Admits To Errors in its Report on Destruction of Congolese Village of Kazana,
Safeguards Not In Place
Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN
NATIONS, September 11 -- The UN today admitted to some of the errors in its
July 2006 report on its role in the destruction of the village of Kazana in the
eastern Ituri district of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
seven weeks of questions, the UN Monday acknowledged that it got even the date
of the incident wrong in its report, and that it misstated the sequence in which
Congolese soldiers and UN peacekeepers entered the village. In response to Inner
City Press questions, UN Associate Spokesman Ari Gaitanis provided a written
statement on behalf of the UN that before the UN peacekeepers entered the
village, the Congolese army had burned the "huts" in the village down.
The events at
Kazana, and the UN's misleading self-exoneration seven weeks ago, highlight the
dangers of the UN's decision to join forces with the Congolese army, known by
its French acronym FARDC. Particularly in the eastern Ituri district, the FARDC
includes former rebels and militias, many accused of human rights abuses. The
UN's mission to the Congo, known by its French acronym MONUC, conducts joint
military patrols with the FARDC. In Kazana in April, a village was burned to the
ground, and the UN was left in the position of defending, some say covering up,
Press asked the UN Spokesman's Office concerning the destruction of Kazana
including by fire on
Burning in DR Congo (North Kivu), by MONUC
28, the Office of the Spokesman for the Secretary General gave Inner City Press
a one-page report stating
"There are media reports alleging that a
number of civilian casualties may have resulted from a military operation by the
Congolese armed Forces (FARDC) with the support of MONUC troops on 22 April
2006, in the village of Kazana, Ituri District, in North East DRC. These
allegations have been thoroughly investigated and found untrue. On 22 April
2006, a joint MONUC (1 Pakistani company, 1 company South African) FARDC (3
companies) operation was launched against militia positions in Kazana. After
being fired upon by hostile elements, MONUC and FARDC forces engaged the militia
positions with mortar fire from 0600 to 1000hrs. At 1200hrs, MONUC and FARDC
troops entered the village which was condoned and searched. During the operation
which lasted was over [sic] at 1600hrs, 1 FARDC soldier was killed in action, 3
others were wounded, and 4 dead bodies were recovered."
On July 28,
Inner City Press asked UN Secretary General Kofi Annan about Kazana. Mr. Annan
responded, "I do not have details on the issues you raise." Video
at Minutes 16:45 through 18:18.
July 31, Inner City Press asked the head of UN peacekeeping Jean-Marie Guehenno
about MONUC's one-page self-exoneration. We are still looking at it, Mr.
Guehenno responded. On August 2, Inner City Press asked the head of MONUC,
American William Lacy Swing, about the one-page report. Mr. Swing responded that
from MONUC's perspective, "the investigation is done."
later, Inner City Press submitted some further written questions to the UN
Spokesman's Office, some of which are reproduced below along with answers the UN
provided in writing on Monday:
Q.) Our sources say the destruction of
Kazana occurred on April 21, not April 22. Which is it?
A.) The attack on the Kazana Village
occurred on 21 April.
the report the UN handed out on July 28 didn't even have the date of the
Q.) The one-pager says MONUC and
FARDC fired mortars from 0600 to 1000 hours. Our sources say it was from 0700 to
1400 hours. Which is it? Q.) The one-pager says MONUC and FARDC at 1200
entered the village "which was cordoned and searched." Our sources, including
one who entered with the South African Blue Helmets, say that FADRC entered the
village first, from 1400 to 1500 hours, and set the houses aflame, and that
MONUC did not enter until 1600 hours. Which is it?
A.) On 21 April 2006, a joint action was
launched to clear village Kazana. Elements of 1 [Pakistani] company, elements
of 1 [South African] company and 3 FARDC companies
participated in the action. The
engagement began at 0900. Opening mortar fire started with smoke rounds Fire
support requested by FARDC was given by MONUC forces only on selected, and
observed, positions from where militia were engaging joint forces. After four
hours of fighting UN peacekeepers and FARDC soldiers conducted a search of the
village and found no civilian casualties. Before the entry of MONUC troops
entered Kazana (1 platoon of South African company), FARDC burned down huts.
that in the report the UN put out on July 28, there was not admission that the
huts of Kazana were burned down, nor that the Congolese soldiers entered the
village before the UN peacekeepers did. The reason for the sequence, which
allowed at least the burning of the village, is inquired into by Inner City
Press' next question, which the UN declines to answer:
Q.) As FARDC forces advanced after
1400HRS they yelled over the radio for MONUC to stop firing in case they got
hit. The Pakistani mortar bombs that were called in by the South Africans
on that hillside overshot their targets and cut up a party of FARDC soldiers on
the other side of the hill. One FARDC soldier was hit in both legs. The FARDC
soldiers were angry with MONUC for the mortar friendly fire. That may be why
the MONUC forces did not sufficiently quickly or thoroughly search Kazana.
A.) Those are rumors which [the UN /
Department of Peacekeeping Operations] has no comment on.
or not the UN's mortar fire hits Congolese troops is a questions of fact,
not of rumor. These facts continue to be inquired into by the television
journalist present at Kazana that day, Aidan Hartley. Sources tell Inner City
Press that the UN was dismissive of Mr. Hartley's account in part because it
came out just before the Congolese presidential election. Inner City Press has
noted that the timing is related to that of broadcast television, not
unacted on by the UN are Inner City Press' requests to interview the MONUC
commanders at Ituri, for updates on villages around Kazana, and for records
underlying the UN's July 28 report and September 11 contradicting supplement.
Inner City Press has told the UN spokespeople that there will be more questions.
And there will be.
questions Inner City Press asked the UN Spokesman on Monday concerned UN
humanitarian chief Jan Egeland speaking by phone with the LRA's Vincent Otti,
who is under International Criminal Court indictment for war crimes including (ab)use
of child soldiers, the Office of the Spokesman for the Secretary General
confirmed the telephone call, and added that Mr. Egeland met face to face with
Vincent Otti. Asked to asking the seeming incongruity between Mr. Egeland's call
for the enforcement of ICC indictments and his meeting an indictee face to face,
Assistant Spokesman Brendan Varma made reference to peace first. When it was
pointed out that Mr. Egeland would in all probability not meeting face to face
with those still on the lam from the Hague tribunal on the former Yugoslavia,
Mr. Varma pointed out that those individuals are not at this point involved in
peace talks, as are Vincent Otti and Joseph Kony. What this means for impunity
remains to be seen, and remains to be asked of Mr. Egeland upon his return.
interim update: Inner City Press has been asking the UN spokesman's office and
others for weeks about the propriety of
governments giving free
or cut-rate housing to UN employees, including as inquired into by a June
2006 letter to Kofi Annan from U.S. Ambassador John Bolton. (An employee of the
UN showed Inner City Press the letter, which the U.S. Mission a week after
inquiry was willing to confirm.).
A week ago, Inner
City Press asked the UN Department of Peacekeeping to "answer if any DPKO
personnel receive free or cut-rate housing from a government (or non-UN,
non-government) source." No response has been provided.
Friday, September 8 Inner City Press asked outgoing General Assembly president
Jan Eliasson about housing subsidies by government, and Monday Mr. Eliasson said
it's a matter the Secretariat should deal with, should abide by rules and set
principles of international civil servants, "I understand they are looking into
here, from Minute 32:22.
Monday UN spokesman
Stephane Dujarric told Inner City Press an answer would be coming soon. In a
presentation later on Monday, Amb. Bolton stated that he has received a
response, but that it is insufficient. Mr. Dujarric indicates that the matter
will be addressed during his press conference Tuesday at noon, prior to the
presentation by the UN's head legal officer. We'll see.
UN Office: S-453A,
UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439
Reporter's mobile: 718-716-3540
Copyright 2006 Inner City Press, Inc. To request
reprint or other permission, e-contact Editors [at] innercitypress.com - phone: (718) 716-3540