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Sept 24, 2013

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Burundi Shut Down of UN Rights Office Another Guterres Failure Like Somalia PNG No Answers

By Matthew Russell Lee, Photo, Video, CJR

UNITED NATIONS GATE, January 12 – Burundi's Pierre Nkununziza government wanted all human rights presence out. Typically, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said nothing meaningful. On December 6, the day after Guterres like any dictator moved from his Mercedes with guards to a fancy dinner refusing a Press questions about corruption in his organization, Inner City Press asked Guterres and his spokesmen: "December 6-1: On Burundi, on which you have been refusing to respond to Inner City Press' written questions, please immediately confirm or deny that Burundi has asked the UN system to decrease its human rights presence and state the SG's view and response. Also, what is the UN's comment on the reporting about the Nkurunziza government's “torture house”?" Still, no answer at all, despite USG Alison Smale's promises such questions would be answered. And Spokesman Stephane Duajrric said on camera he would be answering questions, here. Now this, from Burundi: "After a categorical refusal of collaboration with the OHCHR office decided by the Government of Burundi, it has closed this office permanently. According to an internal source of this office, the Government of Burundi sent a note to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva to serve to definitively close the office of the Office for Human Rights in Burundi... Four regional offices of the Office for Human Rights in Burundi, the Bujumbura, Makamba in the south of the country, Gitega and Ngozi in the north of the country had have been closed as of December 31, 2017.... [And so] Governance during this month of December 2018 was also characterized by the closure Office of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the organized spoliations or looting of property belonging to politicians in exile, public demonstrations to mobile awareness of political hatred, the recurring crisis
fuel and its effects on prices of basic needs, the departure of international NGOs following the restrictive and immoral measures taken by the Bujumbura regime." 
Nor will Spokesman Stephane Dujarric answer on Guterres obvously incomplete Public Financial Disclosure, here.
Now on December 24 Burundi is opposing a draw down of its "peacekeepers" in Somalia - so they can continue to get paid. It subsidizes the Nkuruziza government, and AU is showing more backbone than the UN of Guterres and Jean Pierre Lacroix. Shameful. Burundi army on December 23 said it opposes a request by the African Union that it withdraw 1,000 soldiers serving in an African peacekeeping force in Somalia by February 28. Burundi army spokesman Colonel Floribert Biyereke said the military would ask the government to argue for a proportionate number of troops be withdrawn from each AU member country, rather than solely Burundian soldiers. Burundi is the second biggest contributor to the 21,500-strong peacekeeping force with 5,400 soldiers, behind Uganda with 6,200 but ahead of Djibouti, Kenya and Ethiopia. The African Union request, made through a diplomatic document called a note verbale, came amid recent tension between Burundi and the AU. The above quoted did not mention Buyoya, instead that the AU has called on Burundi -- criticized abroad for its record on human rights -- to ease its hardline stance on dissent and talk with its exiled opposition. Every quarter, the AU pays it around $18 million. And what about Guterres and Lacroix in CAR? UNtranparent. Relatedly, after Inner City Press asked Guterres and his spokesman six days about about the first round of arrests in this campaign, they did not answer at all, despite the supposed commitment of Guterres' Global Communicator Alison Smale that such questions would be answered. Guterres' UN is failing. Burundi tried to cancel the human rights testimony about it in the UN Third Committee; in Sri Lanka its Vice President was the first and seemingly only one to recognize that country's coup prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, himself accused of war crimes. Then a week ago the government of Pierre Nkurunziza reached back 25 years to round up retired military figures and jail and charge them with the 1993 assassination of Melchior Ndadaye. The arrested include General Célestin Ndayisaba, Colonels Gabriel Gunungu, Laurent Niyonkuru and Anicet Nahigombeye." On November 26 at 9 am, Inner City Press in writing asked UNSG Antonio Guterres and his Deputy Amina J. Mohammed and spokesman Stephane Dujarric: "
November 26-2: On Burundi,  what is the SG's comment and action on the arrest and imprisonment of retired military figures on trumped up charges regarding assassination 25 years ago?" Twelve hours later, even as the Belgian Mission to the UN was tweeting views of Burundi, no answer from Guterres' UN, despite the promise there would be answers from Guterres' Communicator Alison Smale to UNSR David Kaye. This is today's UN: corrupt. The UN Security Council is in China, from where Dutch Ambassador Karel von Oosterom is tweeting (while withholding all documents about his Mission's meeting with lobbyists of Paul Biya's Cameroon and role in UN banning of Inner City Press). What will they say? What might Antonio Guterres, location UNdisclosed for four days and counting, say? On November 21, the day long imprisoned human rights defender Germain Rukiki is in court, the Security Council meets with an eye, at least for some, of dropping Burundi from the Council's agenda. This is the UN of Antonio Guterres. 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. On September 29, after UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres had banned Inner City Press from the UN for 88 days with no end in sight, including from a human rights event by "new" High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet, here was the UN's "coverage" of the speech of Nkurunziza's new Foreign Minister  Ezekiel Nibigira in the UN General Assembly that Guterres banned Inner City Press from, by his state media "UN News Centre" run by Alison Smale. This story merely runs lines from  Ezekiel Nibigira such as, "he reiterated his availability and cooperation with the UN to promote human rights.. On the security front, the situation in Burundi is calm, stable and under control, said Mr. Nibigira, a positive finding that is shared, he said, by the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General" - that would be part-time envoy Michel Kafando. This story does not mention that the UN itself, before selling out, noted the risk of genocide in Burundi. One might think Smale is just wasting public money, as usual, by reproducing the flat coverage of UN Meetings Covering. But it's worse: the lack of analysis or presenting the other side is selective. Smale's UN News Centre's write up of the Myanmar speech includes a description of and link to a report on the government's killings. Smale also barred Inner City Press from attending the Reuters and CPJ event on Myanmar's jailing of two journalists, here. We'll have more on this - due to Guterres and Smale's lawless censorship Inner City Press has had to cover UNGA 73 from the streets and is only now reviewing Smale's shameful production. Watch this site. We'll have more on this.  Earlier, 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 Kafando 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. Then on August 17, Guterres through his Global Censor Alison Smale issued a letter banning Inner City Press for life from the UN, citing complaints from UNnamed missions to the UN. Wonder who that would be. Now this: Police on August 27 attacked three journalists with Radio Culture and banned them from reporting on a land dispute in Ngagara, a neighborhood in the capital, Bujumbura, according to SOS Médias Burundi. This is highlighted by a pro-UN group which has said nothing about Guterres' Security roughing up Inner City Press and him banning it since. Now this from his Ursula Mueller: "United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, Ms. Ursula Mueller completed today a three-day mission to the Republic of Burundi. “I reaffirm OCHA’s (United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) continued support to the people of Burundi. We are committed to work together with partners to reduce humanitarian needs and pave the way for development initiatives to enhance community resilience”, Ms. Mueller said, at the end of her first visit to Burundi in her role as the Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator. During her visit, Ms. Mueller met with the Second Vice-President of Burundi, the Minister of Finance, Cooperation and Economic Development, the Minister of Environment, Agriculture and Livestock; the Minister of Human Rights, Social Affairs and Gender; and the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Ms. Mueller highlighted the humanitarian community’s commitment to continue to work with the Government of Burundi in the spirit of mutual trust and respect in order to reduce humanitarian needs. Government officials expressed their willingness to continue working together with the humanitarian community to meet the needs of the affected communities. Ms. Mueller commended the Government for its commitment to support those in need and noted that she would advocate for further humanitarian funding for Burundi. She also met with humanitarian partners, the diplomatic corps and the National Platform for Risk Prevention and Disaster Management and the Burundian Red Cross. Ms. Mueller reiterated the support of the United Nations and its partners to the disaster preparedness work by the Government and the Red Cross and their efforts to improve the resilience of the most vulnerable communities. On 7 September, Ms. Mueller visited Songore transit centre in Ngozi Province for Burundians repatriated from Tanzania. She witnessed how humanitarian partners provide assistance and protection services to Burundians voluntarily repatriated from Tanzania prior to being transported to their places of origin. Humanitarian partners have assisted the return of over 45,000 Burundians since September 2017 and nearly 30,000 more are expected to return by the end of the year. Ms. Mueller reiterated the importance of upholding international standards guiding the right to asylum and the voluntary nature of all returns. Ms. Mueller thanked donors for the generous support they have provided to Burundi over the years, however highlighting that the 2018 Burundi Humanitarian Response Plan is only 25.9 per cent funded making it one of the least funded plans globally. “I call for increased donor support to humanitarian efforts in Burundi to address humanitarian needs and enable the country to move forward on the path of development”, she said." She said not a word about the attacks on journalists, as her boss himself has arranged attacks on and banning of Inner City Press. Alain Majesté Barenga and Alain Niyomucamanza say they went to Ngagara along with their colleague, Bella Gloria Kimana, and driver, Armand Bigurumuremyi, to investigate reports of a standoff between police and residents who claimed they were not paid "expropriation" fees--compensation paid for land taken by authorities. After they introduced themselves to the police and showed their work badges, about 20 officers surrounded them and blocked the journalists from speaking with the residents. The officers slapped them and hit Barenga on the back with the butts of their guns. Barenga said the officers tried to take the journalists' recording equipment from Kimana, but she managed to get back into the vehicle and lock herself in. Niyomucamanza said that he suffered minor injuries to one of his hands, but that neither Kimana nor the driver, who had stayed in the vehicle, were hurt. Police spokesperson Pierre Nkurukiye pointed to a YouTube video of him denying that police assaulted any journalists. Nkurukiye said that police were trying to maintain peace amid a land dispute between two families, and that the journalists did not identify themselves. He said that the journalists tried to use force to cover the case, but were asked to leave. The media regulator's chairman, Nestor Bankumukunzi, condemned the incident in an August 28 press conference and said that the assault was contrary to press law, according to a report by the news site Iwacu. The news report cited the ministry of public security saying that the journalists did not identify themselves properly, and accused them of supporting one of the parties in the conflict. Sounds like the UN. But this Press Freedom group does not report on the UN. On August 24, this from HRF: "The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) condemns a Burundian court decision that sentenced human rights advocate Nestor Nibitanga to five years in prison for allegedly “undermining state security.” Nibitanga worked for the Burundian Association for the Protection of Human Rights and Detainees (APRODH), a persecuted human rights group founded by Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, a well-known advocate who spoke at the Oslo Freedom Forum in 2010. APRODH and other civil society groups in Burundi have faced persecution, violence, and harassment since 2015; the organization’s license was suspended by the government in 2016, making it impossible for Nibitanga, Mbonimpa, and their colleagues to continue their work legally. HRF calls on Burundi to reverse its abusive policies toward human rights groups and release all political prisoners, in compliance with international human rights law.

“Nibitanga’s job was simply to report on human rights abuses. For that, he’s been harassed, arbitrarily deprived of liberty, and sentenced to spend the next five years in Burundi’s notoriously inhumane prison system,” said Celine Assaf Boustani, international legal associate at HRF." Earlier on Augus 24 this from UNHCR: "UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and partners are urging Tanzania to ensure Burundian refugee returns are voluntary and based on individual choices – in keeping with the country’s longstanding history of generosity toward those fleeing persecution, and in line with its international obligations.

UNHCR reiterates that every refugee must have the freedom to decide on when to return and the decision be based on a free and informed choice.

“It is crucial not to pressure Burundian refugees directly or indirectly to influence their decision on return,” said UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection Volker Türk. “Refugees need to have a meaningful choice and the decision to return must be voluntary, based on facts and ground realities.”

Tanzania hosts more than 250,000 refugees from Burundi, most of whom fled following political upheaval there in 2015.

UNHCR’s position was conveyed during a recent visit to Tanzania by the Assistant High Commissioner last week, after recent statements and actions by local government officials in Tanzania encouraging Burundian refugees to return home, and indicating the eventual closure of refugee camps in the country.

UNHCR’s Türk welcomed the assurances given by Tanzanian authorities to uphold international obligations to safeguard refugee rights inside the country and to ensure that all refugee returns are voluntary, and carried out safely and with dignity.

“UNHCR is not promoting returns to Burundi at this stage, but we continue to work with the governments of Burundi and host countries, including Tanzania, to assist those who feel now is the time for them to return home,” he added.

Some 44,000 Burundian refugees have so far been assisted to repatriate voluntarily to Burundi, citing improved overall security in the country, desires to reoccupy farmland, and to reunify with family. Some returnees also say that they feel the conditions at home, however challenging, will be better than what they are experiencing as refugees.

In the meantime, an average of 1,000 refugees continue to arrive to neighbouring countries each month, citing insecurity, harassment, and fear. UNHCR urges all governments in the region to maintain open borders for asylum-seekers from Burundi and to continue to provide international protection for those who need it.

UNHCR is also calling on the international community to step up support to ensure that pressing humanitarian needs are addressed for the hundreds of thousands of Burundian refugees who remain in exile. More funding is also urgently needed to support reintegration programs for refugees choosing to return. The Burundi situation is one of the least funded in the world. Currently only 12 per cent of the USD391 million required by UNHCR and partners this year has been received.

For the nearly 400,000 Burundian refugees in the region, the lack of funding has resulted in food ration cuts, lack of proper shelter, and overcrowded classrooms with some children unable to attend school at all." Thanks, Tony - that is, Antonio Guterres and his part time cover up envoy Michel Kafando. Free press? In a UN whose Secretary General just had a critical journalist roughed up and banned for life? We'll have more on this. Concerning the plight of Burundian refugees in Tanzania, on August 9 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.


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