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March 1, 2011: Libya

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At UN After 15-0 Vote on Cote d'Ivoire, Complaints About UNOCI's Impartiality from India, Brazil, But No Ceasefire

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 31 -- After the UN Security Council voted 15-0 on a modified version of a Cote d'Ivoire resolution introduced by France and Nigeria on March 25, Inner City Press posed questions about the resolution and military advances by forces supporting Alassane Ouattara to the Ambassadors of France, Nigeria and Ouattara, Yousoufou “Joseph” Bamba. (Click here for YouTube video of March 25 Q&A with Bamba).

   On March 29 outside the US Misison to the UN, Inner City Press asked Bamba when he thought it would be over. “This weekend,” Bamba said smiling. “We'll have coffee.”

On March 30, Inner City Press asked Bamba at the Security Council stakeout on UN TV what the Ouattara forces who do about the call for a ceasefire by Laurent Gbagbo.

 Bamba said that Ouattara is the president of the country. Some at the stakeout muttered, so is Gaddafi. But it was lost in the rush to get US Ambassador Susan Rice to the stakeout microphone.

  Inner City Press asked French Ambassador Gerard Araud if France thought the Ouattara forces should pause in their advances.

  Araud said, “Ouattara is the president of Cote d’Ivoire and the legitimate forces of the legitimate president are under his authority.” The same skeptics wondered as a matter of consistency if France would apply this same answer to President Omar al Bashir in Sudan, or the new “president” of Myanmar.

Ban & YJ Choi, "destiny" talk not shown

Here is the Q&A as transcribed by the French Mission to the UN, with Inner City Press asking about

Inner City Press: What seems to be a criticism from India and Brazil, that ONUCI should be impartial. There are reports by the UN about firing at the UN helicopters by the forces of Ouattara and his invisible commandos. Are you calling for any restraint on that side?

Amb. Araud: Of course. We are calling to stop all violence against the ONUCI, all violence against the civilian population. I think the Indian and the Brazilian concerns are pretty legitimate. You have a civil war, you have violence growing, you have the prospect of maybe fighting in Abidjan. The Indians, especially because they are a major troop contributor, and Brazilians simply don’t want the ONUCI to become part of this fighting, part of the civil war. And again, about violence against civilians, we are addressing the same message to both sides.

Inner City Press: Do you think the Ouattara forces should stop their advances or you’re sort of cheering them on?

Amb. Araud: I think President Ouattara is the president of Côte d’Ivoire and the legitimate forces of the legitimate president are under his authority.

That Bamba would answer this way is understandable. It is perhaps more noteworthy from former colonial power France. But should the UN to speaking as its envoy Choi Young-jin does, most recently to Al Jazeera, that by these military advances by Ouattara's forces Ivorians are seizing their destiny, without foreign military intervention as in Libya?

India and Brazil, among others, urged UNOCI to be impartial. Later at the Chinese End of Presidency reception, a diplomat from a Council member with a population over one billion told Inner City Press it is a “terrible resolution,” and scoffed that the UN Secretariat briefings are “just based on Western media reports.”

  Then why not vote “no,” or at least abstain?

Nigeria's Permanent Representative explained some of the changes to the initial draft, including the downward modification of a referral of the case of Cote d'Ivoire to the International Criminal to a passing mention of the possibility, through another mechanism, of the ICC. Also, she said, UNOCI is not called on to seize heavy weapons.

Inner City Press is informed that the previous force commander of UNOCI, or perhaps the entire Bangladeshi battalion, was skeptical of the more aggressive or “pro Ouattara” stance that some were demanding. The new force commander, from Togo, is said not to have those qualms.

Because India has complained about the rush to vote on the resolution, without sufficiently consulting Troop Contributing Countries, Inner City Press asked major TCC Nigeria about this criticism. Sometimes you have to move fast, the Nigerian Ambassador said.

Inner City Press asked, Will ECOWAS ask for a Security Council authorization to use force in Cote d'Ivoire? Nigeria's Ambassador replied that ECOWAS has not asked for that.

Somewhere a skeptic muttered, “not yet.” Watch this site.

Footnote: at the March 30 UN noon briefing, Inner City Press started asking Ban Ki-moon's acting deputy spokesman Farhan Haq if he understood the lack of impartiality complaints of "some people"--

 Haq cut in and asked Inner City Press, "
By 'some people' you mean yourself?
   No -- the criticism exists not only in Cote d'Ivoire  (Inner City Press said at the briefing, "quite a few people in the Ivory Coast think that the UN is.... reporting only on one side") but even inside the Security Council, albeit in diplomat form, most publicly March 30 by India and Brazil.

  So what is the UN's response? Watch this site.

* * *

As UN Claims It Urges All Ivorians to Halt Fight, Choi Speaks of Destiny

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 30 -- On Cote d'Ivoire, moments after the UN's envoy to that country Choi Young-jin was on Al Jazeera television saying that in the advances of military forces supporting Alassane Ouattara the Ivorian people are taking care of their own destiny without outside military intervention as in Libya, Inner City Press asked the UN for clarification.

  Inner City Press asked Haq, yes or no, if the UN is calling on Ouattara forces to stop military advances. Haq replied he has no information about Yamasoukro.

  Are Choi, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the UN calling for a stop to military action or rooting Ouattara's forces on? Haq said, contrary to what Choi has just said, that “we urge all sides to halt fighting.”

  But Choi, on television, did not issue such a call. Inner City Press asked Haq if he could understand that a lack of impartiality by the UN is seen by some people --

  Haq demanded of Inner City Press, "By 'some people' you mean yourself?"

  From the same podium, Haq and main Ban spokesman Martin Nesirky have repeatedly complained of protests against the UN by Ivorians, always characterizing them as supporters of Gbagbo.

  But apparently to even ask a question of the UN about these critique of objectivity, impartiality and primary concern with civilians leads to the above.

  Haq made claims about what Nesirky had said on March 29. Here's from the UN's transcript of March 29:

Inner City Press: Amnesty International has come out saying that there is a UNOCI base, three kilometres, I guess, from the town and saying that the peacekeepers should do more to protect civilians. It’s obviously, it’s a fight that the Ouattara forces are winning, some people are fleeing and I am wonder… when you say it was a reconnaissance helicopter, what exactly is UNOCI’s role as these… the two… the supporters of the two camps clash in these towns, how are civilians being protected? And is UNOCI calling for the Ouattara forces to… what is UNOCI’s call on the Ouattara forces, as regards protection of civilians?

Spokesperson Nesirky: The call is the same, regardless, and that is that innocent civilians need to be protected. And what we are alarmed about is that, with each successive move from whichever side, I mean armed move, we are seeing displacement of people, either inside the country or into another, particularly into Liberia. And, as you know, inside the country, people are also seeking shelter. They are desperate, they are frightened, and it’s the mission’s job within the mandate it has, as much as possible, to protect those civilians. And I know that they are actively engaged in that. In some cases, it is easier said than actually done. If I have an update on precisely the location you are referring to, I’d be very happy to give you that.

Inner City Press: I want to follow up on this, because, in variants of the announcements made from this podium, there is sort of running count of civilians killed by, generally associated with the pro-Ouattara forces, and how it is described. And I just wondered, the number may be lower, but does the UN have any estimate of the number of civilians killed by the pro-Ouattara sides, and also of the number of people displaced, the relative causation factor of the people that have been chased into Liberia or into other places?

Spokesperson Nesirky: Well, on the casualties, those people who have lost their lives, there is a very strict way of handling this within the mission. They need to be able to verify the location, the name, the identity of the person and the age of the person. And that is a very important part of the process. It isn’t always feasible to ascertain who was to blame. The fact remains that you, very sadly, have civilians who have lost their lives. It isn’t always possible to ascertain. And where it is, I am sure that the mission will be seeking to log that, not least because, if you are trying subsequently to hold people accountable, you do need to have that kind of material at hand. On the broader question, if I have anything further from the mission, then I’d be happy to share that with you.

Watch this site.

Footnote: on Tuesday evening across from the US Mission to the UN, Inner City Press spoke with Ouattara's UN envoy Yousoufou Bamba, who jovially predicted that it will all be over by the weekend "and we'll have a coffee together, you and me."

  That type of talk is one thing for Ouattara's envoy. But the celebratory talk of YJ Choi is something not before seen in the UN system. So too the hiring of UN envoy who are allowed to continued to be paid by outside governments. More on that to follow.

* * *

At UN, Bamba of Cote d'Ivoire Takes 7 Questions on Video, France Partners with Nigeria, Invisible Commandos

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 25 -- At Friday's UN Security Council meeting on Cote d'Ivoire, the Ambassador sent by Alassane Ouattara to replace Laurent Gbagbo's Djedje spoke in the Council for the first time. Yousoufou “Joseph” Bamba, now Permanent Representative to the UN, came afterward to take questions on camera from Inner City Press. Click here for YouTube video.

  Inner City Press asked Bamba a range of question, from comparisons to the military enforcement action in Libya to reported killings by Ouattara supporters and the lack of medicine in Abidjan due to EU sanctions.

  Bamba did not dispute the impact of sanctions, saying only that if Ouattara were allowed to act as president these problems would not exist. He had said that the energy put into Libya, compared to that in Cote d'Ivoire, made up a form of “bias.” But he backed away from that.

  In fact, as Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin walked into the Council for the meeting, he was asked about requests for more action by the UN mission in Cote d'Ivoire, ONUCI. “Another big war,” he said sarcastically. “Just what we need.”

  Inner City Press conveyed Churkin's remarks to India's Permanent Representative Hardeep Singh Puri. who said, “You want another war? With clear objectives?”

Ban & Bamba, action on Invisible Commandos not shown

  In other comments, Bamba said that the helicopter ONUCI says Gbagbo forces are repairing is one of those destroyed by France in the past. He said that both Gbagbo and Ouattara have asked for International Criminal Court intervention and investigation.

  France on Friday circulated a draft resolution including the ICC, new sanctions and a call for Gbagbo to leave. Despite saying it was a joint submission with Nigeria, the French draft does not include things that Nigeria and ECOWAS want, like authorization for intervention.

The back story is the while the French mission at the UN had intended to confer with South Africa on elements of a resolution, South Africa was not going to join in at least until the African Union meeting. Since President Nicolas Sarkozy had announced on Thursday night that France was drafting a resolution for Friday, a new partner had to be found. Whether this serves Nigeria is unclear. 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

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