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UN's Ban Slams Zim on Bias, But Lets Slide Russia's Kosovo Critique and N. Korea's Lack of Voting and Human Rights

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, July 13 -- Minutes after the UN Security Council's draft resolution to impose sanctions on the Robert Mugabe government failed on July 11, subject to a rare double veto by both Russia and China, Zimbabwe's Ambassador to the UN Boniface Chidyausiku told the Press that the office of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has shown it cannot "be an impartial arbiter of the situation in Zimbabwe." Inner City Press asked him why the resolution's proponents had insisted on calling a vote, even once they knew that there would be not only an abstention by Indonesia and five votes against, from South Africa, Viet Nam, Libya and Russia and China with their vetoes. It was "the arrogance of the Americans," Chidyausiku said. Video here, from Minute 2:37.

  On the evening of Saturday, July 12, the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, Michele Montas, issued a statement that "we strongly regret the highly inappropriate and unacceptable comments by the Permanent Representative of Zimbabwe questioning the Secretary-General's impartiality toward events in Zimbabwe." The response was at odds with the usual position, that the Secretary-General defers to and does not comment on the Security Council or member states.

   On July 9, about other Council member comments critical of Ban Ki-moon, Inner City Press asked Ms. Montas

Inner City Press: Yesterday at the stakeout, Russian Ambassador Churkin said the Secretary-General had overstepped his bounds in the reconfiguration in Kosovo, and he specifically took issue with this idea that the EULEX force would not be reporting either to UNMIK or to the UN in New York.  Is there any response to what Churkin said?

Spokesperson Montas: This is the position, of course, of the Russian Ambassador and he expressed his opinion and that's all I can say.

  But when Zimbabwe's Ambassador similarly questioned the Secretariat's actions, this same Spokesperson did not let it go as one Ambassador's opinion and "that's all I can say." Rather, the Zimbabwean's comments were strongly criticized as "highly inappropriate and unacceptable."

   The question arises: what's the difference?

Mugabe and Ban, questions of outside influence and bias not shown

  Is it, as some close observers opine, that while the U.S. and to a lesser extent UK / European Union shape Ban Ki-moon's policies both on Zimbabwe and Kosovo, it was considered to have less political cost to lash back at Zimbabwe than at Russia? Is it that Russia is a Permanent Five member of the Security Council, with veto power not only over resolutions but over a possible second term for Ban Ki-moon?
   Until the vetoes were cast, South Africa's Mbeki was viewed as Mugabe's main supporter, and the U.S. has signalled that with Jacob Zuma waiting in the wings, critique of Mbeki, and in this case of Zimbabwe, can be ratcheted up.

   Others contrast Ban Ki-moon's approach to Zimbabwe with, for example, his approach to North Korea, another government which widely violates human rights, and which doesn't even purport to have elections. In the past week, Inner City Press conducted an informal but wide-spread poll in the UN, whether people would rather live in Zimbabwe or North Korea. The results were similar to those in Equatorial Guinea, which Ban Ki-moon has not criticized -- an over 90% win, in this this case for Zimbabwe as a comparatively better place to live than North Korea. But compare the UN's statements.

  Here is what Zimbabwe's Ambassador said on July 11:

"We believe that the office of the Secretary-General is good offices for the resolution of any political situation in the world.  He must have the perception that, that office is impartial.  What we have witnessed in Zimbabwe, all the reports that have come from the Department of Political Affairs, are pro-opposition and they never say anything positive about the government of Zimbabwe.  We believe they are partisan and with that type of an approach, there's no way they can be impartial arbiter in the resolution of the situation in Zimbabwe."

   The critique is of the Department of Political Affairs and "they," that is, Team Ban. When the Secretariat has been making statements in recent weeks about Zimbabwe, a question was muttered, who is writing this stuff? Some pointed at the nationality of the head of the Department of Political Affairs, Lynn Pascoe, a former U.S. State Department official. Mr. Pascoe was slated, along with fellow American Robert Orr, to appear with Ban Ki-moon at his July 10 press conference.

  Perhaps concerned with how it would look, to finally appear for a sit-down press conference flanked by two senior advisers both from the same country, Ban ended up appearing accompanied on the rostrum only by his Spokesperson, who once again controlled the question-asking in such a way that none of these issues, including Kosovo and objectivity, were inquired into or addressed.

 Relatedly, in a small but telling detail, the Spokesperson's daily summaries of press converage of the UN and Ban Ki-moon systemically omit certain critical and investigative coverage. In light of an interesting report of Ban reading in the Mugabe-controlled Herald of Harare of Chidyausiku's critique, and laughingly commenting, I guess he doesn't like me much, the shrill Saturday slap-down is all the more surprising.

  To be charitable, since Mr. Ban seems pleasant and has long been a diplomat, some wonder if all of the above originates with him. Watch this site. And this --


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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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