript here (some then left the briefing room, on which we'll have more.)  Video here.

Inner City Press asked about it again on February 5, including the Tanzania links, here.

   Only on the afternoon of February 4 did Reuters note the other sections of the report, including the Tanzanians - and then, not by the bureau chief but the correspondent.

For the record, the Reuters bureau chief first tried to get Inner City Press out of the UN -- then asked to have his anti-Press filing with the UN removed from Google's search as purportedly copyrighted, an abuse of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and a move at odds with Reuters claimed embrace of freedom of information. His filing, put online by the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Chilling Effects project, is here; his underlying email to the UN's (now spokesman) Stephane Dujarric  is here.

Other at Reuters got involved, a Freedom of Information Act request by Inner City Press revealed: but the company's executives refused to explain their policies as requested.

  Then the Reuters correspondent tried, with a stealth filing with the UN. Less stealth, in the briefing room and on video here, on February 3 this Reuters correspondent tried to cut off Inner City Press questions to the UN deputy spokesperson about corruption involving indicted Ng Lap Seng and the UN Correspondents Association, on whose board Reuters has a seemingly permanent seat, and tried to use to oust the Press. We'll have more on this.

After UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on New Year's Eve issued a statement surreally praising the Burundi “talks” held in Entebbe, Uganda, multiple sources told Inner City Press these not really talks but rather a photo op. The January 6 session announced for Arusha did not happen.  Inner City Press requested to cover the UNSC's trip to Burundi, but was UNtransparently rejected.

Transparently, Inner City Press  published the DR Congo Group of Experts Update Report including about 18 Burundian combatants, here and see below.

At the February 4 UN noon briefing, Inner City Press asked Ban's Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq, transcript here:

Inner City Press: I've seen the Group of Experts' report and actually published it, and I wanted to ask you the following: you said there's a Group of Experts, the DRC (Democratic Republic of the Congo) sanctions Group of Experts.  And there's two paragraphs in the report... if you can say from this podium, what is the mandate of that Group of Experts?  And I ask because, previously, they were asked to look into the  Burundian Government's youth militia training in South Kivu, and the answer was that this was beyond their mandate, that they are the DRC sanctions committee.  So I wanted to know, was there some change in their mandate, and, perhaps relatedly, what is the process to replace… you've announced that Movses Abelian is getting a promotion, all to the good, what is the process for replacing the head of SCAD, the Security Council Affairs Division, and does it involve consultation with the P5 members?  Thank you.

Deputy Spokesman:  First of all, regarding your first question about the mandate of the Group of Experts, that mandate is set by the relevant Security Council resolutions.  I'd simply refer you back to those.  Regarding Mr. Abelian, yes, we announced that he will be in charge of the Division of General Assembly Affairs and Conference Management and, while we… while we look for a replacement through the usual procedures, there will be an acting head of the office.  Regarding how selections are made, of course, it's the standard process by which we hire personnel.

Inner City Press:  Is Kelvin Ong either a candidate to replace him or who's in charge now of SCAD?

Deputy Spokesman:  I would never, never…

Inner City Press:  Who's in charge of SCAD?

Deputy Spokesman:  For all personnel appointments, we don't go into lists of candidates.  I would check who's the acting head right now.  I don't believe that Mr. Abelian has started his next job already, so it may be him right now.  But there will be an acting head. 

  Handpicked to go and memorialize the trip was Reuters, which barely reported what happened. There is a history, of Reuters UN bureau here and here; on February 3, Reuters correspondent Michelle Nichols went so far as to cut off Inner City Press' questions to the UN, Vine here.

  On February 3 Reuters' UN bureau chief Lou Charbonneau, a censor,  channeled a UN (DRC) report -- note not only the former Reuters official turned Eritrea sanctions “experts” exposed by Inner City Press here, but also that this same now discredited Reuters / UN individual was previously ON the DR Congo panel. Typically, Reuters did not actually put the report online.

  Inner City Press in the spirit of transparency is publishing the (update) report, dated January 15, 2016, signed by Coordinator Gaston Gramajo, and its two paragraphs about 18 Burundian combatants, here.

DR Congo "Group of Experts" Progress Report Including on Burundi by Matthew Russell Lee

Readers can draw their own conclusions, including about the mandate and motivation, and if these 18 is really the way it would go.

 At the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, Ban Ki-moon barely if at all pushed for peacekeepers for Burundi; his or France's head of UN Peacekeeping Herve Ladsous had largely undercut the idea with a memo than Inner City Press published in full.

(Inner City Press has reported the UN Peacebuilding Configuration will visit February 15-19, click here for that.)

On January 29, the UN Spokesman threw Inner City Press out of the UN Press Briefing Room then on February 1 made this threat, here. This was echoed on February 2.

 On January 28, Inner City Press asked UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric about a meeting held but not televised on January 27, at which it was urged that mass grave sites in Burundi be preserved as evidence, video here, transcript here.

Inner City Press asked Ban's spokespeople about the trip on January 20, 21 and 22 - including asking why the UN was not providing a video or at least audio stream of the January 22 press encounters, says it has a  "UN Information Center" in Bujumbura, which produced a smiling photo of the French deputy ambassador Alexis Lamek on the tarmac. The UN said it couldn't.

  Local media in Burundi put online a video in which Lamek spoke at length; afterward a pro-government Burundian media quoted Lamek that "we" take seriously the question of interference by Rwanda to destabilize Burundi and will be working on it.

  But the four scribes handpicked to accompany the Security Council trip, inlcuding Agence France Presse, it seems, for some reasons didn't cover it. Why? We'll have more on this. Instead, AFP, Reuters and Voice of America (which saw "Liberians" then cited auto-correct) filed near-identical stories with no quotes from opposition figures or attacked journalists. None of the three even tweeted on January 23, other than Reuters as a robot: talk about Old Media.

  How could "Agence France Presse," handpicked to publicize the UNSC trip co-led by France, not even cover the controversy? What about Reuters?

  We note that the French Mission to the UN said that Lamek was being misrepresented (the same French Mission has tried to shield Lamek from critical Press questions, which here on Vine Lamek has refused to answer even when entirely audible). Later an AFP quote emerged of Lamek saying that any AU force, even the 100 human rights observers, should significantly focus on the Rwandan border.

  On the evening of January 23 the UN has put up select clips including a mere 16 seconds of French deputy ambassador Lamek, much less than the local Burundian media present at the same press encountered had.  If the UN filmed the press encounters, why did it so selectively edit them?

  More specifically, now, who decided on the edits?

  Inner City Press asked the head of the Campaign Against the Third Term (“Halte au troisième mandat”) Vital Nshimirimana about the UNSC visit, and why the AU human rights observers are not yet in place. His answers to Inner City Press:

"As for the deployment of the AU Human rights observers, I would recall that the same was decided back in June following the June 13, 2015 Johannesburg Summit on Burundi. Initially, the number was to be about 70 observers but the government refused and allowed a narrow team.

"My thought over the issue is that Nkurunziza has chosen to humiliate everybody in as much as he does not care about any principle or value. So, the AU and other bodies as well choose to deal with him very carefully for he is a man (and a regime) "irrational," likely to commit whatever crime, insult whomever.....

"With regard to the UNSC visit, I hope this is the very last warning towards a kind of regime likely to commit genocide. They are expected to dually and objectively assess the situation and especially the strength and presence of Imbonerakure, the CNDD-FDD militia.... And this was shown through a huge anti- peacekeeping mission mission to Burundi, MAPROBU rhetoric.
Burundians expect the UNSC support the deployment of such a mission in line with the responsibility to protect (Pillar III) since Burundi is no longer able and is unwilling to protect citizens from crimes against humanity (ongoing from April 2015) and genocide (of which dozens of signs suggest that it is likely to happen and some acts are already undertaken).

Lastly, the UNSC is expected to talk with Nkurunziza and the AU as well regarding peace talks. They should assess Museveni's performance, after what conclude that he should be assigned AU and UN teams (to enhance his capacity) or change him.... I commend your endeavors to keep the world informed about the Burundi crisis."

 We'll have more on this -- including in light the UN Deputy Spokesperson's response to Inner City Press that transcripts may be provided.

  Here are parts of an Inner City Press interview with a journalist attacked by the Nkurunziza government and for that reason anonymous:

In English: "It would be better if the Security Council met for example UPRONA leader Nditije Charles, with the non-governmental branch of the UPRONA party) or his Spokesman Thacien Sibomana. The Council should try to meet civil society but  there is almost no one left to really speak with now in Bujumbura. All those still in Bujumbura, they can't say anything about the abuses of authorithies. If it was possible, they should ask to meet the young men in prison. They should see themselves how the government abuses those young men, with tortures... Tell them visit to the prisoners in Gitega (those who are accused to attempting a coup d'etat) UN has the right to visit prisoners."

  Inner City Press note: another source says "the government moved several detainees from the SNR jails. I highly doubt they'd allow a visit to detainees."

 Tellingly, IWACU reports that bike taxi and motorcycle taxi drivers offered money to protest in favor of Nkurunziza weren't, after the fact, paid: here.

    At the January 21 UN noon briefing, Inner City Press asked UN deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq about the "community works" and meeting(s). Video here, UN transcript here:

Inner City Press:  I wanted to ask you this just because I'm trying to cover it, and I know that you'd said yesterday that the Special Adviser, Jamal Benomar, is in Burundi in part of the trip.  So what I wanted to ask you is, I've seen documents that show that the… the… the… tomorrow, the meeting with the President, [Pierre] Nkurunziza, will involve a demonstration of “community work”, i.e., people have been asked to go and I don't know if it's to show how happy they are — Gitega and Karuzi.  Does the Special Adviser… not the Security Council, does the Special Adviser of the Secretary-General believe that this type of… of… of show is the right one and will they be meeting with UPRONA and other opposition groups or prisoners currently in jail?

Deputy Spokesman Haq:  Well, we'll be able to provide details of the meetings once they've taken place.  As you know, the expectation is for the members of the Council to meet with President Nkurunziza.  That hasn't happened so far, but once that's happened, we'll see what the circumstances are and what the views of Mr. Benomar are.

 This is reminiscent of the type of dog-and-pony show Sri Lanka's then President Mahinda Rajapaksa put on for visiting UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and that Inner City Press accompanied and covered (apparently not to the UN's and its allies' liking - it has been Banned from trips since.) But will the UNSC, unlike Ban, have the fortitude or leverage to reject a dog and pony show? Watch this site.

On January 19 at the UN, Inner City Press asked Uruguay's Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs Jose Luis Cancela, chairing the Security Council debate on Protection of Civilians, about Burundi and the Council's trip. Video here.

  On January 21, Inner City Press and the Free UN Coalition for Access asked UK Permanent Representative Matthew Rycroft about his stop-over on Addis Ababa, "will you as UK meet with AU before heading to Burundi? About AU's proposed deployment?"

   Rycroft replied, "Yes! Looking forward to meeting @AU_Chergui today. Will also return to Addis with whole UNSC after Burundi."

  In Addis, Chergui had filed the Concept of Operation for the MAPROBU peacekeeping mission. We'll have more on this.

  Burundian civil society has written to Ban seeking the repatriation of the country's peacekeepers. Inner City Press has put the letter from Vital Nshimirimana to Ban online here, and will be asking the UN about it. Watch this site.

  On December 30 Nkurunziza threatened to have his forces attack peacekeepers proposed for the country.

Obtained by Inner City Press

Ladsous' lack of vetting was criticized in the recently released report into the cover up of peacekeepers' rapes in the Central African Republic. Earlier, Inner City Press exclusive reported on Ladsous in his October 1, 2015 meeting with Burundi's vice president saying that he is "pragmatic" on human rights.

 On December 16 Inner City Press was banned from questions to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, but learned from the mission MINUSCA that Baratuza was already in Entebbe. Inner City Press asked several Security Council members, then Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric on December17.

Dujarric told Inner City Press Baratuza's deployment is suspended and he is being repatriated: "based on the information we've received regarding the Lieutenant Colonel, his deployment has been suspended, and he will be repatriated back to Burundi." Video here. Dujarric told Inner City Press this shows the UN system working - on a day when a report on rapes was issued showing UN Peacekeeping under Herve Ladsous not sufficiently vetting for human rights. We'll have more on this.

 Amid the escalating killings in Burundi, last weekend's summary executions in neighborhoods opposed to Pierre Nkurunziza's third term stand out. But Burundi Army spokesman Gaspard Baratuza was quoted on December 12 blaming all of the deaths on attempts to steal weapons to free prisoners.

   Inner City Press had heard that Mr. Baratuza was already in the process of being deployed to the UN Peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) even when he was giving these quotes, issuing statements and speaking to state-owned radio, and so asked MINUSCA's acting spokesperson, “Is Gaspard Baratuza of Burundi's army getting a MINUSCA job?”

  On December 16, hours before UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon held a rare press conference, MINUSCA's acting spokesperson sent this to Inner City Press:

"To: Matthew.Lee [at]
From: Vladimir MONTEIRO [at]
Date: Wed, Dec 16, 2015
Subject: ICP question: Gaspard Baratuza of Burundi's army getting a MINUSCA-related post?
Cc: FUNCA [at]

"No decision related to Lt Col Baratuza's deployment can be taken before we finish looking into the matter. We can confirm that Lt Col Baratuza is in Entebbe but he has not yet deployed to MINUSCA.  Regards. VNM"

There are some questions about Baratuza, a Colonel in Burundi's Army, being listed by the UN as “Lt. Col.”

  Despite multiple follow-up questions by Inner City Press, Mr. Monteiro - previously a spokesperson for the UN electoral mission in Burundi - replied that “This is what we can say about this issue.”

   But the UN should have to say more. Inner City Press has repeatedly asked the UN how its Department of Peacekeeping Operations under Herve Ladsous vets those who deploy to UN missions; Inner City Press exclusively reported on an October 1, 2015 meeting in which Ladsous told Burundi's Vice President Joseph Butare that he is “pragmatic” on human rights.

 Ban Ki-moon and his spokesman declined to take Inner City Press' questions on December 16, as they did on December 14. Vine here.  Watch this site.

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