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On Congo Rapes, UN Stalled By Fear of Equipment Theft, Wallstrom's Not on Haiti

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 9 -- In the wake of the scandal of UN peacekeepers' inaction in Eastern Congo as hundreds of women were raped 20 kilometers from the base of the UN's MONUSCO mission, it was announced that communications for the villagers would be improved, so they could call for her.

  On November 9 Inner City Press asked the UN's Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict Margot Wallstrom for an update. Ms. Wallstrom said that MONUSCO has “bought the equipment” but is now trying to figure out “how to deploy it without exposing [the villagers] to more danger.”

  The equipment, she said, is expensive, and rebels and presumably others may want to steal it. It seems this should have been thought out, and that some improvement should actually have been in place on the ground by now.

  Ms. Wallstrom described some new “tricks,” as she called them, such as changing battalions in such a way that the troops that are being rotated out remain there for a while, to give the impression of double strength.

  On the new round of rapes on the Congolese border with Angola, Wallstrom said an investigation is being conducted, that “MONUSCO has to decide where to have troops.”

  She was asked about the UN disciplining its peacekeepers for sexual abuse or exploitation. She said it is up to the troop contributing countries and that “the UN's capacity to follow up is limited.”

  But the UN chooses to not even report which countries discipline their repatriated peacekeepers, much less condition future service and payments on a country imposing discipline where necessary.

  Inner City Press asked about rapes in the camps in Haiti and what the UN or Wallstrom's office is doing. She said that the number of rapes in Haiti was “high before” the earthquake, and that many of the IDP camps were “spontaneous” and so “unprotected.”

  Wallstrom said that Haiti is not on her work list, she looked into whether it would be helpful, where her office can bring “added value” -- not Haiti, apparently. Nor did she even once mention Myanmar, where rape is without question used as a tool of war.

Ms. Wallstrom and UNU's Coicaud, UN reform in question

  In the audience at the UN University event were at least two Swedes. One loudly congratulated Wallstrom; the other asked about her two year mandate. Wallstrom said pointedly that she would stay for the two years. Earlier during the election, there was talk of her decamping for a post if her party won. But it did not. And now she is in, soon to visit Bosnia and troop contributing countries. The issue is important, and so we wish her luck.

Footnote: in other rumors of revolving doors, now people are saying that the only recently installed head of UNESCO Irina Bokova is considering running for office back in Bulgaria. A high UN official told Inner City Press on November 9 that Bokova could probably not have run if she'd remained an ambassador, but by stepping out into the UN system, she could return. The UN is being used, she said.

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On Myanmar's Military Election, UN Is Silent on Observers, War Crimes, Cyclone

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 6 -- In the run up to Myanmar's military dominated election, the degree of capitulation by the UN and Western permanent members of the Security Council became painfully clear.

  UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who declined to even mention the recommendation of UN Special Rapporteur Quintana for a war crimes investigation in his “Report on Human Rights in Myanmar,” said that he “expects” the election to be free and fair.

  Ban never appointed a more than interim replacement to fill the General Assembly mandated Good Offices on Myanmar post, and he has allowed its staff time to be reallocated within the UN Department of Political Affairs.

  The UN Security Council met on November 5, and afterwards the Permanent Representatives of France and the UK came out to speak to the press. Neither mentioned Myanmar; the UK did not even take questions.

   The UK is president of the Council this month and makes much of “getting Myanmar in the footnotes of the program of work.” But why wait until after a scam election to have a meeting about it?

  The UN Development Program, meanwhile, two days before the election released a Human Development Report stating that Myanmar jumped up six places in global development between 2005 and 2010. Even UNDP affiliated economist Amartya Sen, when questioned by Inner City Press, said the Myanmar data (and UNDP's report on it) are not credible.

  When Cyclone Giri hit Myanmar, Inner City Press asked if the UN thought the election should be postponed or modified in the hardest hit areas. We have to do an assessment first, was the answer. Since then, nothing has been said.

UN's Ban greets Than Shwe, election observers or human rights recommendations not seen

At the UN noon briefing on November 5, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky:

Inner City Press: I have some Sudan questions, but I wanted to ask about Myanmar first because of the upcoming election on Sunday. It’s been reported that the Government there is extending an invitation to diplomats and UN representatives to tour polling stations on Sunday. It’s also… that some diplomats have said that they won’t go on the tour, but will make their own arrangements to make some observation. I wanted to know, since the Government there forbid outside election observers, but said it would ask the diplomatic community, including the UN, to do it, what’s the UN intending to do on election day in Myanmar?

Spokesperson: Let me find out.

Question: Maybe hopefully before the day, is that possible?

Spokesperson: It wouldn’t be a bad idea, yeah. Okay?

Twenty four hours later, right before the polling began, still no answer from the UN. Watch this site.

Update: 40 hours more later, this -- with no description of what the UN did during the polling, and no mention of the reported 90 day state of emergency...

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On Myanmar, Ban Ignores Quintana's Call for Inquiry, Daewoo Win-Win Unanswered

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 21 -- While on Myanmar the UN's own Special Rapporteur Tomas Ojea Quintana has called for a Commission of Inquiry into crimes against humanity, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on October 12 issued a report on human rights in Myanmar, A/65/367, which did not even mention the Commission of Inquiry idea, or accountability.

  On October 21, Inner City Press asked Quintana to honestly assess the Secretary General's performance on Myanmar. Quintana said “you cannot ask me to tell him what to do,” but also acknowledged the absence of the commission of inquiry idea or accountability from Ban's report.

  Quintana said he had met with Ban's chief of staff Vijay Nambiar -- not with Ban, who will however be in his office in New York on October 22 -- and discussed not only the November 7 election but also “justice and accountability.”

  Since Nambiar has played a role in Ban setting up a purported Panel of Experts into war crimes in Sri Lanka which has no investigative powers, no spokesperson and no presence, Inner City Press asked Quintana is this is what he has in mind for Myanmar.

Quintana said he has in mind the “finding of facts” -- expliclitly NOT what Ban's Sri Lanka panel is about -- but then diplomatically said that perhaps the Sri Lanka panel is a model.

  He also after Inner City Press asked about the plight of the Rohingya diplomatically thanked the Myanmar military government for cooperating and allowing him to “meet political prisoners” -- but not Aung San Suu Kyi.

   Inner City Press asked for Quintana's view on multinational corporations' engagements with the Myanmar junta, including Total, Toyota and South Korea's Daewoo. Quintana said that corporations might become complicit.

Quintana on Oct 21 on accountability, Ban Ki-moon not shown

Ban Ki-moon when he was South Korea's Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade said that a Daewoo pipeline across Myanmar was a “win win” proposition. Inner City Press has asked Ban's Spokesperson's Office to get from Ban whether he still views it this way, without avail. Watch this site.

  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.

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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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Other, earlier Inner City Press are listed here, and some are available in the ProQuest service, and now on Lexis-Nexis.

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