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In Congo, July 30 UN E-mail Spoke of FDLR & Rape, 22 Rapes Reported to UN Aug 6

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 2 -- As the Congo rape scandal develops, the UN's mis-statements become ever more clear. Roger Meece, the chief of the UN Mission in the Congo (MONUSCO) told the Press that the first MONUSCO knew of the rapes was on August 12.

  Then there was an account of a July 30 e-mail and an August 6 report by the International Medical Corps. Inner City Press has now seen the e-mails, which the UN initially said it couldn't find.

The July 30 e-mail, from the UN's Agustin Rwandarugari to a variety of UN and NGO parties, said in French:

Message urgent pour les humanitaires -- Selon l’ANR Walikale, la localité de Mpofi 52km de Walikale vient de tomber aux mains des FDLR. Une femme y a été violée. Les humanitaires sont priés de na pas emprunter cette route pour le moment.”

[“Urgent message for the humanitarians - According to ANR Walikali, the locality of Mpofi, 52 kilometers from Walikali, has fallen into the hands of the FDLR. A woman there has been raped. Humanitarians are asked not to use that route for the moment.”]

On September 2 in New York, Inner City Press asked UN acting Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq to square this July 30 e-mail with Mr. Meece's claim that MONUSCO only knew of rape from August 12 onwards. Video here, from Minute 10:33.

Haq tried to say that Meece had meant with “verifiable” information. But UN official Rwandarugari's above quoted July 30 e-mail, labeled “urgent,” said the village was in rebel hands and a woman had been raped.

  In fact, Mr. Rwandarugari was told, at the IMC compound in Walikali on August 6, of at least 22 rapes in Luvungi alone. He went there after he heard that an IMC convoy had been ambushed.

  Therefore he and the UN got notice of 22 rapes from a source, the IMC, which the UN has acknowledged as credible. This was verifiable information, on a date far in advance of the August 12 date used by Mr. Meece.

Inner City Press asked, what happens now?

UN's Meece, explanation of July 30 e-mail and Aug 6 report not shown

  Haq continued to point to the upcoming March 7 briefing (followed by closed door consultations) of the Security Council by Peacekeeping deputy Atul Khare and Sexual Violence in Conflict representative Margot Wallstrom.

September's Council president, the Ambassador of Turkey, held a press conference on Thursday, and Inner City Press asked if he and the Council had understood, despite the fanfare with which Ms. Wallstrom's office was set up in March, that it would be inoperative into August 2010, and become aware of the rapes only 15 (or 22) days after the UN in the Congo was aware of them. Video here, from Minute 17:58.

He said, you will hear on March 7. We'll be there -- but where is the accountability? Watch this site.

Footnote: on September 2, a month after the mass rapes and a week after being put in charge of coordinating the UN's response, Ms. Wallstrom greeted Inner City Press as she walked to a media interview on the second floor of the UN in New York. Still not in the Congo, someone said...

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On Congo Rapes, UN Admits 240 Victims, Dodges Meece Inaccuracies, Wallstrom Inaction

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 1 -- As the UN tries to slow down or even bury the story of its inaction on the mass rapes in Eastern Congo, the questions keep on coming and the admissions, drip by drip. But belatedly updated victim numbers can't change the inaccurate statements of MONUSCO chief Roger Meece, nor the inaction of Margot Wallstrome, UN envoy on Sexual Violence and Conflict.

    On Wednesday at the UN in New York, Inner City Press asked about

Inner City Press: what the UN knew and when, saying that on 30 July in that e-mail it mentioned a rape in the village of Mpofi, and also a 10 August e-mail mentioning already 25 rapes. These dates are inconsistent, to put it mildly, with what Mr. Meece said to us from the video screen. What are the ramifications? Does the UN deny this... or are we missing something in terms of the inaccuracies?

Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq: As far as that goes, as you’re aware, when the Secretary-General learned of these mass rapes, what he did from our side was to immediately dispatch Atul Khare, the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He is there right now. We just mentioned what his travels in the area are. He, among other things, was sent there specifically to look into the mass rapes that occurred in the Walikale area. He’ll also look at our response and how we responded to it. He’s there now collecting information and we will see what his evaluation is of that situation when he returns. We expect him back next week and we expect him to report back to the Secretary-General, and also, by the way, to the Security Council, although, of course, their schedule for the month is still being determined.

Inner City Press: But I remember Martin [Nesirky] saying from this podium that here at the Secretariat in New York your office was looking into this 30 July e-mail to find what it was and what it said. Now, the New York Times says a rape occurred. I’m just wondering, has your office found that e-mail? And totally outside of Mr. Khare’s time schedule, what does it mean it mean about what Mr. Meece told us?

Deputy Spokesperson: Yes, we have been looking into that. At this stage, what I would wait for is to see what information Mr. Khare, as the person who is there on the ground, because he is there, he is accumulating data and he will report back. I think we’ll leave it until then. But, yes, we’ve been looking into this and certainly we’re trying to find what the providence of this particular e-mail is.

Inner City Press: Just one more on this. The International Medical Corps now says that the number of women treated in this mass rape incident, they’ve raised their number from 192 to 242. I’m just wondering if the UN, which initially had this 154 number, do you dispute those numbers? Or is the UN just shutting down its communications until 7 September?

Deputy Spokesperson: I don’t have for you at this stage any higher number beyond what we’ve given. However, as our presence in that area grows and as there’s been more of a restoration of peace to various areas, freeing up people to feel like they can speak, we’re trying to get more information about what’s going on. So we may find out more information about other attacks. So we would update the numbers accordingly once we get that. But right now at this stage what we’re doing is we’re spreading out into various communities. We’re looking into different reports and we’ll try and see what further information we have.

[The Spokesperson added later that the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) has put the number of rape victims at higher than 240, with more cases being reported.]

In fact, after the above transcribed questions, the UN released not only an updated number of victims, but a whole press release...

* * *

On Congo Rapes, UN Inaction & Dissembling Stretches to Wallstrom, Meece, Higher

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 31 -- Of the mass rapes in Eastern Congo which occurred from July 30 through August 4, the UN's Special Representative on Sexual Violence and Conflict Margot Wallstrom only learn on “August 21-22 through emerging media sources,” Wallstrom told the Press on Tuesday. Video here, from Minute 1:50.

Inner City Press asked what steps she had taken, in her six months on the job, to try to ensure that UN peacekeeping missions like MONUSCO in the Congo actually inform her of mass rape, rather than leaving her to find out about in in the newspapers ten days after MONUSCO admits knowing of it. Video here, from Minute 14:19.

Ms. Wallstrom, apparently realizing how bad it looked to learn only from the media, changed her story and said “not the newspaper,” she had “reports and calls one by one.” Video here, from Minute 18:19.

  Beyond Ms. Wallstrom's shifting and self serving story, one call she did receive was from the Secretary General, calling her into action from where she was in Europe. Still, as of August 31 she had not gone to the Congo after the rape story broke, instead sending an underling from the office she has barely staffed in six months.

  She acknowledged that only four of ten posts have been filled; she said there was only been an office since June. She blamed this on the UN budget process.

Rather than offer a critique of the UN peacekeepers' inaction -- it has now been shown that the UN knew of at least one of the rapes on July 30, and of at least 25 by August 10 -- Ms. Wallstrom chided the media to keep the focus on the rapists.

  Inner City Press asked about known rapists still serving in the FARCD Congolese army: Bosco Ntaganda, an FARDC commander who walks around Goma at will, Colonel Zimulinda / Zimurinda, who the UN worked with even after UN expert Philip Alston named him as responsible for 50 rapes, and ex-warlord and kidnapper and murderer of UN peacekeepers Peter Kerim, made a colonel in the FARDC. Video here, from Minute 35:15.

UN's Ban and Wallstrom, action on, even knowledge of, mass rapes not shown

   In response, Wallstrom lamented that some in the FARDC are “people straight from the forest.”  But will her office call for their arrest and apprehension? Video here, from Minute 37:22. Wallstrom seemed to say yes. We'll see.

Regarding Wallstrom's "straight outta the forest" comment, an African UN official tells Inner City Press that Wallstrom's "language" is causing consternation. Ironically, but quintessentially UN, Wallstrom may face accountability if at all not for her inaction, but for her language.

Footnote: something to be established is whether Wallstrom even gave her cell phone number to Roger Meece and other peacekeeping officials. To be informed of mass rape known to UN peacekeepers does not require the full staff of ten.

  While Ms. Wallstrom said that the UN can't protect women in all conflict zones, it seems fair to ask why, while spending $1 billion, the UN can't protect women from mass multi-day rape 20 minutes from a UN peacekeeping base. Who will be held accountable? Those who looked away or those who dissembled after the fact? Why not both? To be continued.

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 Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

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

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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