At UN, Briefing Bans Myanmar, Somalia and Nkunda Talks, S-G's
Spokesperson's Mandate Unclear
Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of
Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
November 6 -- As the UN churns out
statements attributed to Ban Ki-moon's Spokesperson Michele Montas,
from topics ranging from
the Congo to the World Bank, Spokesperson Montas increasing
refuses to answer any questions on these topics. On Thursday Ms. Montas
was asked who
if anyone in the UN Secretariat, under Ban Ki-moon's control, speaks
rebel Laurent Nkunda.
can contact... DPA," she said, using the
acronym for the Department of Political Affairs. Video here,
from Minute 17:30. But DPA is part of Ban's
Secretariat, and its ostensible press person has never given a
can't Ban's Spokesperson answer for the Departments that Ban
when Inner City Press asked whether the UN, which routinely denounces
attacks in the Congo and elsewhere, can confirm or deny Nkunda's claim
Mai Mai rebels active this week in the Kivus are armed and supported by
Congolese government of Joseph Kabila, who the UN supports, Ms. Montas
go ask the UN Mission in the field, "you can send them an e-mail and
you'll get your information."
from Minute 18:50.
the UN has used Internet slow-downs in the Congo as an excuse for
number of UN officials who have not complied with financial
disclosure rules. But what is Ban's Spokesperson's Office's job, if
answer for units of the UN Secretariat?
perhaps, when asked if the UN now has any idea the source of the deadly
bombing of its premises in Somalia, and any response to a call that the
more clearly distinguish non-political humanitarian work from its
of particular factions in Somalia, as in the Congo, Ms. Montas had no
answer. And of the call to distinguish humanitarian from political UN
work, at least for staff members' safety, she said that "I am sure they
are aware of it in our human rights office and they are working on it."
But it is a, even the, major
UN Safety and Security question.
Ban Ki-moon and his Spokesperson, answers not shown, "go ask DPA"
questions about Ban Ki-moon's own decisions she did everything possible
answer. Inner City Press asked her, simply to confirm or deny a report
week that Ban's envoy to Myanmar Ibrahim Gambari has been invited by
Shwe government to visit in the last week of November or early
"That is an old report," Montas said, adding that Gambari will decide
when to go. But does Gambari decide that alone, or with Mr. Ban? They
together, Montas said. So wouldn't Ban and she know about, or be able
confirm or deny, the specific invitation? Video here,
from Minute 20.
while Ms. Montas routinely answers questions by saying the information
provided later, most often no information is provided. While there is
enough news to cover in the UN building, what with the Security
General Assembly and agencies, that the spokesperson for the
everything possible not to answer questions is one of the reasons that Ban has
been described as "The Invisible Man."
fairness, some guess that among the causes of these problems is that
Ban's Spokesperson and her Office aren't told what's going on, or are
instructed to dodge. This
column is written in part to try again for improvement all around. We will continue to follow these issues.
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.
* * *
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for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali
Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an
undefined trust fund. Video
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