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In CAR, UN Turned Schools To Military Use, Held No One Accountable, Ladsous Exit

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive Series

UNITED NATIONS, March 23 – The United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations in Central African Republic, under its fourth consecutive French director in a row Herve Ladsous, had "peacekeepers" turns schools into military sites, and held no one accountable. From the UN's March 23 transcript, the day before Ladsous' "farewell" press conference:

Inner City Press: UN peacekeepers in the Central African Republic of MINUSCA used schools as military bases in… contrary to everything that's been called for, both by Gordon Brown and others.  Is it true?  And, if so, why did they use it?  And who… what are going to be the accountability repercussions for those who, in the name of the UN, used schools as a military base?

Deputy Spokesman:  Okay.  First of all, as of now… since the end of January 2017, no MINUSCA peacekeepers occupy any schools as barracks or bases.  What did happen is that, in 2016 and early 2017, UN peacekeepers occupied two schools for a short period of time in the west and the centre of the Central African Republic while implementing protection of civilians operations.  The schools were located in De Gaulle in the Ouham-Pendé prefecture and Mourouba in the Ouaka prefecture.  At that time, MINUSCA peacekeepers settled in De Gaulle while separating 3 R and anti-Balakas armed elements.  In Mourouba, the school was no longer in use, and the community had fled due to clashes between ex-Seleka UPC and FPRC in the area.  MINUSCA troops vacated the school of De Gaulle in November 2016 and Mourouba in January 2017.  On both occasions, MINUSCA command force ordered the immediate evacuation of the schools once it was observed that troops had located bases in the schools.

Inner City Press:  But when… I mean, it sounds from the first one… the way you described the first one you're sort of saying, because they were engaged in protection of civilians, somehow it was okay.  How did the commanders not know where their soldiers were… were operating from?  And… and is the UN saying it is okay if your motives are pure to use a school as a military base?

Deputy Spokesman:  No; in fact, we have a directive on the protection of schools and universities against military use.  And as a result of that and as a result of other things, including, by the way, the Conventions on the Rights of the Child, we have made it clear that no MINUSCA peacekeepers are to occupy schools and barracks or bases and none of them are doing that.

Inner City Press: But who decided to go in… in the first instance, it was actually a school that was in use.  Who… at what level of command did they decide to use it as a base?  How long did it take for MINUSCA to understand where its troops were operating from?  And what's going to happen to the person who… presumably, they didn't just wander in disorganized and start using it.

Deputy Spokesman:  The point to be made is that all troops have been advised about the directives.  It's… we've tried to make it clear that anyone when… including, by the way, when armed groups are occupying schools, they're also requested to leave.  And we have a directive out now that is… makes it very clear that MINUSCA forces are requested not to use schools for any purpose and that abandoned schools which are occupied should be liberated without delay in order to allow educational authorities to reopen them as soon as possible.  Masood?

   MINUSCA is also dumping waste negligently leading to malaria, a UN memo leaked to and exclusively published on February 3 by Inner City Press has shown.

  On February 13, when Inner City Press asked UN Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq about the UN killing three civilians along with one combatant near Bambari, the lack of accountability in UN Peacekeeping was again on display. Haq dodged - this was a day before he called Inner City Press obsessive and then, as he left, an a*hole - so on February 14 Inner City Press asked, transcript here:

Inner City Press: the UN is calling on the… the Congolese authorities to look into the civilian casualties they may have caused; I'm wondering if now, a day later, if… if you have anything on the reported killing of three civilians by MINUSCA in CAR outside of Bambari.  What is… what procedure is in place for the UN to know how many people were killed?  And it's… you described it as a crossing of the red line.  But how many people… how many non-combatants were killed?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, you've heard the update I gave you about the situation there.  The UN mission has reaffirmed its impartiality in the hostilities.  And, again, its core mandate is to protect civilians.  The worry in this case was that if… once the red line was crossed, that fighting would be brought to the civilians of Bambari, which has happened before, mind you.  And it needed to be stopped at this stage.  Beyond this, we are looking into our actions over… of the past few days to see whether there are any further details.

Inner City Press:  No, I just want to follow up, because I'm sure the DRC army said they did what they did for a reason.  So I'm not contesting your reason for shooting.  I'm just saying, doesn't the UN have a mechanism to, in fact, discover and disclose civilians that it killed?  And what is that mechanism?  And what is the deadline to state what happened?  Not why it happened.

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, it's not a question of deadline.  We'll need to get further details, and the mission is trying to get further details about what happened, including any potential casualties, such as civilian casualties. 

  It's called hypocrisy.

From the February 13 UN transcript:

Inner City Press: on the Central African Republic announcement that you made, the reports say that… that… or the people that were fired on say that one commander, but also three civilians were killed.  What is the UN's estimate of what the effect of using the helicopter, I guess, gunships was?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, at this stage, we are still trying to evaluate what happened as a result of its actions.  Like I said, we had no choice but to take the particular action we did once it was clear that the actions being taken by the FPRC could harm civilians in Bambari.  The coalition led by the FPRC refused to end its military campaign, has made taking Bambari its main objective.  From our standpoint, we had been trying to mediate and urged them to engage in dialogue.  So we continue to stress that and we continue to stress the need to protect civilians, including in Bambari.  And so we're hopeful that the armed groups, the FPRC and the UPC, will now stop crossing the red lines that they're not to cross.  It's because a red line was crossed that we had to engage.

Question:  But, if a military intervention… if it's true what's being… what this says that… that the ratio between civilians and combatant casualties is 1 to 3, or 75 per cent civilian, is it acceptable to the UN?  And what's the mechanism to investigate that?

Deputy Spokesman:  We're looking into see exactly what happened, what the casualties were, whether they were civilians or combatants.  At this stage, we don't have those sorts of figures, those sorts of numbers.  It's clear that a helicopter from the UN Mission had to intervene because the FPRC members went into an uninhabited zone.  That necessitated our action, and that was designed to protect the civilians in Bambari.  Had we not acted, the fear was that that would mean that there would be actual fighting involving civilians in Bambari.

  So how many civilians were killed by the UN?

 On February 7 Inner City Press put the question to the UN Ambassador of France, which has controlled UN Peacekeeping four times in a row not, and prospectively a fifth. See below.

  Ambassador Francois Delattre told Inner City Press "I will take a close look at it, it is a high priority for us." Video here.

  On February 6, in a classic UN noon briefing cover up, holdover spokesman Stephane Dujarric when Inner City Press asked about its February 3 exclusive said he wouldn't speak to the authenticity of the leaked memo but that the UN is looking at possibilities of moving or somehow improving the dump.

  Then the memo showed up as "removed" from Scribd -- NOT by Inner City Press - so we uploaded it to our own server, now via PDF here.

(Likewise, eviction by Dujarric and the UN's current head of communications Cristina Gallach has hindered Inner City Press from putting up video of Dujarric's evasion. The high-speed cable in the office Gallach evicted Inner City Press from sits entirely unused by the Egyptian state media Akhbar al Yom she seeks to give it to.)

  For the UN to try to cast doubt on the leaked memo while seeking to dodge its contents with vague assurances of improvements is typical.

  The UN has known about this dumping and malaria for months. Who will be help accountable?

  The memo states that "following complaints by the local population living in the vicinity of the dumpsite" a UN investigation found that the dumpsite sludge dams breed insects which result in sickness. Eighty-one percent of the UN's victims are children, the memo says.

  The report, under "Community Discontent," cites malaria. It notes that when concerns were raised, "police force was used to quell the dissent."

  Later on February 3, an "anonymous" UN Peacekeeping officials spuns wire services about DPKO's same-old claims to reform itself, which include Ladsous visiting the Haiti mission he has mis-managed.

  But this CAR negligence will be a test of the commitment to reform expressed, among other places, in the US Senate confirmation hearings. How can Ladsous (or MINUSCA as constituted) remain in place? How can France keep this UN Department?
   By the same token, how could corrupt censor Cristina Gallach remain in the UN system, in a post other than Public Information of which she had made a mockery? We'll have more on this.

  Inner City Press has long questioned Ladsous, for example about his linking of sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers to "R&R" or rest and recreation, here. Ladsous replies, "I don't answer your questions, Mister."

  Now under new UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, many are interested who will replace Ladsous. While other Under Secretary General posts like Cristina Gallach's atop the Department of Public Information are now subject to public vacancy notices, DPKO has not. Why not? Inner City Press asked, but UN holdeover spokesman Stephane Dujarric didn't answer.

  Sources will Inner City Press France is trying to hold onto DPKO for the fifth time in a row, albeit with a women, on information and belief Sylvie Bermann, since 2014 France's ambassador in London. Five times in a row? Given this kind of mismanagement, in a former French colony?

Exclusive: UN Waste In Dump Caused Malaria in Central African Republic, Report Leaked to Inner City Press S... by Matthew Russell Lee on Scribd

  This concerned the Kolongo dumpsite in Bangui. Related memos refer to the UN in Mali as well.

  Tellingly, this UN memo warns of litigation, "taking into account lessons learned in the Haiti case." But was did the UN learn?

  Ban Ki-moon, who after leaving the UN on January 1 has found his campaign for South Korea's Presidency implode amid corruption charges, dodged legal papers about Haiti for years. In his last month he promised millions but so far less than $2 million have been raised, more than half of it blood money from South Korea.

  In the Central African Republic, UN peacekeepers have been accused of sexual abuse, including of minors. The UN itself recently accused 25 Burundian peacekeepers of sexual exploitation and abuse, but UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous, the fourth French national in a row to hold the position, determined to continue to pay the Pierre Nkurunziza government for 800 more troops.

  New UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres is considering who will replace Ladsous. He should consider and act on this as well.

  UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric, while declining to explain Ladsous' reasoning, recent answered only two and a half of 22 questions Inner City Press posed in writing. UN Department of Public Information chief Cristina Gallach evicted Inner City Press from its UN office without due process, confining it still to minders to cover the General Assembly.

  The UN reflexively covers up its abuses. Even after killing 10,000 people with cholera in Haiti, these practices continue in the Central African Republic.

  Other memos have been leaked to Inner City Press. Meanwhile even the UN's Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, rather than dealing with the substance of a UN Ethics Office memo Inner City Press published, has Tweeted a press release saying it is all unsubstantiated. Really? The UN must be reformed.


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