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As France Moves to Drop All Charges for Serval Abuses in CAR, ICP Asked But UN Has No Comment

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 22 – The UN claims to want zero tolerance for sexual abuse by peacekeepers. But when France moves to drop all charges against the Serval peacekeepers charged with rapes in the Central African Republic, the UN has no comment. On March 22, Inner City Press asked UN spokesman Farhan Haq, video here UN transcript here:

Inner City Press: On the Central African Republic, it's… the French prosecutors have now asked for all charges to be dropped against the Serval peacekeepers that were, you know, named in this UN report that Mr. [Anders] Kompass gave to the French authorities.  Given the UN's collection of evidence and knowledge of the case, does the UN think it's appropriate that no one be charged and that the case be dropped in its entirety?

Deputy Spokesman:  That's not our decision.  Obviously, that's a decision for the judicial system in France.  And what we're hoping for is that all of the people involved in this process go about this responsibly and prosecute any potential crimes that are found.  But, ultimately, that's their decision.  It's not our role to second-guess national judiciaries.

Inner City Press:  I wanted to ask you a Cameroon question.

  Not only has the UN  been silent on the crackdown and Internet cut-off in Cameroon's Anglophone areas - even when asked four times by Inner City Press, the UN's top two spokesmen refuse to answer basic questions about alleged sexual abuse by Cameroonian peacekeepers in the Central African Republic. After being told late week that there would be an answer, on March 15 Inner City Press asked the UN's holdover spokesman Stephane Dujarric, video here, UN transcript here:

Inner City Press: I asked last week or now more than a week about the… the August 2015 allegations by Amnesty International that the contingent of Cameroon went back and was involved in reprisal rapes in CAR [Central African Republic].  And since it's now 2017…

Spokesman:  I mean, I don't have any…

Inner City Press: How long is too long to investigate?

Spokesman:  I don't have anything here.  You may want to look through the Special Measures report, see if there's anything in there.  I'll see what I can get, but I just don't have anything off the top of my head.

  Top of the head? Inner City Press had asked about it twice, now three times.

 In CAR last year, "a Member of Parliament representing the Nana-Bakassa District in the Ouham Prefecture, Roland Achille Bangué-Betangaye, accused Cameroonian forces serving in his country under the banner of the United Nations Multidimensional Stabilization Mission (MINUSCA) of trafficking in minerals, including gold and diamond. Speaking over CAR national radio, the MP said Cameroonian soldiers serving in the country have transformed themselves into business men through the smuggle of food items, gasoil and beer. In turn, he said, they make away with minerals especially gold and diamond.  The Cameroonian military serving in the Nana-Bakassa District, the law maker said, have even opened a drinking spot where people come and refresh themselves."

 On March 15, Dujarric said "In response to questions, I think you had asked me, Matthew, about the Central African Republic, I can tell you that the [United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA)] in the country conducted investigations in July of last year on a Cameroonian contingent that was allegedly involved in illegal activities. The investigation concluded that there was no evidence of any wrongdoing."

  On March 10 at noon, after publishing the above, Inner City Press asked the UN's holdover Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq about it - and by day's end he had provided no answer at all. UN transcript:

Inner City Press:  a follow-up on peacekeeping accountability.  In the… in the Central African Republic, there were allegations by an elected member of parliament there, of the Ouham prefecture, Roland Bangué-Betangaye.  This goes back to June 2016.  He publicly said that the Cameroonian contingent in the area that he represents were engaged in business, including gold… gold, conflict diamonds, opening of businesses.  This was widely… you know, you can find a number of articles about it from that time.  And what I’m wondering, is, what was ever done… there was a statement that there’s an investigation being opened.  That was by, I guess, Mr. Montero at the time.  But there’s been nothing publicly said since.  What… were all of these allegations made by an elected official and on national radio in Central African Republic false?  Or was there actually something done by MINUSCA  (United Nations Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic) and UN peacekeeping about these allegations?

Deputy Spokesman:  Oh, I’ll check with MINUSCA to see what happened with that.  Have a good weekend, everyone.

 There are also sexual abuse allegations, at a time the UN is saying it is getting tough, on which we'll have more. On March 10, Inner City Press asked the UN's holdover spokesman Farhan Haq about this:

Inner City Press: There was an Amnesty International report about… about sexual abuse in the Central African Republic in which they said a Cameroonian peacekeeper was killed, and the next day the contingent returned to the area.  And many people thereafter testified about sexual abuse, including of minors.  So, in the report, it says that there is, one, a sole allegation of sexual abuse against the Cameroonian contingent in [the Central African Republic].  This was some time ago as you remember in the… and there’s also another one in MINUSTAH (United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti).  Is it possible, in the spirit of the transparency you’re discussing, to say, what’s the status of this?  Why has it taken so long?  Why was there only one charge written in this report when, according to the Amnesty International one, they’re the contingent that went back and… and at the time frame?  And, of course, they’re not all criminals, but I’m asking you, can you get an update later today about this case reported on by Amnesty International?

Deputy Spokesman:  Ultimately, for us to get an update, we need to have progress in the investigation.  Once we have the results to deliver, we can provide that, but until that point, we’re allowing that process to continue.

Inner City Press: Right, but it was said yesterday that things were going to move faster.  In the time frame given, given when these incidents took place, how is it still… what is… I guess, even a statement of what’s the status within the Cameroonian justice system?

Deputy Spokesman:  At this stage, there’s no update to provide.  Once we have an update, we’ll certainly provide it, but every process has its own momentum, has its own rate.

The UN says it's fine that its Resident Coordinator from her official Twitter account blocks the Press which asks about it. Amid the ongoing abuse of Anglophones in Cameroon, the Internet being turned off for 51 day in their regions, Inner City Press on March 8 discovered that the UN's Resident Coordinator in Cameroon, Najat Rochdi of Morocco, blocks it on Twitter, see here. So Inner City Press asked Secretary General Antonio Guterres' holdover Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq about it on March 9, UN transcript here:

Inner City Press: the answer you sent about Mr. [Francois] Louncény Fall saying that he would raise issues to the authorities.  Can you say whether the issue of the internet being off in two provinces for 52 days has been raised?  And, secondarily, I wanted to ask you this.  You announced from this podium that Najat Rochdi is going to Central African Republic as Resident Coordinator.  What's the process to appoint a new Resident Coordinator for the UN system in Cameroon?  And is it… is it… is it… can it be public in any way?  It seems many people have complained that, while she was there, she never raised the Anglophone issue.  And, in fact, I found that she blocks Inner City Press on Twitter, so I'm unable to ask her why this issue has not been raised.  But what's the process to replace… and you can smirk, but should a UN official in their official account…?

Spokesman:  That's an unrelated thing.  I mean, obviously, all people… all individuals, not even just all UN officials, are free to block whoever they want on Twitter.  That's within their rights.

Inner City Press:  Including missions?  So you think a peacekeeping mission should pick and choose which media can follow it?

Spokesman:  Organizations will respond… are supposed to respond to press requests.  Individuals can do whatever they like with their Twitter accounts.

Inner City Press:  What's the process of replacing the Resident Coordinator in Cameroon?

Spokesman:  It's the same as in any other place.  There's a process that goes… that you go through, and the Resident Coordinator's selection process is supervised by the UN Development Programme (UNDP).

  This is at odds with the UN's claims to be transparent in its use of public money, and to be open to the press and impacted public, and will be pursued at Rochdi's next assignment at the UN in Central African Republic. But it raises the question: how are UN Resident Coordinators selected? Inner City Press reported on Ban Ki-moon's son in law Siddharth Chatterjee getting multiple promotion under Ban, including being named UN Resident Coordinator in Kenya by Ban himself. (Inner City Press was evicted by Ban's UN, and remains restricted under Ban's successor). But shouldn't Anglophone Cameroonians have some input into the UN's next Resident Coordinator in their country? This is a project for the Free UN Coalition for Access, @FUNCA_info. Watch these sites and feeds.

  Inner City Press on March 7 and March 8 asked UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres' spokesman, for the third and fourth times, about what the Political Affairs official Guterres extended to April 1, 2018, told the Press: that Francois Lonseny Fall visited the areas. Video here and here. After the March 8 briefing, the UN sent this to Inner City Press:

"Subject: Your question on Cameroon
From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply
Date: Wed, Mar 8, 2017 at 3:30 PM
To: matthew.lee [at]

Mr. Francois Lounseny Fall and members of his team have conducted a series of visits to Cameroon to assess the situation in the Anglophone regions.  Mr. Fall will continue to engage with the national authorities and monitor the situation in these regions and, in the first instance, bring any concerns to the authorities so that they may be addressed."

  So have any "concerns" been raised by the UN to President Biya? We will continue on this.

From the UN's March 7 transcript:

Inner City Press: On Cameroon, I’d asked Stéphane Dujarric, then I’d asked you.  Finally, Mr. [Jeffrey] Feltman said Mr. [Francois] Louncény Fall had made two visits to the area.  Many people have now asked online, what came of those visits?  Because there was nothing put out by the UN.  When were the visits made?  Did Mr. Louncény Fall express any concern about the treatment of Anglophones to President [Paul] Biya’s Government?  And is there some way to know what the purpose of those visits were?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, we’ll check with his office about whether they have an update.

  Six hours later, nothing. Absolutely nothing. On March 6, Inner City Press asked the UN Secretariat for the second time about the issue. On March 3, lead spokesman Stephane Dujarric told Inner City Press, "We're obviously following it, and I'll see if I can get you something further." But on March 6 Dujarric's deputy Farhan Haq had nothing further, just generalities about a due process that the UN itself doesn't offer. But when Inner City Press asked UN official Jeffrey Feltman of the Department of Political Affairs, Feltman said that Francois Lonseny Fall of UNOCA has visited the regions twice. To what end? We hope to have more on this.

 On March 5 asked Rupert Colville, the spokesperson for UN High Commission for Human Rights Prince Zeid of Jordan, questions including this: "What is the UN system, including the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), doing about abuses against the Anglophone community in Cameroon, in the Northwest and Southwest regions where the Internet has been cut for 49 days and counting?"

  Past noon the following day, March 6, still no response from Colville or the OHCHR. Is this acceptable?

While UN Security Council members visiting Niger, 188th out of 188 on the UN Development Index, is certainly welcome, it is noteworthy has is not being addressed or even publicly mentioned on this trip.

  Beyond the omission, which some called shameful, of the plight of Anglophones in Cameroon -- the Internet has been turned off in their regions -- the common denominator of France's historical power relations with, say, Chad and Niger was omitted even from reporting from inside the Council's bubble.

  It was complained to the Free UN Coalition for Access that the UN didn't even inform the News Agency of Nigeria that it could go on the trip (but did inform, for example, Voice of America). Might NAN have been more critical of aspects of the trip? How will this omission be addressed?

  And while a Security Council member has responded to Inner City Press that the issue was raised in meetings, given that VOA, invited and on the trip, did not even mention it, one wonders when, where and with what seriousness it was raised. We hope to have more on that.

   Inner City Press in the past was informed of such trips, and went on some, for example to Chad where then French Ambassador Jean Maurice Ripert dissembled about President Deby's non-appearance, then confronted Inner City Press about its reporting, in the airport in Kigali, Rwanda. Now, following a retaliatory eviction and continuing restriction at the UN by Department of Public Information chief Cristina Gallach and spokesman Stephane Dujarric for seeking to cover the Ng Lap Seng / John Ashe UN bribery case in the UN Press Briefing Room on January 29, 2016, Inner City Press is no longer informed or invited. DPI under Gallach churns out assemblages of canned quotes and tweets as "stories," as from within the bubble. We'll have more on this.

  On a previous Security Council trip that included Sudan, Council members spoke to the Press about standing up to the Sudanese government about abuses. So what happened in Cameroon?


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