Inner City Press

Inner City Press -- Investigative Reporting From the United Nations to Wall Street to the Inner City

These reports are usually available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis

  Search Search WWW (censored?)

In Other Media-eg New Statesman, AJE, FP, Georgia, NYT Azerbaijan, CSM Click here to contact us     .


Follow us on TWITTER

Home -

These reports are usually available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis


(FP Twitterati 100, 2013)

ICP on YouTube
Sept 24, 2013

UN: Sri Lanka


FOIA Finds  

Google, Asked at UN About Censorship, Moved to Censor the Questioner, Sources Say, Blaming UN - Update - Editorial

Support this work by buying this book

Click on cover for secure site orders

also includes "Toxic Credit in the Global Inner City"




Bank Beat

Freedom of Information

How to Contact Us

US Says Burundi Releases Rights Defender Whose Letter UN Denies, Cover Up?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 23, more here and updated (retracted by US) here -- After the UN's Burundi cable of April 3, detailing the ruling CNDD party arming its youth wing, was published and asked about by Inner City Press, the UN has been stonewalling.

  Even as human rights defender Pierre Claver Mbonimpa of the Association pour la protection des droits humains et des personnes détenues (APRODH) was arrested, the UN denied it received his and others letters, and stonewalled on letters from opposition parties. Mbonimpa is 23rd on this letter given to BNUB but still denied by the UN, click here as Inner City Press first published it.

 Now on May 23, US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power announced that she "welcome[s] Burundi's release of human rights activist Pierre Mbonimpa."

  But why did the UN never comment on it? And why on May 22 did UN spokesman Stephane Duarric still deny receiving Mbonimpa's letter, and the letter of opposition political parties that Inner City Press is reliably informed was given to the BNUB mission? 

  On May 21, Inner City Press asked Dujarric, video here:

Inner City Press: I’m sorry to ask this again, but I wanted to ask about Burundi again, in the sense that the opposition parties there have affirmed and re-affirmed that they sent to a letter to Secretary-General about this leaked cable of the arming of the youth wing of the CNDD (National Council for the Defence of Democracy) Party.  And so, I asked and Vannina said the NGO (non-governmental organization) letter wasn’t received and she’ll check on the letter of the Opposition Party that was the seventh [of May].  I asked you on the sixteenth [of May]. Who should I ask?  I mean, it seems like if the UN is [covering up]

Spokesman Dujarric:  I will check again all the possible recipients of the letter.

Inner City Press: There was a speech or press conference held by the SRSG (Special Representative of the Secretary-General) in Burundi, essentially apologizing to the Government for the leak of the cable, but not in any way… I mean, I’ve asked here a number of times, like people there seem to believe it’s true.  The human rights defender has named the camp… a camp where he says there are being trained in the DRC.  Has MONUSCO (United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo) even gone to that camp?  Is there any coordination?

Spokesman Dujarric:  If I have something new on Burundi, I will share with you, but I don’t at this point.

  On May 22 Dujarric announced "Yesterday, Matthew, you asked about two letters from NGOs [non-governmental organizations] and political parties.  We’ve checked again this morning for you and we cannot ascertain that we have received such letters at the Secretariat."

  When Inner City Press asked for a follow up, about their receipt by BNUB, Dujarric did not take the question:

Inner City Press: I wanted to ask you two questions, one about Sri Lanka, one about Burundi; a follow up to your response which I appreciated.  On Sri Lanka, I wanted to know, particularly since the Secretary-General recently met and I’ve seen the photographs of him sitting, smiling with Mahinda Rajapaksa.  In the day after that, two further news websites were blocked by the Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka.  One of the Sri Lanka Mirror, specifically for the content of the coverage, and I wondered, one, does the Secretary-General have any view of that and how should the… the… the readout be compared to that happening?  And two, just to be clear, does the Secretary-General fully support the Human Rights Council’s probe that, you know, was recently voted on because it’s his comments about the LLRC are being perceived as undermining it?

Spokesman Dujarric:  I think, on the Human Rights Council, I think we’ve spoken to that in the past and I’ll see if we can get anything on the other part.  Thank you and we’ll see you at 1 o’clock

  So UN spokesman Dujarric never took the questions on Burundi. But they will continue.

On May 6 Inner City Press asked Vannina Maestracci, Associate Spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon:

Inner City Press: I wanted to ask about Burundi. There are two letters that have emerged that were sent to the Secretary-General, people say they were sent. One was from a group of [non-governmental organizations] in Burundi and now, a group of 12 political parties, including the major, all the major opposition parties wrote to the Secretary-General asking for UN investigation of the 3 April cable saying that the Government was arming the youth wing… to remain in power. And, I wanted to know, one, maybe you won’t have it here, but can you, today, confirm or deny that these two letters were received and say whether… what the response has been? Whether, in fact, the UN is, itself, investigating the contents of the cable?

Associate Spokesperson Vannina Maestracci: Okay, let me check first if we did, indeed, receive these two letters and we’ll start there. Okay?

On May 7, Inner City Press asked again - and receipt of the NGOs' letter was denied:

Inner City Press: Burundi?

Associate Spokesperson Vannina Maestracci: No. We checked on Burundi. You asked about two letters, is that right? There’s one by the NGOs (non-governmental organizations) that we did not receive. We’re still waiting for an answer on the other one. So that’s one thing.

  Finally on May 16, Inner City Press asked the UN's main spokesman Stephane Dujarric:

Inner City Press: On Burundi, there were these letters that at least the major opposition parties in Burundi say that they gave to the UN, I’m not sure if they did or not but they’ve put it out. There’s also NGOs that all of these asking for investigation of that cable so I had asked Vannina [Maestracci] and she’d said NGO letter wasn’t received and I really didn’t get an answer on the other one. I just want to make sure were these letters received and if so…

Spokesman Stephane Dujarric: We’ll check with the political office if they’ve been received. Have a wonderful weekend.

   Pierre Claver Mbonimpa has been arrested. Belatedly, Human Rights Watch has spoken -- but in a statement that doesn't even MENTION the April 3 UN cable. Why not? Well, HRW has a history of not criticizing the UN.

  In fact, when Inner City Press asked HRW to simply summarize what issues its Ken Roth raised to the UN's Ban Ki-moon -- Haiti cholera impunity? Minova rapes by the UN's partners in the Congolese Army? UN Peacekeeping's Herve Ladsous' use of drones? -- HRW's lobbyist at the UN Philippe Bolopion, a former France 24 and Le Monde scribe at the UN, replied that such summaries are not public (apparently only for funders), in order to retain HRW's access:

"Hi Matthew: To preserve our ability to have frank discussions with UN officials and advance our advocacy goals, we don't typically communicate on the content of discussions we have with them." Click here for that.

   Here, to not speak of the UN cable and the UN's shameful silence on the expulsion of its author -- is irresponsible.

    Back on May 14the issue was expected to be addressed in the Security Council's May 14 meeting.

  But UN envoy Parfait Onanga-Anyanga lavishly praised the government, with Interior Minister Edouard Nduwimana sitting at his side. He referred vaguely to a propensity to confrontation between youths affiliated to the political parties, adding that this phenomenon is particularly preoccupying when it also touches youths affiliated to the party in power.

   Ah, diplomacy. (The Swiss chair for the Peacebuilding Configuration's speech was somewhat more frank; we have uploaded it here. But under current, unACTed on Council rules, he cannot enter the Council's consultations.)

  Burundi threw out of the country the UN Security Chief quoted in the cable; Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's Office of the Spokesperson told Inner City Press that a letter from civil society organizations was not received, and never answered Inner City Press' question on a letter from opposition parties. This is not diplomacy, some say: this is a cover-up.

Background: the UN has been asked to investigate the April 3 cable, first by Burundian civil society organizations and then by 12 political parties. Inner City Press has obtained the letter of the 12 parties, including Uprona and Frodebu, and today puts it online here.

   What will the UN do?

  When Inner City Press asked at the UN noon briefing and of US Ambassador Samantha Power at the UN Security Council stakeout, the UN came up with an interim answer.

  (Also, as set forth below, 23 civil society organizations wrote to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to request a full international and independent investigation of the cable: letter here, annex here.)

  UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric announced that the UN had sent its Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide Adama Dieng to Burundi. But it was not possible to ask Dieng about his visit and findings, either when he appeared at a think tank across from the UN at a genocide
commemoration or inside the UN building. Until on May 2 when Dieng took questions after briefing the Security Council about South Sudan, and Inner City Press asked him about his Burundi visit and the cable, video here.

   Significantly, in terms of the UN using Dieng's visit as evidence of action on the cable, Dieng answered that his visit was planned before the cable was "released." But he ran through a litany of concerns: rampant impunity, people "around" the president who are trying to hold on to power, and the arrest of opposition leader  Alexis Sinduhije.

    Beyond putting the video online, Inner City Press is also today putting online the Burundi NGOs' letter and annex, here. How has the UN responded?

   While sources in the UN Security Council told Inner City Press on April 24 that they want an investigation of the April 3 leaked UN cable about the party in power in Burundi arming its youth wing, it was the media that first reached one of the Generals at issue, Nduwumunsi.

 The cable, as published by Inner City Press, stated that "General Nduwumunsi (currently Director General of former Combatants) and General - Major Niyungeko Jevenal aka KIROHO (currently head of the Office of military Cooperation) would be supervisors of these activities (distributions of weapons and military and police uniforms)."

  Now IWACU runs quotes from Nduwumunsi but concludes, "Pour les autres accusations des Nations unies sur une distribution d’armes, il a promis de s’exprimer ultérieurement." ("For other charges UN distribution of weapons, he promised to speak later.")

  Speak to whom - the UN? Apparently not: Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric on April 25:

Inner City Press: I wanted to ask you about Burundi. There was a consultation yesterday of the Security Council; Mr. [Jeffrey] Feltman went, some other people from DPA [Department of Political Affairs]. I was told afterwards that basically there’s a call to investigate that same cable, 3 April cable about distribution of weapons to the youth wing of the Government party in power. So I wanted to know what is, one, can you say whether the persona non grata DSS [Department of Safety and Security] chief…actually who left the country or if the protest has worked? And what is UN’s task from this in terms of investigating the contents of the cable?

Spokesman Dujarric: The DSS person, the person that was declared persona non grata, when that happened, was out of the country. He has not returned to Burundi. Can you rephrase the first part of your question?

Inner City Press: It was said afterwards by a participant in the consultations that there’s been a request by the Council that the contents of it be investigated. If DSS chief is not there, what is the role of either the country team, DSS or DPA to actually, more than expressing concern, actually look into the facts alleged in that cable?

Spokesman Dujarric: You know, obviously, this allegation of arms distribution… that allegation has taken more and more of a centre stage in political discourse in Burundi. We’ve noted the Government’s public statements rejecting the allegations and we welcome them. But we still call on the Government to investigate, to embark on a credible and transparent investigation into these allegations. We’ve offered assistance to assist in this credible and transparent investigation and we stand ready, but we have not been asked, but it is the primary responsibility of the Government to lead such an investigation.

  So the UN "welcomes" the government's statements on the cable - a vituperative denial?

   Meanwhile journalists in Burundi face demands to name and give up their sources: "Alexis Nkeshimana et Eloge Niyonzima, respectivement correspondants de Bonesha FM et RPA à Bubanza comparaissaient devant le substitut du procureur de la République à Bubanza, ce jeudi 24 avril, sur plainte du Cndd-Fdd" -- that is, a complain by the same CNDD-FDD party.

   Alongside our coverage of attacks on free press in Egypt and Ethiopia, along with the Free UN Coalition for Access, we hope to pursue this.

     Back on on April 24, a week after Burundi ordered out of the country the UN security chief who authored a leaked cable reporting the President arming his youth wing, a team from the UN Department of Political Affairs rushed into an unscheduled Security Council meeting. A Permanent Representative told Inner City Press the topic was Burundi.

   But afterward, despite the UN's claims about "Rights Up Front" and sounding the alarm, no one spoke at the UN Television stakeout to even summarize the meeting on Burundi.

   Off camera, a source who had been in the closed door meeting told Inner City Press, "their main concern was about the leak" of the cable. Inner City Press first published the cable; the full text is below.

Update of 7 pm -- After publication of the above, a proponent of the Security Council's performance on this told Inner City Press that while it's being kept quiet, there are requests that not only the leak but the substance of the cable be investigated.  Another questioned why all that the Council's "pen-holder" on Burundi belatedly put out about the April 24 was a tweet by its political coordinator. Inner City Press has posed questions. We'll see.

   On April 21, Inner City Press asked UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric if the "PNG-ed" UN staffer left, and about the president now meeting with his youth wing, video here:

Inner City Press: On Burundi, you’d said on Thursday that the UN was troubled by the “PNG” letter. I wanted to know, one, the head of security, has he complied with the letter from the Government and left. And does the UN have any comment on the President of Burundi since Thursday having done a meeting or a rally with his youth wing. The same youth wing that the UN memo said was being handed weapons.

Spokesman Stephane Dujarric: No. I have… I don’t know what the status of the staff member who was “PNG-ed”. We can check. And on Burundi, I think what we had to say last week stands.

   Is that good enough, to simply stand on a past statement as new fact unfold? On April 21 the Banque de la Republic de Burundi - the nation's central bank - was enveloped in smoke. The excuse? Burning bills. Meanwhile staff say there are threats. But old UN statements "stand."

  So Inner City Press asked the US State Department spokesperson, albeit in a Twitter Q&A, for a comment on the President meeting with the youth wing, and if the government did in fact ask US intelligence to help investigate the cable. So far, no answer: review here.

   Twenty years after the "genocide fax" from Rwanda to the UN in New York was largely ignored, for a week earlier this month there was little visible reaction to a strikingly similar cable from Burundi, about AK-47s being distributed to the youth-wing of the Hutu aligned CNDD party.

  And now one of the authors of the cable has been ordered to leave Burundi in 48 hours, see below.

  Inner City Press on April 9 put the cable online, submitting questions about it to UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric and on April 10 online and at the Security Council stakeout to Ambassador Gerard Araud of France, pen-holder on Burundi in the Council.

   But it was US Ambassador Samantha Power who took and answered the question, telling Inner City Press that it is very troubling, that there have been fast trials of 21 young opposition figures and a threat to change the constitution and now, these reports. Video here and embedded below.

  At the April 10 noon briefing, UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric who had sent Inner City Press a wan response to its April 9 questions about the cable (and about actions by one of the three addressees, Herve Ladsous of UN Peacekeeping) read out a list of contacts the UN had made.

  Inner City Press asked if the UN, whose cable it was and is, had done anything to check into the weapons given to the youth-wing: pistols in February, AK-47s since. Dujarric said he didn't understand the question and had nothing to add. Video here.

  Hours later, the UN Security Council issued a press statement, here.

  And now, a week later, one of the UN authors, Paul Dobbie of the UN Department of Safety and Security ("UN Burundi Chief Security Adviser") has been told to leave Burundi within 48 hours of April 17.

How will Ban Ki-moon's UN react? Inner City Press asked on April 17, video here.

    That the cable was in fact sent from the UN in Burundi to three top UN officials -- Jeffrey Feltman of the Department of Political Affairs, Herve Ladsous of UN Peacekeeping and Great Lakes envoy Mary Robinson -- was reliably confirmed. Inner City Press and the new Free UN Coalition for Access put this photo online here and here. Below, the full text of the cable is published.

  On April 9, UK Mission to the UN spokesperson Iona Thomas replied to Inner City Press that "I can confirm that Feltman raised this issue in the Council discussion on Burundi yesterday and members of the Council expressed their concern at the reports."

  UN Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric, in response to Inner City Press' request for confirmation that Ladsous, who was France's Deputy Permanent Representative at the UN during the 1994 Rwanda genocide against the Tutsis, had received the Burundi cable merely pointed to a read-out of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's April 6 meeting with Burundi's First Vice-President of the Republic of Burundi Prosper Bazombanza.

  That UN read-out says that "the Secretary-General expressed strong concerns about reports concerning activities of Burundian youth groups and urged the relevant national authorities to investigate these reports."

  But it is the government itself that is accused of distributing pistols, uniforms and AK-47s to the "youth groups," which the UN read-out leaves unnamed. Is this "Rights Up Front"?

  US Ambassador Samantha Power traveled from Rwanda to Burundi and issued a statement that the "United States will provide $7.5 million in assistance for the Burundian electoral process" and expressing concerns, here. It did not directly mention the alleged distribution of weapons to the Imbonerukure or the cable.

  France, in the same week that it snubbed the Rwanda genocide commemoration and called any suggestion it was complicit in the 1994 killings "disgraceful," holds the pen on Burundi in the Security Council.

   That is to say, it was up to France after Feltman came and raised the memo to then pen and push for fast adoption some output: a resolution or Statement. But this did not happen -- until a week after the cable.

  Instead, when at the end of a higher profile consultation with High Commissioner on Human Rights Navi Pillay including on Syria, where France is pushing a referral to the International Criminal Court, April's Council president Joy Ogwu of Nigeria emerged to speak to the press, there were only two journalists there including Inner City Press. She mentioned Feltman's briefing, but not the cable or its contents.

  Nine hours later, Australia's Ambassador to the UN Gary Quinlan tweeted, "#UNSC discussed deteriorating situation in #Burundi for 2nd time in 2 weeks - signs of political exclusion & oppression deeply concerning."

The French Mission to the UN -- the penholder on Burundi -- was even less specific: "Under Secretary General Jeffrey Feltman has briefed #UNSC on current political tensions in #Burundi."

  So is the main difference in 20 years since the Rwanda genocide the speed of leaks and of social media?

  Other questions are pending. Here is the full text of the April 3, 2014 cable:







DATE: 3 April 2014


SUBJECT: Reports of alleged distribution of weapons to the Imbonerakure

Summary: Informs on reports of alleged distribution of weapons [to] ruling CNDD-youth wing and actions taken by BNUB.

1. "This follows my cable CND-022 of 26 February in which I informed of allegations of distribution of weapons to the ruling CNDD-FCC youth wing the "Imbonerakure."

2. Yesterday UN Chief Security Adviser (CSA) in Burundi conveyed the following message from the DSS daily sitrep:

"After information gathered from key informants, there was distribution of weapons and outfits military and police during the months of January and February for youth affiliated to the CNDD - FDD (IMBONERAKURE) party and the demobilized ex-AIMP Rumonge. An ad-hoc meeting was held in a hotel call[ed] KUKANYAMUENZA belonging to a "General de Brigade" located Nduwumunsi in Rumonge. A night training for the handling of these weapons would be located on the side of the central prison of Rumonge (KUMUREMBWE) and the surrounding population would have heard gunfire. These same activities (distribution of weapons) would be considered to take place in the commune of Nyzana-Laca, Kibago and Mabanda in Makamba province. Another face which tends to confirm the news, these are the statements of people who participated in these meetings but refused to receive weapons.

Two generals originating in the province of BURURI ex-AIMP whose names follow: Bde General Nduwumunsi (currently Director General of former Combatants) and General - Major Niyungeko Jevenal aka KIROHO (currently head of the Office of military Cooperation) would be supervisors of these activities (distributions of weapons and military and police uniforms). In this meeting they emphasized especially, that the beneficiaries of these weapons must remain vigilant and that when there is a trigger that each take care of their opponents in their proximity / neighbourhood."

3. I have undertaken consultations with key embassies including United States, Belgium and the Netherlands, all involved in security sector support activities, to corroborate the information and plan to raise the matter with the relevant ministers. The ambassadors informed have confirmed the grave nature of the allegations which if confirmed may have implications for bi-lateral assistance programmes.


4. CSA in Burundi confirmed the reliability of the sources.

5. The Imbonerakure actions have been on the rise since the beginning of the year and are one of the major threats to peace in Burundi and to the credibility of the 2015 elections as they are responsible for most politically motivated violence against opposition. BNUB has documented 27 cases implicating the Imbonerakure so far in 2014, 23 of which have been politically motivated.

6. The Imbonerakure act in collusion with the local authorities and with total impunity. In the country side they have replaced the law enforcing agencies and act as a militia over and above the police, the army and the judiciary. Opposition parties have repeatedly complaint [sic] about the Imbonerakure violence.

7. One can only speculate about the purpose of the distribution of weapons and uniforms in Bururi which is a traditional stronghold of the UPRONA. However the last sentence of the message indicated a highly decentralized chain of command which is consistent with reliable information on Imbonerakure modus operandi on the ground.

8. In February BNUB had informed of the disappearance of 500 uniforms from military and police installations as well as the distribution of 9mm pistols. Although not confirmed there are indications that the weapons distributed this time can be AK-47 assault rifles. DSS has also informed in the past of radio messages for the population "to be ready."

9. We will continue to closely monitor the situation and keep you informed.

Now what? Watch this site.


Share |

* * *

These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for Sept 26, 2011 New Yorker on Inner City Press at UN

Click for re Libya, Sri Lanka, UN Corruption

Feedback: Editorial [at]

UN Office: S-303, UN, NY 10017 USA

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540

  Search  Search WWW (censored?)

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

            Copyright 2006-2014 Inner City Press, Inc. To request reprint or other permission, e-contact Editorial [at]