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In Cote d'Ivoire, As UN Speaks Again of Gbagbo Helicopter, No Fly Zone?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 22 -- Has the UN Mission in Cote d'Ivoire declared a no fly zone over Abidjan?

  After bringing in attack helicopters from Ukraine, and accusing defiant leader Laurent Gbagbo of trying to bring in attack helicopters from Belarus, the UNOCI Mission has now accused Gbagbo of “repairing” an MI-24 helicopter, and has warned it should not be used.

   The pro-Gbagbo forces see this has just another example of the UN taking sides. The pro-Ouattara force, including his diplomats at the UN whom Inner City Press has spoken with, see UNOCI's action as too little, too late.

   Ban Ki-moon's envoy Choi Young-jin is “sufficiently pro-Ouattara” for them, but they don't think the UN's military force commanders have done enough.

At the March 22 noon briefing, Inner City Press asked:

Inner City Press: On Côte d’Ivoire, there is the mission there, UNOCI has apparently put out a statement saying that they believe that [Laurent] Gbagbo forces are, quote, repairing an MI-24 attack helicopter, and that any attempt to use this will not be allowed, or not be accepted... is it illegal for them to fly a helicopter? What exactly is the mission’s statement? Where did this helicopter come from, given the past statement that they were coming in from Belarus? And is there a no-fly zone in essence over Côte d’Ivoire? How seriously do they take this and do they agree finally with Mr. [Alassane] Ouattara’s side who says that 832 people have been killed by the pro-Gbagbo forces since the beginning of this stand-off in the election?

Spokesperson Martin Nesirky: A considerable number have certainly been killed, and I am sure that my colleagues who are carefully monitoring this in Côte d’Ivoire would be able to provide an update on figures. As you know, they have been… human rights colleagues, humanitarian colleagues who monitor this, have been fastidious in providing detailed figures. So, I would anticipate that we would be able to provide more. On the helicopter, its exact provenance, I would need to ascertain. I do not have that information. The mission in Côte d’Ivoire, as you know, has a Security Council mandate to protect civilians. And it will do all that it can within its mandate and with the resources it has to protect civilians in the country.

[The Spokesperson later confirmed that the UN Mission in Côte d’Ivoire, UNOCI, had put out a statement stating that “recently, the mission has observed that this camp is repairing an MI-24 attack helicopter in the military wing of Abidjan airport and is also getting BM21 multiple rocket launchers ready in Abidjan”.]

UN"s Ban gets out of a copter, explanation not shown

Inner City Press: But what I couldn’t tell from the statement is whether they are saying to the Gbagbo forces “don’t fly the helicopter at all”, or “don’t use it to kill civilians”, which obviously is, I mean, what are they saying? What is their current status? What’s the, what message are they seeking to send with this statement?

Spokesperson Nesirky: The message is that the mission is there to protect civilians in the country. And that it is doing under a very clear mandate from the Security Council.

Inner City Press: Do you remember this previous question about there was a particular, you know, killing of civilians that was attributed to the pro-Ouattara side by Human Rights Watch and others? And you, I mean, I don’t mean to… has UNOCI actually, did they report that in real time or have they said anything on that? I know that they are very fastidious, but on that one, I still haven’t heard anything back to show that they reported that as equally as they do the other side.

Spokesperson Nesirky: We’ve consistently said and the Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights has also been quite clear on this. Any human rights abuses on either side would need investigating and should be condemned. And if I have any further information on that I would let you know.

And eight hours later and counting, there was no further information. Watch this site.

* * *

On Cote d'Ivoire, UN's Allegations Were Not "Read Out" on March 18, Only a Call to 1 Media, UN Stonewalls

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 21 -- Weeks after the UN belatedly apologized for announcing that Cote d'Ivoire's defiant leader Laurent Gbagbo was illegally importing attack helicopters from Belarus , the Office of the Spokesperson for Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told the Press on the night of March 18 that another statement on Cote d'Ivoire had been “read out” by the Deputy Permanent Representative of China, the president of the Security Council for March.

Inner City Press has been closely covering the Security Council all Friday afternoon, including when Ban's spokeperson's Office announced that there would be a stakeout and statement read about Cote d'Ivoire, then when both were canceled. Inner City Press remained at the UN until 9 pm, hearing no announcement to the contrary. Then at 9:50 pm Ban's Spokesperson's Office sent the Press:

Please find below the press elements read out by Mr. Wang Min, Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative of China :

Elements for the press by the Security Council on the situation in Côte d’Ivoire

* The members of the Security Council express their indignation at the UNOCI reports over brutal attacks against unarmed civilians alledgedly committed by the Ivorian Defense and security forces (FDSCI) at a market in Abobo yesterday [etc].

This seemed strange, since the stakeout with UN TV for the statement to be read was canceled. (Coucnil members told Inner City Press there was dissatisfaction, particularly after Ban Ki-moon's mis-speaking about the Belarus helicopters, with his statement's, then the draft's, use of the word “allegedly”).

  That that same night, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky, as well as his Deputy, to explain:

Subject: Press questions re Cote d'Ivoire [etc]
From: Matthew R. Lee [at]
Date: Fri, Mar 18, 2011 at 11:00 PM
To: Martin Nesirky, Farhan Haq

Hello. These are questions on deadline, having just received from your Office “press elements read out by Mr. Wang Min, Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative of China," sent by your Office at 9:50 pm --

I was at the Security Council from 3:45 to past six o'clock, when the UN TV stakeout announced for a Council statement on Cote d'Ivoire was canceled, including by a MALU email. Thereafter I was working and would have heard any squawk. And so questions:

Was this statement actually “read out” by the Council presidency?

Is so, why was no notice given, resulting it in being unable to ask any questions?

If it wasn't read out, why did your Office say it was?

But Ban's spokesmen Nesirky and Haq did not answer.

Ban and Nesirky, basic answers not shown

  As their office continued sending out press releases, Inner City Press reiterated the Cote d'Ivoire questions on March 19; again, no answer.

Coming in to the UN on March 21, more than 60 hours after Ban's Spokesperson's Office's announcement that the Cote d'Ivoire statement had been read out, that Office made a public address system announcement that the Chinese DPR would be making some presentation to the press at 11:30 am. No topic was listed.

At the Security Council stakeout, it turned that only now was the Cote d'Ivoire statement being read out -- the DPR had to explain that the word “yesterday” meant, in fact, four days ago.

Inner City Press asked if there had been a stakeout late on Friday: no, was the answer. Inner City Press reported this on Twitter: the “text was NOT read out, Chinese Mission tells Press. Still no answer from OSSG.” Inner City Press was told that only one media organization, Chinese, had been called on Friday night.

Back at the UN noon briefing, Inner City Press asked Nesirky to explain -- as had been requested more than 60 hours previously by email -- and if in the last three days the UN Mission had been able to move past “allegedly.” Nesirky said he had nothing on that second part of the question.

On the first, he (tw?) insisted that Inner City Press had just gotten the answer from the Chinese spokesman. (On another question about compliance with UN rules and Charter, he told Inner City Press to “ask Jordan. This seems to be the new strategy to not answer questions about the UN: tell journalists to ask a particular member state.

But it was Ban's Spokesperson's Office which put out a mass email on March 18 that the Cote d'Ivoire statement had been “read out.” Inner City Press asked if Ban's office defines a phone call to one media, from China, to be a “read out” of a Security Council statement. Nesirky would not answer, saying again and again, you spoke with the Chinese spokesman. Yes, we did.

 Only last week, Nesirky acknowledged that his Office made an error in emailing out a Ban Ki-moon statement estimating that one half of rubble in Haiti will be addressed by the end of 2011, and then issuing an "amended" statement dropping the estimate. Unless Ban's Spokesperson's Office defines a single phone call to Chinese media as a "read out" -- an argument Inner City Press repeatedly but unsuccesfully invited Nesirky to make -- another error was made. Why not acknowledge it?

Footnote: also on the night of March 18, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Nesirky

Relatedly, esp since you (Mr. Nesirky) were at the March 17 noon briefing with the Humanitarian Coordinator for Cote d'Ivoire and heard him answer that restrictions result in the denial of medicine to Ivorians, please for the Secretariat look at the UN press release at

If necessary, here is the video of the March 17 press conference

How for the UN Secretariat do you explain the omission of any reference to Ivorians lacking medicine due to restrictions on ships, and please state what you will do to have this UN (mis) statement corrected?

There has been no answer on that. None.

* * *

On Cote d'Ivoire, Ban's “Allegations” Stall UNSC Statement, Reliability Questioned, Medicine Shortage Covered Up by UN

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 18 -- At 5 pm on Friday at the UN in New York, the Office of the Spokesperson announced that on Cote d'Ivoire there would be a Security Council press statement read out in 15 minutes. A UN TV camera was set up.

  Inner City Press had been in front of the Council, reporting on an unrelated meeting about Kenya and the International Criminal Court and was told by diplomats there were problems with the Cote d'Ivoire statement.

  “The Secretary General says 'allegedly,'” a Security Council member told Inner City Press. “With what he claimed last time about helicopters from Belarus coming into Cote d'Ivoire, we can't act on this type of information.”

  Minutes later, the UN TV camera before which the Council president would have read out a Press Statement was disassembled. It is canceled, Inner City Press was told.

  While Ban Ki-moon's head of Peacekeeping Alain Leroy publicly apologized for what he called the “mistake” of the allegation that defiant Ivorian leader Laurent Gbagbo was bringing in attack helicopters from Belarus, his UN's objectivity is being called into question.

  Ban's head of Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos, when asked by Inner City Press if she is concerned about sanctions on Cote d'Ivoire hurting civilians including people who can't get money out of closed banks and can't get pharmaceuticals said those are not the complaints she has been hearing.

  But on March 17, when Inner City Press asked the UN's Humanitarian Coordinator for Cote d'Ivoire Ndolamb Ngokwey about the impact of sanctions, he admitted that the central pharmaceutical depository has no medicine, because ships can't come in to the port. He said he's trying to advocate “locally,” to embassy in Cote d'Ivoire about this. But Amos and Ban are not telling the Security Council about it.

Strikingly, even with this admission the UN's press release of the March 17 press conference with Ndolamb Ngokwey did not include Inner City Press's question or Ndolamb Ngokwey's answer about pharmaceuticals. Click here for UN press release,  but here for actual video.

Ban & Choi Young-jin, public financial disclosure not shown

  On March 18, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky:

Inner City Press: In Côte d’Ivoire; I mean, obviously there is this market attack which is, you now, quite bad, but there, I also, I wanted to ask, I don’t know if the UN had said anything about, Human Rights Watch has documented what they say are killings by the pro-Ouattara forces as well, in this village of Anonkoua-Kouté. They say that, you know, some 60 pro-Ouattara fighters killed nine civilians. And I, you know, obviously, the Gbagbo Government there says that the UN has, is, that its reporting is very partial, etcetera. So, I am just wondering, has the UN system had anything to say about this, you know, whatever, misdeed, at a minimum on the other side and where have they said that?

Spokesperson Nesirky: Human rights are fundamental and are for everybody. The mission in Côte d’Ivoire of the United Nations has as its mandate to protect all civilians in an impartial way. And that also includes monitoring human rights abuses from wherever they may emanate. And I know that my colleagues there would certainly look into any allegation from whichever quarter. And if I have any further details, then clearly I would let you know.

Inner City Press: That would be great. Especially, you know, if they’d said anything in the past because it seems like it was a widely, at least alleged, thing there.

Spokesperson Nesirky: As I say, we need to be very clear that human rights are universal and that any attack from whichever side, any provocation from whichever side needs to be looked at.

Later the Spokesperson's Office added to its transcript this:

[The Spokesperson later said that in the statement just issued by his Office, the Secretary-General had warned the concerned Ivorian parties to bring the violence and related human rights violations to an end without further delay. The Secretary-General also urged the Security Council to take further measures with regard to the Ivorian individuals who are instigating, orchestrating and committing the violence. The Spokesperson also noted that in a report released at the end of February, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, had documented human rights violations by both the forces loyal to Mr. Gbagbo and by the Forces Nouvelles.]

  The Spokesman, Martin Nesirky, didn't say, or email, any of this to Inner City Press, just the referenced statement, expressing Ban's shock at “the firing of mortars, allegedly from a military camp of forces loyal to Mr. Gbagbo” -- with the word “allegedly” which, in the wake of Ban's error on the Belarus helicopters, led to the shooting down of the proposed Security Council press statement on Friday afternoon. And so it goes at this UN. Watch this site.

Click for Mar 1, '11 re Libya, Sri Lanka, UN Corruption

 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.

* * *

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

Feedback: Editorial [at]

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