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UN Spins UMOJA, Won't Say Why Ban Dissed Bring Back Our Girls

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 25 -- A week after the UN through its Spokesperson's Office refused to release a copy of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's speech to 150 bankers, calling it "private," the same UN has so far provided responses to four of ten questions submitted by Inner City Press. One answer, it seems, it contradicted from elsewhere in the UN system.

   On August 25, Inner City Press submitted five questions, one of which for the third time -- this one got a response, the only one of five August 25 noon briefings answerd on August 25:

"please state the status of Mr. Baumann at UMOJA, as asked twice. Here is USG Takasu's email [of August 13, asked of twice]

"I wish to inform you that ASG Franz Baumann will be stepping down from his position as Umoja Senior Deployment Coordinator for New York, effective immediately. Mr Baumann has held this position since the inception of the Headquarters Deployment Group (HDG) in New York in September of 2014, and brought to it his considerable experience and expertise over a long career with the United Nations. The HDG was created to secure an effective transition to Umoja 'Cluster 4' this coming November, recognising the particular complexity associated with preparing New York to deploy the new common administrative support model.

"I am grateful to Mr Baumann for his leadership over the past year in establishing and overseeing the HDG, which is an ad hoc arrangement that co-locates from across HQ Departments and Offices administrative staff central to the preparations for Umoja. The HDG exists to prepare for and support the deployment of Umoja in New York, leading the readiness activities to enable an effective transition.

"Going forward, I will assume personal responsibility for the success of the HDG in my role as Umoja Project Owner. Mr Christian Saunders, the Director of my Office will act as New York Deployment Coordinator, to build upon the good work to date and take us through Umoja 'Go Live' on 1 November.
This one is on deadline."

 On August 24, the UN Spokesperson's Office told Inner City Press its understanding was Baumann was still there. Video here. But beyond the August 13 "immediate" email, other sources tell Inner City Press different, even of Mr. Baumann over at the UN Pension Fund.

 At 5 pm on August 25, this UN response was received:

"On your question on Umoja: The next phase of the deployment of Umoja involves its implementation on 1 November this year in more than 70 entities in Headquarters duty stations in New York, Geneva, Vienna, the Regional Commissions, as well as additional functionality in field missions. This is a significant milestone in the overall deployment plan and requires continued efforts and focus for it to be achieved smoothly. We remain confident, however, that this next step can be achieved on schedule. Progress in the deployment of Umoja has been the result of the hard work and dedication of many staff, both in headquarters in the field. USG Takasu, the Umoja project Owner, recognising the particular complexity associated with preparing New York to deploy decided the time had come for him to assume personal responsibility for the deployment in New York. We would like to thank ASG Baumann for his efforts during the past 11 months as the Senior Deployment Coordinator for New York. That being said, in line with long standing practice, we will not comment on the status of individual staff members."


 Here are other questions Inner City Press posed in writing to the UN Spokesperson's Office on August 25, not answered on August 25:

"Aug 25 (1) In South Sudan, what is the UN's response to MSF citing disease caused by lack of shelter and sanitation in the camps positioned within the United Nations base in Malakal? What is UNMISS and its UN partners doing? Also, please state UNMISS' and DPKO's awareness of an impending assault on Panyijjar county, Unity State.

"Aug 25 (2) On the Secretary General's trip, please explain why the SG refused to meet with the Bring Back Our Girls groups. If necessary, here is a report: “members of the group who thronged to Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja, in anticipation of a meeting with the UN scribe at 6:30pm, were left dejected as he failed to show up for the meeting. It was learnt that 45 minutes after the group sent out e-mails inviting media houses to cover a proposed meeting with Mr. Ki-moon, they were told it will no longer hold.” Please explain, on deadline. [We say dissed, they say "snubbed."]

"Aug 25 (3) Also on the Secretary General's trip, and the UN read-out for the SG's meeting with President Francois Hollande, please explain what the SG meant by his "commitment in addressing issues of misconduct, including sexual exploitation and abuse, by UN peacekeepers,” including as regards the USG for Peacekeeping Mr Herve Ladsous, and explain why sexual abuse by French “peacekeepers” in the Sangaris force was not mentioned or included in the UN read-out.

"Aug 25 (4) On Legionnaires Disease, please state whether testing was conducted in the UN by the August 20 New York deadline."  Tweeted photo here.

Here is a question answered on August 24:

Q Aug 24 (1) In Sudan, it is reported that North Darfur authorities banned UNAMID flights. Please confirm or deny this, when it happened and the UN's understanding of why, and the UN's response.

Answer: "On 22 August, the Government of Sudan denied authorization for UNAMID flights to and from El Fasher, North Darfur, with the exception of one flight from Khartoum. Media reports thereafter alleged that this decision followed accusations by North Darfur authorities that UNAMID did not adequately coordinate the visit of the African Union Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) with them, on 21 and 22 August. 

"UNAMID rejects these allegations and confirms that the Government of Sudan, including the authorities in North Darfur, was fully involved in preparing, coordinating and participating in the AUPSC visit to Darfur."

  While appreciated, what was the impact of banning flights to and from North Darfur? The UN answered Inner City Press' follow up question on the status of the Ban by saying its "understanding is that the flights are running now."

  Since then, UNAMID has told local media that there was no hinderance of flights. Is this covering up, like UN Peacekeeping under Herve Ladsous did on rapes in Tabit in Darfur, and in Minova in DR Congo before that?

 Here are the four other August 24 questions, two responded to on August 25, the other two still unanswered:

Aug 24 (2) In Somalia, now that AMISOM (which is supported by UNSOA) has admitted killing civilians at Merka (or Marka) in late July, what is the UN's response and how will the UN human rights due diligence policy be implemented?

[Inner City Press on August 25 asked UK Ambassador Matthew Rycroft about this; we hope to have more.]

Aug 24 (3) While in France, does the Secretary General or his team intend to inquire into the belated French investigation into the child sexual abuse alleged against French Sangaris forces in the Central African Republic?

Aug 24 (4) In DRC, it is reported that in Kinshasa earlier this month the authorities rounded up copies of the C-News newspaper (censorship) and that in July the director of Full Contact Radio station broadcasting in Kananga was taken into custody after a broadcast alleging governmental dysfunctions... In Uvira, in South Kivu province, in August 2015, there was the arrest of Brinal Nundun, a journalist from Channel 7 TV, who was reporting on Burundian refugees in Uvira at the headquarters of the NGO "Action Ku  Sidon." His equipment was seized. What is the UN, DPKO or MONUSCO response to this?

 On August 25 at 5 pm, this UN response was received: "On your question on the DRC: MONUSCO continues to monitor closely the human rights situation in the DRC, including the situation with regard to  journalists. Using its good offices to facilitate an environment conducive to a peaceful electoral process, the Mission continues to encourage the Government to uphold fundamental freedoms, including freedom of speech and freedom of the press. For example, the advocacy efforts of the Mission contributed recently to the release of a journalist who was in police custody in Uvira territory, South Kivu."

Aug 24 (5) It is said that Burundi police or security forces are to be deployed to MINUSMA in Mali. Please confirm or deny, and if confirm, state what screening would be in place given recent events in Burundi. Also, what is the UN's response to Amnesty International's report of Burundi security forces using torture?

  On August 25 at 5 pm the response below was received, and Inner City Press separately reported it as well:

"On your question on Burundi: There are currently no Military troops from Burundi in the UN mission in Mali (MINUSMA). As of 31 July, there were 14 Police officers from Burundi serving as individual police officers in MINUSMA police component. No deployment of Burundi police officers to MINUSMA is planned for the foreseeable future. Following reports alleging human rights abuses on the part of some elements of the Burundian police, a decision has been taken to suspend the deployment of Burundian police officers to peacekeeping missions."

   A follow up has been asked. The UN is literally and figuratively on vacation, churning out canned statement but not answers. We'll continue on this.
  With the UN embroiled in rape scandals, exposed as playing host to spying for the US National Security Agency while its Secretary General Ban Ki-moon gave a speech to 150 bankers later deemed “private,” is this dysfunction a product of the press not wanting answers or the UN not wanting to give them?

  On August 17, Inner City Press asked the UN's spokesperson for the day, Vannina Maestracci, about UN rapes in the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo before it, about the spying for the NSA and about Ban's speech on August 14 to 150 people at the Buffalo headquarters of M&T Bank, subject to government charges on unfair lending and on money laundering. Video here.

   UN Associate Spokesperson Maestracci began by saying that the UN's contracts with AT&T, which turned over all information to the US, would not be made public. From the UN transcript:
Inner City Press: Would it be fair to assume that UN contractors paid by the UN are assumed not to be spying on people inside the UN?

Associate Spokesperson Maestracci:  I don't know what the procurement contract entails, and I don't like assuming as a general rule.  Oleg.

Inner City Press:  Can we get a copy of the contract?

Associate Spokesperson Maestracci:  I doubt it.  Oleg.

 Inner City Press has since researched this and found a UN written policy militating for release of the contracts. Former UN Office of Internal Oversight Services chief Inga Britt Ahlenius, when she left, wrote to Ban that “I see no visible effort to deliver on your stated commitment to increased transparency.”

   Next on the UN rapes in CAR, on which Maestracci had read out a statement that UNICEF was providing the victim legal advice, Inner City Press asked

Inner City Press: You read out on UNICEF that they purport to be providing legal advice to the victim.  And I guess I just wonder, given that the… that the legal problem is caused by the UN system's own invocation of immunity, what advice are they giving, to sue those responsible or… it just seems like… isn't it kind of a conflict for the UN system to be the one providing, purporting to provide legal advice to a person victimized by the UN system who can't get justice because of UN immunity.  So, what's the advice, I guess I'm saying…?

Associate Spokesperson:  I'm not sure what the advice is because I'm here, not with UNICEF in the [Central African Republic], but I think they are showing all the possible avenues that she has and what she can do.  I mean, I think it's fairly… people might not know what these avenues are.  And it's important…

Inner City Press:  Can she sue UN?

Associate Spokesperson:  Can I speak?  And it's important for people to raise awareness and to make sure that they do know where to go.

Inner City Press: Where should she go?  I mean, I'm just saying it seems… it's a contradiction because if she tries to sue…
Associate Spokesperson:  And where…

Inner City Press:  …she's told that it's immune, that the UN is immune.

Associate Spokesperson:  That's not true.  There's an investigation going on.  And that, you know, it is going on.  Why don't we let it go on and see what it comes up with?

Inner City Press:  That's the second question I wanted to ask.
Associate Spokesperson:  You are so not interested in the answers.

Inner City Press: Yeah, I am interested. I wasn't getting an answer.  That's the problem.

Associate Spokesperson:  Erol, please.

 Vine here.

   So, for the second time Maestracci cut off the question, this time with the statement, “You are so not interested in the answers.” But even when Inner City Press emailed questions after the briefing to Maestracci and Ban's lead spokesman, no answers were received. This is today's UN.

  Further on the UN rapes, now in the DRC Congo, Inner City Press asked:

Inner City Press: Just for the record, the answer I was asking for is what legal advice UNICEF gave.  But, I hear… since you said to wait, I wanted to ask you this.  In 2012… I don't know if it was in this room or a previous UN briefing room… there was discussion of the rape of two girls in the DRC [Democratic Republic of the Congo] by three… they believe they're from Uruguay but three peacekeepers in the DRC.  This was alleged by Dr. Victoria Fontan of the UN University of Peace in Costa Rica.  It was said there would be an investigation, but nothing has ever been said of either the peacekeepers being held responsible or the SRSG [Special Representative of the Secretary-General] of the Mission at the time or DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations].  So, I wanted to know… I'm asking you, I don't expect you necessarily to know from the podium, but this is an answer I'm extremely interested in — what happened?

Associate Spokesperson:  I don't know about the specific case obviously from 2012.  But, I think you've heard what the Secretary-General has been saying all of last week and what he's, what he's been pushing when it comes to both misconduct and… including… sorry, misconduct including sexual exploitation and abuse.  I mean, he's been very strong.  He has shown his resolve to push this forward and to make sure that there is, you know, institutional accountability, responsibility, but also that Member States provide us with the information that we ask because, as you know, there is a limit, some things are up to Member States.  But, obviously, he's very determined to make progress in this, in this area for the victims of misconduct.

Inner City Press:  But, what happened in this case?

Associate Spokesperson:  I don't know.  I just said that.
Inner City Press: I'm asking, can you ask DPKO?  The two victims’ names were Gisele and Esperanz…

Associate Spokesperson:  Sure.  Why don't you send me an e-mail rather than saying everything here.  Oleg.

   Another cut off. And to the detailed email sent after the briefing, no answer at all. This is today's or Ban's UN. Here was the final exchange of the day, about Ban Ki-moon's speech to bankers:

Inner City Press: there was an article in The Buffalo News saying that the Secretary-General had gone to Buffalo and given a speech in front of 150 people in the M&T Bank headquarters for a couple of reasons.  One… I'm interested because M&T Bank has a bank merger that's been stalled out for three years due to allegations of money-laundering and lending discrimination, but mostly I wanted to know, did he give such a speech?  Can we get the text of the speech?  Why wasn't it given in advance?  And did he raise these issues about lending fairness and money laundering in his discussions with the CEO of the bank?

Associate Spokesperson:  So this was mainly a private visit.  He went to visit Buffalo and Niagara Falls, actually, and he was invited by someone he's known for a long time to address this… this group of people that you've mentioned.  We didn't put it out, again, because it was mostly, mainly, largely, a private visit.  He was with his family over the weekend.

Inner City Press: Were the people there all employees of the bank?  Was…

Associate Spokesperson:  No, I think it was community leaders from all over Buffalo, if I understand correctly.

Inner City Press: Do you have the remarks?

Associate Spokesperson:  I'll check, but, again:  mainly private visit and I don't think we'd be sharing them.  Anything else?  Great.  Have a good afternoon.

   No answers. This is today's or Ban's UN, UNtransparent and worse - and the Free UN Coalition for Access opposes it. Watch this site.


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