Chad Says UN Destroys Airstrips, Logjam on Shakedown Street
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, February 17 -- In Chad, the "traffic" of the UN's
peacekeeping mission is "destroying our infrastructure,"
Chad's Ambassador to the UN Ahmad Allam-mi told the Press on
Wednesday. Inner City Press asked him about landing and other fees
that Chad's Idriss Deby government had been charging international
peacekeepers, and to respond to the idea that Deby's threat to throw
the UN out is just a ploy to get more money. Video here,
Allam-mi replied that there are "taxes for services rendered by
state companies." He called these a "royalty" and said
that "there is an agreement that we signed."
the UN, like
the European Union force before it, has never wanted to disclose how
much it agreed to pay Deby. Even at Wednesday's UN noon briefing,
when Inner City Press asked UN Deputy Spokesperson Marie Okabe, she
did not provide an answer, or even promise one in the future. Video here.
briefing, when the Security Council suspended their meeting on Chad
for a lunch break, Inner City Press asked top UN Peacekeeper Alain Le
Roy about the alleged "destruction" of Chad's
infrastructure, and whether the UN might now agree to pay more in
order to keep the MINURCAT mission in place.
there yet," Le Roy said. But are "we" getting
Inner City Press exclusively
covered a closed door meeting of Troop
Contributing Countries at which European countries with notable
exception of France, Chad's former colonial power, complained about
high landing fees charged by Deby. Click here
for that Inner City
the mission was
handed over from the European Union to the UN, it was said, Deby
tried to charge the UN for infrastructure built by the EU. Now,
informed sources say, Deby is at it again.
UN's Ban and Deby, payments for MINURCAT not shown
groups are demanding that MINURCAT stay in place to protect their
operations and civilians. As top UN Humanitarian John Holmes told the
Press on Wednesday, while some NGOs won't accept escorts from armed
peacekeepers, others do.
asked Holmes if it would be possible to keep the mission in the
Central African Republic, which it also serves, even if Chad kicks it
out. No, Holmes answered. It would have to be a separate mission. He
said he thinks the Central African Republic wants to keep the UN
Deby's gambit results in higher payments from the UN, the Central
African Republic and other hosts of peacekeeping missions would be
foolish not to also try the shakedown. Watch this site.
in mid 2008 when Inner City Press and other UN correspondents
accompanied the Security Council to Chad and elsewhere in Africa,
Deby skipped a scheduled meeting with the Council. Many questioned
why Deby would rebuff France, whose then Ambassador Jean Maurice
Ripert was in charge of the Chad leg of the trip. Sources tell Inner
City Press that Deby was four sheets to the wind, en flight back from
briefing, Ambassador Ahmad Allam-mi told Inner City Press, you try to
get me in trouble by quoting my president to me. But President Deby,
it appears, contains multitudes.
conference was stopped for two minutes as the headphones for
translation did not work. Video here, from Minute 25:53. Echoes
of French Ambassador Gerard Araud's melt down at the beginning of
February when the translation headsets weren't available. He demanded
to konw, where are the helmets? Now some question, as Chad shakes down
the UN as it did the EU, where is France?
UN, CPJ on Pariah States N. Korea and on Sri Lanka,
Buying Tickets, Iran's Eye
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, February 16 -- The Committee to Protect Journalists on
February 16 called on UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to be more
forceful about the importance of press freedom. Inner City Press
asked CPJ's Asia expert Bob Dietz about what Mr. Ban and CPJ have
done as the Sri Lankan government of Mahinda Rajapaksa has closed
down opposition newspapers, reporters have been killed and websites
blocked. Video here,
from Minute 40:08.
Dietz said that
"no one knows how to handle the direction in which the [Sri
Lankan] government is going, which is not friendly to the media."
He said it might join the "pariah states" of Myanmar,
"Burma, North Korea and Zimbabwe," but for feisty
journalists who put themselves at risk.
as to what CPJ
does, Dietz said "right now we
are hanging back with a lot of
people," trying to figure out whether to "come down hard or
engage in quiet advocacy."
City Press asked Dietz for more specifics
about this "quiet"
approach, which the UN seems to share, in the most benign
interpretation of Ban's visit in May 2009 after what even the UN
called the "bloodbath on the beach" and since.
Children and Armed Conflict mandate, which belatedly sent Patrick
Cammaert to Sri Lanka in December, never had him brief the Press
afterwards. Radhika Coomaraswamy, when Inner City Press asked her
about this silence last week, said that Cammaert went to Europe to
get married after his trip, then it was "too late" to brief
the press about his visit.
Dietz said that
the opposition press in Sri Lanka asks that particular journalists'
cases "not be publicized," as it would only make things
worse. "Just get us out of here," Dietz said such
journalists ask, adding the CPJ helps with plane tickets.
correspondent remarked afterwards is that "quiet advocacy is
what diplomats do, not journalists or their organizations."
Masked rally for press freedom in Sri Lanka,
Jan 2009, UN and CPJ's tickets out not shown
asked CPJ's deputy director Robert Mahoney about the UN's own envoy
to Somalia Ahmedou Ould Abdallah having called on a "moratorium"
on Somali journalists reporting on the killing of civilians by the
African Union peacekeepers of AMISOM.
it is up to
journalists to make their own editorial decisions. Ironically, Ban
Ki-moon's spokesman Martin Nesirky has, at least in his first month
on the job, said such things as "that's not a story."
on the podium
was Newsweek journalist and filmmaker Maziar Bahari, about whom CNN's
Fareed Zakaria devoted the foreword to CPJ's study. As Bahari spoke,
a representative from Iran's Mission to the UN sat in the UN press
hall's front row, taking notes.
mission has invited UN
correspondents -- including this one -- to a celebration of Iran's
national day on February 18. Inner City Press told Bahari about the
event, encouraging him to come and cover it. Watch this space.
three hours after the CPJ press conference on its report, "Attacks
on the Press in 2009," which names North Korea as the world's
most censored country, Inner City Press asked Mr. Ban's senior
advisor Kim Won-soo and political advisor Lynn Pascoe if they had
even raised press freedom during their recent trip to Pyongyang. Video here.
Mr. Pascoe said. Inner City Press asked Mr. Kim to respond for Mr.
Ban on CPJ's wider call to be more forceful on press freedom. While
he answered about UNDP in North Korea, he did not answer on press
freedom. Inner City Press has at UN noon briefings asked for Mr. Kim
to come and answer questions more often. We'll see.
In another UN footnote, CPJ's genial Mr. Dietz granted
an interview to a student reporter, Melissa Best, whose piece should
air as part of WNYC's Radio Rookies program. Ms. Best, who aspired to
be a US diplomat, told Inner City Press that North Korea's nuclear
ambitions might call for more stick and less carrots. The show should
air -- and Internet -- in June...