Inner City Press

Inner City Press -- Investigative Reporting From the Inner City to Wall Street to the United Nations

These reports are usually available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis

  Search Search WWW (censored?)

In Other Media-eg Nigeria, Zim, Georgia, Nepal, Somalia, Azerbaijan, Gambia Click here to contact us     .

Home -

These reports are usually available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis


Subscribe to RSS feed

Video (new)

Reuters AlertNet 8/17/07

Reuters AlertNet 7/14/07

Support this work by buying this book

Click on cover for secure site orders

also includes "Toxic Credit in the Global Inner City"




Bank Beat

Freedom of Information

How to Contact Us

Deaths in Congo Are Explained Away by UN, Lack of Translators and Cars Par for the Course

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

UNITED NATIONS, December 11 -- Whether the dead who are impacted number twenty or 150 or one million, the UN never wants to admit it could do better.  On December 11 at the UN, Inner City Press asked the spokesperson for Ban Ki-moon to respond to a number of studies which portray the UN Peacekeepers in Kiwanja in the Congo as sitting in their bases as outside civilians were killed.

   The UN Peacekeepers could not communicate with local people, due to a lack of translators. They could not get to the site of the killings because they lacked basic vehicle to drive through predictable Congolese mud. These lacks can be blamed on donors, or on the UN's own bad planning, and failure to prioritize the protection of civilians. Even when the accusers include UN Human Rights Prize winners, the UN disagrees.

UN Peacekeepers in Kivu, translators not shown

   From Thursday UN transcript:

Inner City Press:  There is this pretty troubling report about the killing of civilians in Kiwanja in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the part that I wanted to ask you about is the part where it says that the peacekeepers were less than a mile away inside their base; somehow unaware what was going on.  But more troubling that, they had no translators to speak to the local population and they had the wrong vehicles.  What’s the UN’s response to this pretty damning…  What’s being done to make sure this doesn’t happen in the future as well?

Spokesperson Michele Montas:  Well, I have read both reports, the story in The New York Times, the story also of the Human Rights Watch report on Kiwanja.  As you probably remember, on 8 November, if I remember correctly, I did report on what had happened then and we told you about what was being done then.  Both the New York Times story and the Human Rights Watch report, they paint a pretty stark picture of the overwhelming conditions in which MONUC peacekeepers try to protect populations caught up in the conflict in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.  We have talked about those conditions very often here.

The factors cited by both The New York Times and Human Rights Watch have been highlighted repeatedly in reports of the Secretary-General to the Security Council, and in briefings to the press:  too few peacekeepers to cover vast and difficult terrain; belligerents who respect no rules and who use civilians as human shields; difficulty in communicating with local populations who are manipulated by various actors who incite hostility towards MONUC for their own ends; and a national army in complete disarray, which MONUC is mandated to support.  So these conditions we have talked about over and over again.

These factors were precisely why the Secretary-General called for additional capacities for MONUC and why he has appealed for a multinational force, which was a request made to the Security Council.  That is also why MONUC has redeployed nearly 92 per cent of its troops to the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and is moving two battalions from Ituri into North Kivu.

Both pieces, the Human Rights Watch report and The New York Times piece, I think they unfairly minimize the efforts of fewer than 150 peacekeepers to protect some 60,000 people in two adjacent towns.  They scarcely mention the more than 5,000 civilians who sought protection around the MONUC base at Kiwanja, which was the situation that prevailed around early November.  You had all those people who had fled their villages and were around the base and they had to protect those civilians, the 60,000 civilians who were there.

And then the headline of The New York Times article and the title of the Human Rights Watch report, I think, fail to acknowledge the peacekeepers in Kiwanja -- and elsewhere -- for protecting large numbers of civilians, often at great risk to themselves.  They don’t acknowledge that those peacekeepers have been protecting civilians.

And they also fail to make any reference to those who are responsible for victimizing the Congolese population -- even though both reports note the involvement in Kiwanja of the CNDP’s Bosco Ntaganda, an indicted war criminal and the belligerents’ utter disregard for civilians in the course of combat.

I think this is our response to those two pieces, those two stories.  Yes?

Inner City Press:  Noting first that Human Rights Watch is now a UN Human Rights prize winner.  (Inaudible) this issue where they specifically say that the peacekeepers there do not have translators, could not speak to the local population and had the wrong vehicles.  Is part of the Secretary-General’s request beyond just getting peacekeepers?  What has…?

Spokesperson Montas:  This is giving them capacities to function.

Inner City Press:  Okay.  Translators included?

Spokesperson Montas:  Of course, of course.  It’s not just getting more people there.  It’s getting people who can be deployed in a way that they can effectively protect more of the civilian population.  I don’t know if you remember the circumstances which I had related on 8 November, where you had had a struggle between the Mai Mai troops and Nkunda’s troops in that village.  Actually there were two series of attacks at two different times and, in between the two, the UN peacekeepers went there to investigate what the population had been saying.  And they did find some bodies and they reported it; we reported it here.  Of course, there was additional combat afterwards in the same village and more people were killed.  So, it is a fact that our peacekeepers are functioning, but they are too few of them and they don’t have the means to actually protect the civilian population the way they should.  They are there to support an army that has left the area.  That’s really it.  Thank you all so much.

Enrique, your turn.  And by the way, the Human Rights Division of MONUC is in that village right now investigating.

  But if they find UN negligence, would they report it?

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

Click here for Inner City Press Nov. 7 debate on the war in Congo

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.

* * *

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

Feedback: Editorial [at]

UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

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

  Search  Search WWW (censored?)

Other, earlier Inner City Press are listed here, and some are available in the ProQuest service, and now on Lexis-Nexis.

            Copyright 2006-08 Inner City Press, Inc. To request reprint or other permission, e-contact Editorial [at] -