Confines the Wrong 700 Peacekeepers in Cote d'Ivoire, No Discipline in Congo to
Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
UNITED NATIONS, July
25 -- When the UN announced on July 20 that it was confining over 700 Moroccan
peacekeepers to their base in Bouake in Cote d'Ivoire, due to allegations of
sexual exploitation, it was portrayed as the UN finally getting tough on abuse
it emerged that the 700 confined peacekeepers had only been in Cote d'Ivoire for
less than two months. The wrongdoers were already transferred out of the
country. If the past is any guide, they will not face meaningful discipline back
in Morocco. The rotated-in 706 soldiers are fall guys, essentially, for those
who came before them. It is the UN getting tough -- but on the wrong
individuals. The UN, which condemns both hostage-taking and collective
punishment, appears to be engaged in a little bit of both.
press conference on Wednesday, Jane Hall Lute, now Officer in Charge of the new
Department of Field Support, spoke compellingly about zero-tolerance for abuse,
about being offended as a mother and as a soldier. She chided a correspondent
for smiling when she mentioned the UN's $8 a month entertainment stipend for
peacekeepers, saying that while a reporter who "lives in midtown Manhattan"
might smile at the idea of movie night, "I've been on deployments, I know what
Holl Lute's husband, incidentally, is President Bush's "czar" for the wars in
Iraq and Afghanistan, Gen. Douglas Lute, a potential conflict of interest that
was not raised at Wednesday's press conference, and which no amount of charisma
or individually-projected integrity can, in and of themselves in some UN
diplomats' view, sufficiently address.]
Cote d'Ivoire, Inner City Press asked how long the investigation by the UN
Office of Internal Oversight Services had been going on -- only since the July
16 report from the Department's own conduct and discipline unit? No, Ms. Lute
said, the OIOS investigation was going on much longer than two weeks. Inner City
Press asked, when did it start? "I can't get into details," Ms. Lute answered.
repeated questions by a Moroccan journalist to yield the information that the
now-confined contingent has been in-country less than two months. (The
journalist says it is a mere 41 days.) This information should have been given
on July 20, or certainly in Ms. Lute's opening remarks on Wednesday. While there
has been a call for the UN to get tough, it goes without saying that newly
rotated-in peacekeepers are not the ones who should be targeted.
Peacekeepers fly into Cote d'Ivoire (rotated-out Moroccans not shown)
d'Ivoire scuttlebutt, it is hard not to connect the breakdown in discipline with
the UN Mission's lack of a Special Representative of the Secretary-General for
months now, and even with the confusion still surrounding the shooting at
Guillaume Soro's plane in Bouake. Inner City Press has been shown a letter from
Soro's Forces Nouvelles to the acting head of the UN mission, questioning the
cantonment of the entire Moroccan force.
simultaneously been reported that Burkina Faso is sending a force of 150 to
help protect Soro --
implying, it seems fair to say, a lack of confidence in the UN peacekeeping
force. Normally, a strong action like confining to base 700 soldiers for alleged
abuse might increase confidence in a force. But if you are punishing the wrong
individuals, and this fact only comes out after the third or forth question,
which way the confidence meter tilts remains an open question.
City Press asked why the investigation of now-confirmed charges of Pakistani
peacekeeper involvement in "natural resource exploitation" -- read, gold
smuggling -- in Eastern Congo
took so long,
and whether the UN has gotten any commitment from Pakistan to bring to justice
who found to have traded in gold. "I can't answer your last specific question,"
Ms. Lute said. Video
from Minute 43:43. What, then, does no impunity mean?
said that Under Secretary General Guehenno's comment that the Congo gold trading
inquiry is "closed" has been clarified to mean that the report is closed. "That
was clarified," she said, "if we need to do that afterwards again, we can do
it." Clarity might help.
in her Wednesday press conference encouraged the press to tell her when they
become aware of possible wrongdoing. Afterwards, Inner City Press handed her a
print-out of an email complaint of sexual exploitation and gem trading in the
Congo Mission, with a request to find out what happened with the charges. We can
find out, Ms. Lute said. We'll be waiting.
* * *
our belief that such questions is to the long-run benefit of peacekeeping. Click
piece by this correspondent about the National Reconciliation Congress in
Somalia, note the cancellation of
the UN's pre-Congress flight to Mogadishu.
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