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In Congo, UN Spins Amid Hutu Rebels and Kabila's Friends, Denies Retreating and Abuse

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

UNITED NATIONS, November 3 -- Amid reports that Congolese president Joseph Kabila is requesting military backing from Zimbabwe and Angola, the UN at the highest levels on Monday sought to justify its actions. From Goma in Eastern Congo, UN Peacekeeping chief Alain Le Roy said that he is aware of the reports Inner City Press asked him about of Kabila's army "colluding" with the Hutu rebels of the FDLR. He said that he has asked "Kinshasa" -- presumably, President Kabila himself -- to deal more even-handedly with the FDLR, in a "transparent manner" under the supervision of the UN and others. Video here, from Minute 32:34.

  Who might those others be? UN spokespeople on condition of anonymity claimed that the United Kingdom has offered paratroopers, but that France is blocking their deployment "because France wants to keep control."  Inner City Press asked Le Roy about a quote by French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner, that within the UN's Congo mission, MONUC, "there are entire brigades that are unable to engage in defensive, let alone offensive, action, because their rules of engagement are insufficient or they are very restrictive." Le Roy said when he saw the quote, he called up Kouchner. One wag remarked that the French control of this Congo issue extends beyond the Security Council to the administrative level of the UN.

  Inner City Press' question to Le Roy about whether the Uruguayan contingent, as reported, fled from the front lines was answered by MONUC chief Alan Doss. He said that the Congolese army caused the problem, by taking up positions just behind the Uruguayans and firing rockets. That the Uruguayans left the cross-fire was a decision made, Doss said, by an Indian battalion commander.

  Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, just back from Bangladesh, held a stakeout with the media on Monday afternoon, emphasizing his willingness to meet with Kabila and Rwandan president Paul Kagame as soon as possible. Inner City Press asked if Mr. Ban thinks Kabila should meet with Nkunda, since he is the once with forces around Goma and who declared the ceasefire. Ban replied that Kabila has said he is willing to meet with Nkunda -- which, if true, would be news. Inner City Press' request for a response to the critique of the UN as not doing enough to act against the FDLR and not only Nkunda's forces was not responded to. Video here, from Minute 10:26.

UN's Ban and  his new envoy to the Congo, Nigeria's Obasanjo, FDLR not shown

  At Monday's noon briefing, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesperson to explain the following from the Indian press, during Ban's passage through that country:

"On recent allegations of misconduct by Indian peacekeepers in Congo, he said investigations were on, and 'I know that the Indian government has taken necessary measures'. On allegations of smuggling, the Secretary General said: 'There has been some internal investigation by the U N's relevant investigative organs and these allegations have been proved to be not substantial.'"

  Since Ban himself said in August 2008 that he is "troubled" by evidence of Indian peacekeepers sexually abusing young girls in Masisi in Eastern Congo, Inner City Press asked him spokesperson what exactly India has done since then. The spokesperson said to ask the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, whose Alain Le Roy and Alan Doss did not address the issue in their video press conference later on Monday.

  In fact, the UN on Monday reappointed Senegalese general Babacar Gaye as force commander of MONUC, to replace Spanish general Diaz who quit three weeks after taking the post, in the middle of this crisis. While returning to a previous commander is understandable, in his exit press conference in August, Gaye was dismissive of charges of sexual abuse and gold trading, even kidnapping, by MONUC peacekeepers, click here for that. One wag quipped, at MONUC it's zero tolerance for abuse until Nkunda's at the door -- then anything goes.

Footnote: During his stay in India, Inner City Press is told, Ban Ki-moon wanted to see the Taj Mahal, but was told it would take three quarters of a day, which he didn't have. He did, however, see the birthplace of the Buddha, in Nepal. In light of the chaos in Congo, one imagine the chant, "Serenity Now."

Watch this site, and this Oct. 2 debate, on UN, bailout, MDGs

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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