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On Burundi Banned Inner City Press Asked About Refugees Threatened in Tanzania Guterres Silent

By Matthew Russell Lee, Photo, Video, CJR

UNITED NATIONS GATE, August 11 – On Burundi the day after the May 17 referendum, in the run up to which at least 26 people were killed in Cibitoke, Inner City Press asked UN Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq about the deaths. He said things were reportedly calm. UN transcript here and below. On August 8, after UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres had banned Inner City Press from the UN for 36 days with no end in sight, reduced to staking out the Delegates Entrance Inner City Press asked Nkurunziza's Ambassador Albert Shingiro about the following day's UN Security Council, which it would due to Guterres and his Alison Smale be unable to stakeout. Shingiro said he has good news, that things are stable. So should part time envoy Michel Kafanda move out, stop getting paid? Shingiro seemed to say yes, "the situation is positive, very good." Video here. Moments later, French charge d'Affaires Anne Gueguen refused to answer any of Inner City Press' questions, on Cameroon, censorship, anything. This continued on August 9, concerning the plight of Burundian refugees in Tanzania, with refusals to answers by the US Deputy Jonathan Cohen, Sweden's charge d'affaires and certain other Ambassadors as well. Video here. Now this report: "For some time, the Tanzanian authority in collaboration with the SNR services and Imbonerakure, has increased intimidation, arrests and torture for refugees who are trying to position themselves as leaders in different refugee camps in Tanzania. Today, refugees have been deprived of their freedom, others are missing, others killed while others are in panic fear following the speeches terrifying and intimidating who call them to return to the homeland arguing that peace is and their exile to Tanzania is not justified. In order to force the refugees to return to their country, the Tanzanian authority has taken prohibiting refugees from leaving their camps to go outside to make provisions in the surrounding markets and to trade in basic commodities. large quantity. The Tanzanian government threatens to close the entire movement of trade of the interior of the camp dated August 15, 2018, the time that is reserved for registering with UNHCR to empty refugee camps." And UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, the censor, is silent. We'll have more on this.

The UN Development Program has ghoulishly given vehicles to help the Nkurunziza government lock people up: "Ms. Marie Agnes Meugang Kamgang, director country a. UNDP HAS DELIVERED 3 vehicles to Mr. From, Director-general at the ministry of justice to make the activities of the criminal chain effective in Ngozi, gitega and bururi. This gift comes to fill a vacuum to make criminal justice more humanizing and fill a vacuum for rapid access to justice." Right. This resonates with a use of UN vehicles in Rwanda by Callixte Mbarushimana. On June 29, after Antonio Guterres' UN Security first roughed up Inner City Press on June 22 but before the second more violent July 3 roughing up by Security since which Guterres has issued a lawless no due process ban, Inner City Press asked UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: There was a meeting between the Secretary-General and the official of the East Africa Commission (EAC), after which they gave a readout, he didn’t, but their readout says he praised them for their work on Burundi, and also said he would be, he would be participating in the AU summit in Mauritania.  As to Burundi, I wanted to know…

Spokesman:  That who would be participating?

Inner City Press: The Secretary-General.  I’m reading…

Spokesman:  The Deputy Secretary-General is representing the Secretary-General, as I just said.

Inner City Press: No, I understand that.  Maybe they misunderstood what he said, but my question is, is it the case that he commended the EAC for its work on Burundi, given that in the same week in, in the Human Rights Council, the panel that studies Burundi said there’s been, you know, massive abuse of rights and killings?  Is he, is he comfortable with their role?

Spokesman:  I don’t think there’s been massive abuse of rights and killing by the East African Community.

Inner City Press: No, no.  By Burundi.  Does he feel that their work on Burundi has been successful, given the killings…?

Spokesman:  I think, I don’t think anybody is, is satisfied with the situation in Burundi.  We continue to work very closely in the discussions that are being led by the EAC and we continue to support their work.

Inner City Press: And Mr. [Horst] Köhler going to the AU?

Spokesman:  I don’t know.  It’s a good question.  I saw the press report, but I have not received a call from him." Oh. On July 3, after Inner City Press June 25 complaint to Guterres, Alison Smale and their team went ignored, UN Security tore Inner City Press' shirt and twisted its arm; Guterres and Smale's response has been to ban Inner City Press from entering the UN since. (But see this interview with Burundi activist Manisha Lievin, at the First Avenue and 45th Street bus stop in front of the UN Delegates Entrance Inner City Press is working from, here. Google's YouTube says the interview is "not suitable for more advertisers" - what, Nkurunziza and Guterres don't like it?) On June 8, for the record, Inner City Press asked lead UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric, UN transcript here: Inner City Press:  after this referendum in Burundi, as a big surprise, Pierre Nkurunziza seemed to say that he's not running in 2020, so I guess I just wanted to know is there… has the UN taken note of that?  And will they remember that in 2020 when the time comes?

Spokesman:  I hope I can remember in 2020 what happened today, but that's always a challenge.  We obviously… you know, we learned of the decision… of the announcement made by the President.  We take note of the announcement and this is yet another opportunity for us to stress the need for Burundian stakeholders to resume and conclude the dialogue that's being led by the East African Community as soon as possible, and to seek to set the stage for inclusive and credible elections in 2020.  In this regard, we will remain committed to continuing to support the efforts of the mediators and facilitators of the dialogue and those of the Burundians themselves." Now on June 12, the US State Department has said this, for the record: "The United States welcomes President Nkurunziza’s recent announcement that he does not intend to seek a fourth term, reaffirming the promise he made to the Burundian people in 2015. His decision to step down of his own accord would be a strong step forward for Burundian democracy and would set a positive example for other leaders in the region. We call on the government of Burundi to take transparent steps to improve governance, respect for human rights, civic space, and media freedom.  These measures are essential for free, fair, and open political competition ahead of the elections in 2020. The United States reiterates our continued commitment to our partnership with Burundi and its people in support of sustainable peace and development."  On the UN calling it calm, maybe it was reported as calm because the local media was censored. Per RSF, the reporter Jean Bosco Ndarurenze was expelled from a ruling party meeting in the northern city of Kirundo on May 7. His audio recorder was confiscated and was then returned on the condition that its contents were deleted. As Inner City Press previously reported, Radio Insanganiro reporter Pacifique Cubahiro and his cameraman suffered a similar fate when they tried to do a report on the massacre of 26 residents of a village in the northwest of the country. They were briefly arrested and their recorded video material was seized. On June 1, Inner City Press asked the UN's Haq, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: I had asked you before about Burundi after the… the… the referendum on the Constitution.  You had said that… that reports were that it were calm but that it hadn't yet been finalized.  Now the constitutional court of the Government has dismissed all opposition petitions, claiming intimidation and arrests during the campaign should invalidate this extension of term limits for Pierre Nkurunziza.  What is the UN's position, now that the… the… the vote is essentially legally final within Burundi?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, regarding the referendum, I would just refer you to the Secretary-General's recent report on Burundi, where he did make it clear that it is Burundi's sovereign right to amend its Constitution.  At the same time, what we have stressed is that there's no alternative to dialogue, and we particularly want the involvement of the East African Community (EAC) and for their role in the inter-Burundian dialogue, and once more, we would like to call for the unconditional participation of all parties in good faith in the next session of the inter-Burundian dialogue, and we urge the leadership of the East African Community to keep encouraging the Burundian stakeholders in this regard.

Inner City Press: Thank you, but does the… does the UN believe, now that it's seen the draft, the… the text of the amendments and the now-final vote, that this constitutional amendment is in accord with the Arusha Agreements that the UN has worked on, you know, for some years?

Deputy Spokesman:  We have been studying this language, but the position I have stated is the one that we have." Failure. On May 21, after Burundi claimed 74% in favor and only three percent abstaining, Inner City Press asked UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres' spokesman Stephane Dujarric, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: late last week in Burundi, this constitutional referendum.  They've just announced the results.  They said that only 3 per cent of people abstained, 74 per cent in favour 19 against, which would put Pierre Nkurunziza able to stay in power till 2034.  And people that abstained were threatened with arrest or worse.  So, I wanted to know, what is the UN's statement on the election… referendum?

Spokesman:  You know, the… we did not have… obviously, we were not participating in the elections, in the observing or in the running of the elections.  I would refer you to what the Secretary-General said in his last report on Burundi, in which he said there was no alternative to dialogue but… and, as he said, it is Burundi's sovereign right to amend its Constitution.  But I will leave it at that.

Inner City Press:  Wait. I just… I'm just trying to compare it to your previous answer on Venezuela.  Did the UN have observers there?

Spokesman:  In Venezuela?

Inner City Press: :  Yeah.

Spokesman:  No.

Inner City Press:  Okay.  So…

Spokesman:  And I would refer you… the Secretary-General's report on Burundi, I think, his last report, was fairly clear-eyed and direct about his observations and his recommendations for Burundi.  So I would refer you to that.

Inner City Press:  It's a sovereign right, but does the Secretary-General believe that the… the constitutional amendments now os… ostensibly passed violate the spirit or letter of the Arusha Agreements?

Spokesman:  Again, I would refer you to the report and, again, the Secretary-General's point that there's no alternative to dialogue, especially the ongoing regional dialogue.  Evelyn?" Menawhie the US issued this: "The United States notes that the May 17 referendum process in Burundi was marred by a lack of transparency, the suspension of media outlets, and attempts to pressure voters.  The government allowed vigorous campaigning by the opposition during the designated two-week campaign period, but numerous cases of harassment and repression of referendum opponents in the months preceding the vote contributed to a climate of fear and intimidation.  The absence of independent observers also undermines confidence in the reported result. We remain concerned that passage of the revised constitution will be interpreted as resetting presidential term limits.  We recall the ruling party’s commitment under the Pretoria Protocol to respect the principles of the Arusha Agreement, including respect for term limits.  Other amendments run counter to the power-sharing principles of the Arusha Agreement.  We condemn the government’s recent decision to suspend Voice of America and BBC broadcasts.  This decision along with other media restrictions, arbitrary arrests, and harsh sentences for human rights defenders signals continuing limitations on civic and political space in Burundi.  We call on the government to respect its citizens’ rights to freedom of expression, assembly, and association. The United States supports the Burundian people and hopes for a future in which they enjoy vibrant and sustainable economic growth, security, and fundamental freedoms." From UN's May 18 transcript:  Inner City Press: Do you have anything on Burundi and the referendum that was held yesterday?  Fifteen people, it's said, were killed in the run-up to it.  Is there a UN statement on that event?

Deputy Spokesman:  No.  I mean, we're aware that the polls took place yesterday.  There's no international or regional observers accredited to observe the referendum in Burundi, but we did see the reports that the situation there was calm." The day before, Inner City Press asked Dutch foreign minister Stef Blok, who said among other things that leaders should know when to leave. Video here. On Cibitoke, tellingly,
Isanganiro journalist Pacifique Cubahiro and his cameraman were detained for looking into it, and their images seized. Meanwhile from UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, whom the Free UN Coalition for Access has shown linked to UN censorship and from the UN Security Council, so far nothing. But France's Ambassador in Burundi Laurent Delahousse has seen fit to reply, "Hippos?" to a tweet about seven people reportedly killed and left floating in a river. See here. Burundians have called it shameful; Laurent Delahousse has doubled down saying he was protesting the use of inapposite photos on social media - this while France was speaking about the Rohingya in the UN Security Council, while seemingly unaware as penholder of Burundi meetings, or killings. Would France communicate this way about Syria? It seems more akin to French Ambassador Gilles Thibault's communications in Cameroon, ignoring or downplaying the Biya government's killings in the Anglophone zones, like the UN does. On May 14 Inner City Press asked UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres' deputy spokesman Farhan Haq, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: In Burundi, as you… 26 people were killed in Cibitoke, which is a… on the border, and it’s a pretty large number.  And two journalists that were investigating it were detained.  Their files were seized. And I’m just wondering, the run-up to the election, given the UN’s role there, including Mr. [Michel] Kafando, what does the UN have to say about this murder of 26 people?

Spokesman:  Of course, we’re concerned about any violence in the run-up to the elections.  We wanted and have made clear the idea that voting needs to be held in a free and fair atmosphere where people can vote without fear.  Regarding the views of Michel Kafando, the Special Envoy, he’s expected to brief the Security Council later this month, I believe in a little over a week from now, around the 24th.  And so he’ll express his views at that point.  But, certainly, we are concerned about any violence and want it to be investigated thoroughly.

Inner City Press: And I wanted to ask, in Vienna, what he said…

Spokesman:  Hold on.

Inner City Press: Well, you just… I have another question.

Spokesman:  "Yeah, but it’s on a separate topic." We'll have more on this. With the Council presidency for May being taken over by Poland's Ambassador Joanna Wronecka, Inner City Press on May 3 asked her about the month's program of work, and to be kept informed. On May 9, this:  on May 10, after Darfur, "the SC will then proceed in closed consultations with Any Other Business on Burundi. Mr. Michel Kafando, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Burundi will brief the Council" - behind closed doors, of course. Inner City Press asked Francois Delattre, UN Ambassdor of France which "holds the pen" in the Security Council on Burundi, about the consultations and though polite he seemed not to know. Video here. Inner City Press aims to follow up, even amid exclusion orders by Secretary General Antonio Guterres' Stephane Dujarric. The referendum, which the US and others say runs counter to Arusha, is set for May 17. Watch this site. Inner City Press on May 3 asked about UN sexual abuse and exploitation, with 54 new cases in just the first quarter of 2018, and about DR Congo interference in the investigation of the murders of UN experts Michael Sharp and Zaida Catalan. In response, she cited an Arria formula meeting on May 7 about Children and Armed Conflict, and as an issue of particular interest to her, stigmatization in Myanmar. She described the Council's recent visit to that country and to Bangladesh. For the Free UN Coalition for Access, FUNCA, Inner City Press asked that the Polish Mission send out daily emails about who has requested Any Other Business meetings and who the briefers are. Back on April 2 Inner City Press asked the then incoming UNSC President Peru's Ambassador Gustavo Meza-Cuadra about Haiti and the cholera the UN brought, and the Western Sahara letter filed with the Council on April 1.
Meza-Cuadra said the Peru had participated extensively in the UN's now defunct MINUSTAH mission; he acknowledged the need for the UN to raise more funds about cholera. Video here. On Western Sahara he acknowledged receipt of the letter alleging violations by the Frente Polisario which the UN says it has not observed. He said it has been circulated, and his political coordinator after the meeting denied reports of an "Any Other Business" briefing about Western Sahara before the consultations on April 17. There may be Council trips to Iraq and to Myanmar / Bangladesh. Inner City Press for the Free UN Coalition for Access asked Meza-Cuadra to revert to the practice of at least purporting to answer questions after closed consultations of the Council. We'll have more on this. Back on March 1 with the Council presidency being taken over by Dutch Ambassador Karel van Oosterom, Inner City Press asked him about Burundi, where the Council's decision to send 228 UN Police was never implemented, and about the (lack of) transparency of the North Korea sanctions committee which he chairs. He replied that each sanctions committee has its own transparency procedures. Not explained is when the votes were taken, to make confidential requests for and rulings on exemptions such as that involving DPRK Foreign Trade Bank, see Inner City Press' credited scoop here. We'll have more on this, as well as on Burundi, where Inner City Press was told the day after the February 26 meeting that France, the penholding, is working on a press statement. Where is it? The four prior rounds of questions were mostly about Syria, n which the Council will meet March 12, 15 and 27, see Inner City Press' coverage here. Efforts to visit Myanmar continue. Western Sahara and MINURSO will be disclosed - behind closed doors - on March 21; the DR Congo on March 7 and 19 after OCHA's Lowcock and Sigrid Kaaf visit the country. Karel van Oosterom said he lived in Damascus for four years, and quoted Yogi Berra on the difficulty of making predictions, especially if they are about the future. He said the three non-European parts of the Kingdom of the Netherlands will sometimes be in the chair, but not for now during the month of presidency. The flame out of the country's previous foreign minister for misstating what he overheard in Moscow did not come up; afterward Inner City Press began to make a pitch that the Netherlands, when it deploys as in Mali, should share its protective equipment to avoid a deadly two-tier situation of night vision goggles for example among different contingents. We'll have more on this. On behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access, Inner City Press asked van Oosterom to come to stakeout after all closed door consultations, such as did not happen on Burundi. He said he'll try. Watch this site. Back on February 1 Inner City Press asked Kuwait's Mansour Al-Otaibi about Yemen and about Secretary General Antonio Guterres' meeting with Sudan's President Omar al Bashir, indicted by the International Criminal Court for genocide in Darfur. Photos, Periscope. On Yemen, Inner City Press asked if the name of Martin Griffiths has been circulated to Council members as replacement for Ismael Ould Cheikh Ahmed as UN envoy. He said it has not been circulated, adding that Kuwait will support whomever the Secretary General proposes. On Guterres' meeting, for which he'd have been required to inform the ICC Prosecutor in advance, Al-Otaibi said he had no information, that Inner City Press should ask Guterres. We'll try. Al-Otaibi said that there will be no Council trip to Myanmar this month - the government didn't say no, he said, but indicated it is not the right time. Jimmy Carter may or may not appear at an Arria formula meeting Kuwait is organizing. We'll have more on this - on behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access, Inner City Press asked Al-Otaibi to hold question and answer stakeouts after closed door consultation. We'll be there. Back in September to Ethiopia's Tekeda Alemu, Inner City Press asked Ambassador Alemu four questions, the answers to which sketch out the Ethopian government's worldview. Video here. In response to Inner City Press asking why Burundi, where even the UN says there is a risk of genocide, is not on his September Program of Work nor on the agenda of the Council's visit to Addis Ababa, Alemu said that you can't compare Burundi to Central African Republic, that Burundi has “strong state institutions.” But it is that very “strength,” which some say the country shares with Ethiopia, and with until recently military-ruled Myanmar about which Inner City Press also asked, that has led to the human rights violations. In this context, Inner City Press asked Alemu about the Oromo protests - and crackdown - in his country. He diplomatically chided Inner City Press for not having asked in private, saying that social media has played a dangerous role. On the other hand, when Inner City Press asked Alemu at the end about the murders of two UN experts Michael Sharp and Zaida Catalan, he replied that while the DR Congo is due to sovereignty the one to investigate the murders, the gruesome nature of the killings put a “great responsibility” on the DR Congo. We'l have more on this. Alamy photos here. Earlier on September 1 in Alemu's briefing to countries not on the Security Council, Bangladesh specifically asked that the Council remain seized of the situation in Myanmar. When Inner City Press asked Alemu about this, he said he still had to inform himself more about that situation. The Security Council is traveling to Addis from September 5 through 9, when alongside African Union consultations the Council's member will meet for an hour with Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, Alemu said. The Council will receive the “maiden briefings” late in the month of the new Under Secretaries General of OCHA and on Counter-Terrorism. There will be peacekeeping on September 20, during the High Level week of the UN General Assembly, and Yemen on September 26. But tellingly, there will not be Burundi. Watch this site.


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