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UN Scandal in CAR Exposed, Demands Made to Guterres, His 2 Spox Refuse to Answer

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 12 – When Jean Pierre Lacroix, the fifth French boss of UN Peacekeeping (DPKO) in a row, held his first press conference in UN Headquarters on May 24, Inner City Press asked him to state what he sees as the benefits of his country controlling DPKO for so long, compared to the downside (for example the French Force Sangaris rapes in CAR), and if he didn't think in an Organization of 193 states, with most peacekeeping missions in Africa, the position should belatedly be rotated. Amazingly, Lacroix refused to answer the question. UN video here, from 38:38. Also amazing, but now a trend, Secretary General Antonio Guterres' top two spokesmen have refused to answer this formal question from Inner City Press: "On CAR and Berberati, please state when the UN became aware of the situation and the SEA risk. When did UN know, and what did they do about it?" We'll have more on this.  Lacroix' DPKO has been exposed in a leaked memo (1-pager here), and it is Secretary General Antonio Guterres and not Lacroix who has received this Code Blue letter. Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Dujarric about it on June 7, UN transcript here: Inner City Press:  I wanted to ask you about this memo that's emerged from the Central African Republic, not only about the Congolese… Congo Brazzaville battalion but about the camp itself that they're based in, saying that it's totally contrary… Code Blue has written to the Secretary-General, but also the memo speaks for itself.  It basically describes a camp that's totally at odds with the possible zero tolerance of sexual abuse.  So I'm wondering, what is his response to this… beyond… I believe maybe they'll repatriate the battalion, but the critique seems to be much more fundamental:  that there are camps with no kitchens for the soldiers, people going into town trading sex for food…

Spokesman:  I think what the report shows is that the Force Commander has been doing his job.  It's part of the Force Commander's responsibility to check and to check on the troops, assess their performance through a number of evaluation mechanisms.  The report has been sent to Headquarters.  The assessment was, indeed, done on the Republic of the Congo troops, on their… the contingent and on the base.  The result of the evaluation, which was done not too long ago, has been shared with the Member State, and we're following up on various options.  UN peacekeeping is obviously, as we've said in the past, very much committed to the high standards of performance and conduct, and they will spare no action to reach that goal.

Inner City Press:  Who's responsible for these bases?  I guess what I'm saying is it's one thing to say that soldiers did something, but if this is a UN base, was the Congolese battalion entirely in charge of setting it up, or who checks these things?

Spokesman:  It's part of the peacekeeping mission, and, obviously, this is part of a routine evaluation.  And, as you said, the report is being evaluated.  It was done as part of the work that is required by the military and contingents.

   Guterres is once again setting out on a long trip, this time to Central Asia. Will the UN ever be reformed? Can it be? One nexus here: these abuses are be troops from Congo-Brazzaville, a country like Cameroon and Gabon whose abuses France covers up, including in DPKO. Back on May 24 Department of Field Support's Atul Khare said he doesn't see Lacroix as French - besides the point - and when Inner City Press asked, So how was a replacement of Herve Ladsous recruited, UN Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq cut off the follow up, as he hadn't others. Then Inner City Press asked lead (French) spokesman Stephane Dujarric to provide the response that Lacroix had refused to. Dujarric declined to confirm that his new boss Antonio Guterres had asking only France for candidates (the others, Inner City Press first reported, here Jean-Maurice Ripert and Sylvie Bermann). So how is Guterres a reformer, if he kept this up and his spokesman won't even try to explain it? We'll have more on this. The UN's two-tier treatment in Mali and elsewhere of African versus European peacekeepers was confirmed on May 19 by the UN's Force Commander in Mali's MINUSMA mission Jean-Paul Deconinck. Video here. Inner City Press, now restricted in the UN for reporting on corruption, sought to go across First Avenue to asking him, though it would mean re-entering with tourists and missing most of an African Group press conference. On the way, the Department of Public Information's Hua Jiang, involved in the 15 months of restrictions on Inner City Press, nodded; at IPI Youssef Mahmoud told Inner City Press to keep its questions short. Even so, when it asked of restrictions on sharing technology with the African contingents suffering most of the casualties in Mali, a crew of Caucasian UN Peacekeeping supporters loudly opined, "Irrelevant." On the UN on May 22, Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric about it, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: on Friday across the street at IPI tothe Force Commander of MINUSMA [United Nations Stabilization Mission] in Mali, I asked something that I've asked you here in this room about the sharing of technology between different contingents and the complaint that, for example, Chadians have… don't have night-vision goggles and other security equipment that the European delegate… contingents had.  And he said that's just how it is; every country comes with their own equipment, and he didn't provide any provision for trying to share it and kind of equalize the degree of risk covered.  So can you clarify? What is DPKO's position on different delegations from different-incomed and resourced countries coming to serve in Mali and who faces the risk of being blown up by…

Spokesman:  Obviously, I'm not going to contradict what the Force Commander may have said.  But, as you know, the troop-contributing… the units come with their own equipment.  We, obviously… also sometimes we have to provide the equipment.  But it is clear that the safety and security of our troops is something that is shared… that concern is shared by the mission as a whole, and any mission as a whole will try to protect all of the troop-contributing countries as much as possible.

Inner City Press:  I'm sure the concern is shared.  What I'm wondering is whether the night-vision goggles and other equipment are, in fact, shared.

Spokesman:  Well, I think the work that one contingent may do to provide for the security of the rest of the mission is obviously of common interest.

  The Force Commander will speak to the Security Council on May 22. But will he take Press questions? Amid attacks on and mismanagement from UN headquarters of the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, MINUSMA, an "extraordinary" meeting for troop contributors was held on January 27.

  Inner City Press, which has covered the disparate treatment in MISUSMA between for example troops from Chad and Europe, wanted to cover it. But due to a retaliatory eviction order by the UN's Cristina Gallach, it could only do so with the UN "minder."

  Even so, UN Security officials demanded to know where its minder was, cutting off several diplomats who had approached Inner City Press to give it information.
  As the meeting wound down, Inner City Press worked around the minder to learn -- from UN official Atul Khare to his credit -- that there is discussion of moving the Senegalese "quick reaction force" from Cote d'Ivoire to Mali.

  It was not possible yet to ask about the recent mutiny / unrest in Cote d'Ivoire. Khare had to go, and Herve Ladsous refused to answer any Press questions, having been exposed linking peacekeepers' rapes to "R&R."

  Other diplomats, even as Inner City Press was being told to leave the second floor where other journalist were free to stay (though none were in fact staking out the Mali meeting), told Inner City Press that Egypt is offering a battalion.

  Troublingly, to some, Sri Lanka is being recruited by Ladsous' UN to provide "convoy protection," despite its military's record of killing in northern Sri Lanka in 2008 and 2009 and abuses since, to say nothing of sexual abuse in Haiti.

  Inner City Press wants to do more reporting into the UN's engagement with the Sri Lankan military. But Gallach's minder ordered Inner City Press to leave. This is censorship. To be continued.


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