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In Nepal, UN Is Counting Guns But Not Controlling, Terai Cries  Misunderstood

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

UNITED NATIONS, November 11 -- Even one of the UN's better moves in recent years, assisting the demilitarization process in Nepal, is shrouded in mandates misunderstood, communications missed or misreported, support from Headquarters not constant.

  The UN's envoy to Nepal Ian Martin briefed the Press on Monday. It was three days after he spoke before the Security Council, drawing comment in public from only one delegation, that of this month's Council president Costa Rica. Then they repaired -- or Riperted, to use the similarly-sounding name of the Ambassador of France -- to the closed consultations room. It is not known if the following questions, asked Monday by Inner City Press, were addressed in the consultations room.

  Inner City Press asked Martin about two reported letters to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, during his recent visit to Kathmandu, from independence fighters from the Terai plains region. Martin addressed not these letter and claims but those of parliamentarians, some of whom met with Ban during his visit.

  So Inner City Press asked Martin to respond to the Nepali opposition's comments that he over-favors the Maoists, perhaps according to one representative because he himself is a Communist. "I'm not asking if you are a Communist, given the history of that question," Inner City Press said. But what about the criticism?

  Martin's response showed yet another misunderstood UN mandate. These opponents, he said, see the Maoists still using their own armed security, and blame the UN for it. But all the UN does is count and register guns, Martin said. As he is misunderstood, he has urged that this policy with regard to the Maoists maintaining their own armed security be revisited. Is that after UNMIN has left?

UN's Ban choppers to Buddha's birthplace, Terai letters not shown

  Inner City Press asked about the beating death of a Kathmandu businessman in one of the Maoist cantonment sites in May. Martin replied that three Maoists have been asked to surrended to police, but none have. One has even resurfaced with the Maoists forces. So much for an end to impunity. Perhaps a pattern can be discerned here.

  What is the UN's view of the Maoists demand that its fighters killed during the war be compensated as martyrs? Martin said inscrutibly that all classes of victims should be made whole, equitably. He went on to claim that he and even Ban Ki-moon are not pushing for have UNMIN's mandate, which expired in January 2009, extended. Coulda fooled us...

Footnotes: This month's Security Council president Jorge Urbina of Costa Rica has made a point of saying that more of the Council's work should be in public. But like another UN official, apparently while he tries to lead by example, no one is following. At the November 7 session, he alone among the members spoke in the open session.

  Afterwards, Inner City Press asked him on the record what was said in consultation, if for example Western Sahara had been raised. Only then did Amb. Urbina acknowledge the item. Why not at least disclose the agendas of consultations, unpacking the oft-used "Other matters"?

   On November 10, Inner City Press asked Martin, as a longtime UN official, if he thought that more of the Security Council's work could or should be done in public. Martin declined to comment on the issue, even in the abstract.

  Finally, Martin's New York support team from the Department of Political Affairs, present at the November 10 briefing, has now directly been asked for an update on what DPA's loudly-announced team of Stand-by Mediators has done for the past eight months. Getting an answer shouldn't be like pulling teeth but for now it feels that way. Watch this site.

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

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