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
December 11 -- Whether the dead who
are impacted number twenty or 150 or one million, the UN never wants to
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
sitting in their bases as outside civilians were killed.
Peacekeepers could not communicate with local people, due to a lack of
translators. They could not get to the site of the killings because
basic vehicle to drive through predictable Congolese mud. These lacks
blamed on donors, or on the UN's own bad planning, and failure to
the protection of civilians. Even when the accusers include UN Human
Prize winners, the UN disagrees.
UN Peacekeepers in Kivu, translators not shown
From Thursday UN
Inner City Press: There is this
pretty troubling report about
the killing of civilians in Kiwanja in the Democratic Republic of the
the part that I wanted to ask you about is the part where it says that
peacekeepers were less than a mile away inside their base; somehow
was going on. But more troubling that,
they had no translators to speak to the local population and they had
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
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
peacekeepers try to protect populations caught up in the conflict in
eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.
We have talked about those conditions very often
The factors cited by both The New
York Times and Human Rights Watch have been highlighted repeatedly in
of the Secretary-General to the Security Council, and in briefings to
press: too few peacekeepers to cover
vast and difficult terrain; belligerents who respect no rules and who
civilians as human shields; difficulty in communicating with local
who are manipulated by various actors who incite hostility towards
their own ends; and a national army in complete disarray, which MONUC
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
Council. That is also why MONUC has
redeployed nearly 92 per cent of its troops to the eastern Democratic
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
efforts of fewer than 150 peacekeepers to protect some 60,000 people in
adjacent towns. They scarcely mention
the more than 5,000 civilians who sought protection around the MONUC
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
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
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
peacekeepers have been protecting civilians.
And they also fail to make any
reference to those who are responsible for victimizing the Congolese
-- even though both reports note the involvement in Kiwanja of the
Ntaganda, an indicted war criminal and the belligerents’ utter
civilians in the course of combat.
I think this is our response to
those two pieces, those two stories.
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
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.
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
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
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
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?
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City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics
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Press Nov. 7 debate on the war in Congo
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UN, bailout, MDGs
and this October 17 debate, on
Security Council and Obama and the UN.
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