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UN's Guehenno Says Congo Warlord Just Needs Training, and Kazana Probe Continues

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee at the UN

UNITED NATIONS, July 31 -- The allegations in the Congo that UN troops stood by while the army destroyed the village of Kazana in Ituri are still being investigated, the UN's head of peacekeeping Jean-Marie Guehenno said Monday. Inner City Press had on Friday asked Secretary-General Kofi Annan about the just-announced exoneration of the UN's Congo force, called MONUC; Mr. Annan said he'd look into it. Mr. Guehenno, asked Monday by Inner City Press when the investigation has been completed responded that "we got a report from MONUC, we are looking into it... we'll continue to look at it." Video here, Minutes 23:50 to 30:30.

            Asked about the offer of a colonel's position in the Congolese army to Peter Karim, who held seven UN peacekeepers hostage until earlier this month, Mr. Guehenno said, "I know he wanted to be a colonel... if he does become a colonel in the Congolese army, he will need a lot of training, let me say that." Video here, at Minutes 40:35 to 43.

            Mr. Guehenno had previously said, without any indication that it was off-the-record, that during the negotiations to get the UN peacekeepers released, Mr. Karim was erratic, frequently changing positions, and was "on drugs." At a minimum, the training to which Mr. Guehenno referred on Monday would have to include detoxification. 

  Mr. Guehenno said, "let's look at the facts and not at the spin machines." Mr. Guehenno defended MONUC on Kazana by referring to the phrase, "Damned if you do, damned if you don't... MONUC was accused of not being strong" in fighting eastern militias' "work of destruction and death." But one of the most destructive militias has been Peter Karim's.

            Questions remain about the culpability of the UN, in acceding to and / or participating in a deal in which a warlord the UN knows to be on drugs is offered a colonel's position, putting more civilians at risk.

            The disparity between the statement in the New York Times on July 28, that MONUC never asked for video footage of Kazana, and the statements of Kofi Annan's Congo envoy William Swing, repeated by Mr. Guehenno on Monday, that the video tapes were requested, also needs to be resolved. It was announced Monday at the noon briefing that Mr. Swing will take questions from reporters at UN Headquarters later this week. Developing...

Update: Vice president Jean-Pierre "Mange-Twa" Bemba, who during the campaign proclaimed "I am not a cannibal," claims to be ahead in the voting and like many "warned he would not accept defeat by President Joseph Kabila if he felt the process was rigged." We'll see.

Voting line in DRC

Also at the UN: Of Georgian Gorges and Blindness in Baidoa as Somalia's Invaded

            In other UN news, beyond the 14-1 passage of the resolution on Iran, and paralysis in the face of Qana, the outgoing permanent representative of Georgia Rezav Adamia Monday gave what he promised is his last press conference, for a mere six minutes to a nearly empty room. It concerned events in the Kodori Gorge, which Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin had addressed in a stakeout interview on Friday. Amb. Churkin had denounced Mr. Adamia as engaged in "blatant disinformation" about the discussions in a Security Council consultative meeting which Mr. Adamia did not attend. Inner City Press asked Amb. Churkin if Mr. Adamia had been invited or allowed to attend the meeting. Video here, at Minute 3:00 to 3:30. Amb. Churkin replied that is not the procedure for consultative meetings. Inner City Press asked, in light of previous Russian blocking of Georgia attendance at Security Council meetings on Abkhazia, if Mr. Adamia had in effect been blocked this time. No, Amb. Churkin responded, before going on to admonish the press to report things more accurately. Note to Churkin: this is not Moscow, said one wag at the stakeout.

            Finally, at Monday's noon briefing, spokeswoman Marie Okabe maintained that the UN is not in the position to ascertain if Ethiopian troops have invaded Somalia.  Beyond the obvious questions -- why now? and, who is? -- Inner City Press asked if the UN or Mr. Annan's envoy on Somalia Francois Lonseny Fall have any comment on the assertion by the prime minister of the UN-supported transitional government in Baidoa that Egypt, Libya and Iran are illegally supporting the Islamic Courts Union.  At noon now answer came; later in the afternoon this arrived:

"Re: Your question on Somalia at noon today

The SRSG for Somalia, Francois Lonseny Fall, has no comment on the Somali Prime Minister's claim that Egypt, Libya, and Iran are arming the Supreme Council of Islamic Courts in Mogadishu. While such statements are noted for what they are worth and, if necessary, their veracity is probed within the larger context of the mandate of the UN Political Office for Somalia, the SRSG is not in a position to comment on each and every allegation made by the parties or their representatives on a daily basis. Meanwhile, though, the Security Council-mandated Monitoring Group on Somalia has provided useful hints on possible sources of arms flow into Somalia in the Group's most recent report to the Security Council."

            We've already read the report -- which refuses to name the "clandestine party" then providing arms to the since-defeated warlords -- but hey, reading's always good. We close with this question: whether before the cursory vote Monday on the DR Congo sanctions, the Security Council members bothered to read the report of the Group of Experts. If they did, they'd know that hundreds of kilos of uranium among other things are going missing...

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With Congo Elections Approaching, UN Issues Hasty Self-Exoneration as Annan Is Distracted

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee at the UN

   UNITED NATIONS, July 28 (updated 7/30, below) -- Two days before the elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the UN hastily issued a six-paragraph statement that allegations of abuse and negligence by UN asserting that allegations of abuse and complicity by its mission in the DRC "have been thoroughly investigated and found untrue."

   Hours before this exoneration was given to reporters, the day's New York Times appeared with an op-ed by the television journalist who had filmed the underlying events and their aftermath in Kazana village in April. He wrote that "United Nations investigators never asked to see the many hours of footage we took."

            While the UN's Kofi Annan attended a Security Council briefing on Lebanon, his spokeswoman Marie Okabe was asked by Inner City Press about the op-ed. Video here. On June 19 and July 18, Inner City Press had also asked about the UN's investigation of events at Kazana, and on July 26 Inner City Press asked the UN's head of peacekeeping in Africa Dmitry Titov about the status of the investigation.  Mr. Titov called the investigation "ongoing," and added that "we are interested... to come out of this as clean as we can."

            Less than 48 hours after Mr. Titov's statement about the ongoing investigation, the investigation was ostensibly concluded, and all allegations deemed "untrue."

Mr. Annan in DCR, March 23, 2006

 The UN's one-page statement, provided to Inner City Press full of typographical errors andnot even on letterhead, states that "fighting against militiamen is not an easy task, as demonstrated by the recent death of a Nepalese Blue Helmet in a 28 in operation" [sic; full MONUC statement is below].

            The referenced UN peacekeeper from Nepal was killed on May 28, when East Congo militiaman Peter Karim took hostage seven other UN peacekeepers. Earlier this month after negotiations involving Peter Karim and the UN, the peacekeepers were released and Mr. Karim was offered the post of colonel in the Congolese Army. After initial waffling by the UN spokesman's office, Dmitry Titov on July 26 acknowledged that the offer of "a post" to Peter Karim was "as a result of the deal" to release the UN peacekeepers.

            Kofi Annan took questions from the press on Friday afternoon. Inner City Press asked about the hastily-issued exoneration of the Kazana allegations, without the UN having asked to see the underlying video, and about Peter Karim being offered a colonel's post in the Congolese army. Video here, at Minutes 16:45 through 18:18)

         "With these two as the backdrop, is the UN system so committed to the elections that it is issuing half-dash exonerations" and "why would Peter Karim, who you said would face personal accountability, be allowed into the Congolese army?"

         Mr. Annan answered, "I do not have details on the issues you've raised... I was not aware that Karim had been abducted, recruited into the Lebanese, Congolese army."

         "But Mr. Titov--"

         "Titov. But I am not aware of it. I will have to follow up."          

            But on Monday Mr. Annan was provided, in hand, a Reuters article describing the offer of a colonel position to Peter Karim. Inner City Press waited more than an hour outside a meeting between Mr. Annan and the chief executives of large pharmaceutical companies, endeavoring to ask Mr. Annan about Peter Karim. When Mr. Annan emerged, he said his mind was too full with the pharmaceutical and other issues, but he took the Reuters article, in the margin of which was written, "Personal accountability? May 30, 2006. Or impunity?"

            The May 30 reference was to Mr. Annan's answer, at another stakeout interview, to Inner City Press' question about the then just-kidnapped peacekeepers. Mr. Annan said

"we have been in touch with Karim's group – we think that is the group holding them, and demanding their release. And hopefully, we will get them released. But Karim and others who get involved in these sort of activities, must understand that they will be held accountable... They will be held individually accountable for these brutal acts."

            On the afternoon of July 28, two months later, Mr. Annan said: "I will have to follow up." We'll see.

Update of July 30: During the afternoon of Friday, July 28 in New York, Kofi Annan answered Inner City Press' stakeout question -

"I do not have details on the issues you've raised... I was not aware that Karim had been abducted, recruited into the Lebanese, Congolese army."

   Further cursory web research shows that earlier on July 28, Kofi Annan's Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General in the DRC Haile Menkerios said, in an interview on the UN's, that " the agreement with Peter Karim’s group and the MRC is very positive not only for the elections, but for the future extension of state authority." Click here for the interview, at, click here for SRSG William Lacy Swing's letter to the IHT, which among other things doesn't specify just when this investigation was completed; Developing...


UN MONUC statement as distributed July 28, 2006

"There are media reports alleging that a number of civilian casualties may have resulted from a military operation by the Congolese armed Forces (FARDC) with the support of MONUC troops on 22 April 2006, in the village of Kazana, Ituri District, in North East DRC. These allegations have been thoroughly investigated and found untrue.


"On 22 April 2006, a joint MONUC (1 Pakistani company, 1 company South African) FARDC (3 companies) operation was launched against militia positions in Kazana. After being fired upon by hostile elements, MONUC and FARDC forces engaged the militia positions with mortar fire from 0600 to 1000hrs. At 1200hrs, MONUC and FARDC troops entered the village which was condoned and searched. During the operation which lasted was over [sic] at 1600hrs, 1 FARDC soldier was killed in action, 3 others were wounded, and 4 dead bodies were recovered.


"On May 20 the operation ITURI EXPLORER was launched in Tchei, 65 kilometers south west of Bunia, to clear it of the presence of militiamen. Approximately 1000 MONUC soldiers as well as 3000 FARDC were involved in this operation.

"Ex-FPRI militia armed groups had stepped up their activities and presence in the territory of Irumu since the beginning of the year. MONUC, in support of the FARDC, conducted operations in order to re-establish the authority of the state in this territory. These actions culminated with operation ITURI EXPLORER which removed the militia from Tchei. Isolated groups of militiamen, who managed to escape, were on rampage, killing and robbing civilians in the vicinity of Komanda and Marabo, North of Tchei. Operations were conducted to make the area more secure.

"MONUC forces do not open fire indiscriminately and investigations are conducted in case of alleged infringement of their rules of engagement. Fighting against militiamen is not an easy task, as demonstrated by the recent death of a Nepalese Blue Helmet in a 28 in operation [sic]. Armed men in civilian attire often take position in villages, don't hesitate to hide among the population and use it often as human shield. Moreover, women and children have, oftentimes, been among combatants engaging MONUC and FARDC troops.

"In spite of challenges and often facing greater number of hostile elements, MONUC forces try to put an end to the impunity of the armed groups they are battling and help re-establish the authority of the state in Ituri, in order to allow the coming elections to take place. Collaborating with the FARDC is a necessity, as it is the Congolese national army which has the primary responsibility for the security of the country and its people. Any FARDC wrongdoings are brought to the attention of their command."

* * *

June 19, 2006 briefing Office of the Spokesman for the Secretary General

 ...Question:  Over the weekend, on British television Channel 4, there was a documentary, or kind of expose, about MONUC in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) having provided support to Government troops in razing a town called Kazana -- torching of huts and deaths of civilians -- so it seems like a pretty serious charge.  It's also in the Observer newspaper of the Guardian.  I don't know if the UN has checked into this... if there is a response from the UN?

Associate Spokesman:  In fact, we are checking into this.  I don't have anything for you on it now, but the Department of Peacekeeping Operations did inform me today that they are looking into this, and so we will examine what these charges are and what's behind them.

Question:  Can we expect some kind of update in this room?  How will this be handled?

Associate Spokesman:  We'll provide you an update when we have some more information.

* * *

July 18, 2006 briefing Office of the Spokesman for the Secretary General

Associate Spokesman:  Matthew.

Question:  Two questions about the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  It's reported that Peter Karim, who kidnapped seven UN peacekeepers that were since released, has now been made a Colonel in the Congolese army.  So, I guess my question is: was the UN deal to get the peacekeepers released -- did it envision Mr. Karim being incorporated into the Congolese army?

Associate Spokesman:  Release of the Nepalese peacekeepers was unconditional.  We did not try to have any conditions attached to their release.  No ransom was paid and no other arrangements were made.

Question:  Was the UN aware that this would be the end-game of that?

Associate Spokesman:  Well, this is something that has happened afterwards.  And this is, frankly, news.

Question:  The reason I am asking, and I am asking you, I guess, to respond to this: given what Mr. Karim did, and other reports about it, it seems like a setup for further abuse of civilians.  What's the UN's position on the individual who kidnapped UN peacekeepers being made part of the Congolese army?  That's my question.

Associate Spokesman:  I have no specific guidance on this, and, you know, it is not my place to comment on decisions that are made by the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  But, at the same time, the basic point is, as a principle, we don't believe that people who kidnap out personnel or any others are to be rewarded for their actions.

Question:  Four weeks ago, MONUC said it was going to investigate a documentary on English television about the burning down of the town of Kazana with UN troops standing by -- is there any update on that?

Associate Spokesman:  The latest is simply that our investigation into that is continuing.  When we have something more, we will share it with you.

  [Note that the MONUC self-exoneration was not read out as part of Kofi Annan's spokeswoman initial presentation on July 28, but was only raised once inquiry was made into that morning's NYT op-ed].

Spinning the Congo, UN Admits Hostage Deal with Warlord That Put Him in Congolese Army

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee at the UN

UNITED NATIONS, July 26 -- Four days before the first elections in Congo in forty years, the head of the UN Peacekeeping's Africa Division Dmitry Titov acknowledged that as part of the deal with East Congo warlord Peter Karim that led to the release of seven kidnapped UN peacekeepers, "Karim agreed to avail himself of the amnesty" and "was promised... to have some rank."

            Less than two weeks after releasing the last five of the UN peacekeepers he had held hostage for more than a month, it was announced that Peter Karim would become a colonel in the Congolese army.

UN as colonelizer?

    On May 30, Inner City Press asked Kofi Annan about the peacekeepers, and the Secretary General answered that "Karim and others who get involved in these sort of activities, must understand that they will be held accountable...They will be held individually accountable for these brutal acts." See, video at Minutes 13:40 - 15:25, and the transcript.

  Wednesday Mr. Titov implied that Karim may later be indicted, by the International Criminal Court or the "national criminal system." Mr. Titov said, "We are not in a prosecuting business" but "justice should take its course, eventually." This same approach to time is being taken with the UN's investigation of televised allegations that its peacekeeping force stood by while the Congolese army destroyed the village of Kazana. Asked by Inner City Press when the investigation's results will be released, Mr. Titov was non-committal. Asked if the intent was to wait until after the election, Mr. Titov said no.

            Mr. Titov characterized the protesters outside the UN as lacking in credibility, in light of their "U.S. out of Congo" call. "The U.S. is not there," Mr. Titov said. The protesters point at Kofi Annan's American envoy William Lacy Swing, and at the involvement in resource extraction in the Congo of U.S.-based Dodge Phelps, along with South Africa's AngloGold Ashanti and Australia's BHP Billiton, among others.

            In a wide ranging briefing on the UN's 37th floor, Mr. Titov recounted one version of the run-up to the July 30 elections, on which he said the UN has spent almost half a billion dollars. There were thirty-three presidential candidates, approximately half of whom, those Mr. Titov characterized as minor candidates, have since dropped out. Until asked by reporters, Mr. Titov did not mention the abstention from the election by major UDPS opposition figure Etienne Tshisekedi, nor the calls earlier this week in churches throughout Congo for a boycott of Sunday's vote.

            Asked by Inner City Press about the threat to withdraw of Anatole Matusila, the church-favored candidate, Mr. Titov pointed out that the bishop of Bukavu is supporting Sunday's election. Mr. Titov characterized those who are calling for a postponement of the vote as spoilers and nay-sayers. If the vote is not held on time, said Mr. Titov, we will have suffered a major failure.

            From the UN system's statements, including those from the World Bank and UN Development Program as well as Kofi Annan's envoy William Lacy Swing, some observers diagnose a strain of wishful thinking. More specifically, the UN became some time ago so invested in this election being held on July 30 that now any calls for delay are viewed and portrayed with disdain, including those based on the killing and imprisonment of journalists for such crime as "insulting the head of state."

            Asked by Inner City Press about the unsolved murder of reporter Bapuwa Mwamba, the expulsion of Radio France International's Ghislaine Dupont and the arrest, for insulting President Kabila, of editor Patrice Booto, Mr. Titov said that these are of concern, but that the "scale" was not such that it merited any call for delay of the election.

           Mr. Titov's peacekeeping colleague Kathryn Jones spoke of the UN's concern at reports of demonstrators tear-gassed and beaten by Congolese authorities, but said that the media doesn't report the more positive stories.  For different reasons, the Pentagon and State Department in Washington also wish to downplay the diminished but continuing lawlessness in the DCR. That U.S. government agencies are 100% committed to certain outcomes and time frames, and to spin in their furtherance, is understandable. Such non-objective focus is less appropriate at the UN, and sometimes seems contrary to the genuine commitment of UN staff like Ms. Jones to those Congolese still victims of the often-downplayed lawlessness. A theme continued on this site.

Kofi Annan Questioned about Congolese Colonel Who Kidnapped Seven UN Soldiers

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee at the U.N.

UNITED NATIONS, July 24 -- When does allowing a warlord who kidnapped UN peacekeepers to become a colonel in the Congolese national army scream of not only of impunity but distraction, disinterest and lack of attention? At what point does hoping for the best become denial and sweeping under the rug? 

          On Monday the UN's Kofi Annan was asked about the Congo, as he rushed by in a hallway to a meeting with corporate executives, and from there to Rome to discuss the Middle East.  Over the weekend in the Democratic Republic of the Congo Mr. Annan's envoy William Lacy Swing said that the UN is "not overly anxious" about violence in Ituri in Eastern Congo in the run-up to the July 30 election. But the problems have gone beyond violence. One week before the vote, churches all over Congo began to preach of boycott, if concerns of vote-rigging for current president Joseph Kabila are not addressed.

            At Monday's noon briefing at UN Headquarters, Kofi Annan's spokeswoman was asked what the UN is doing in the face of the churches' boycott calls, and about the reported stoning of UN vehicles accompanying Kabila in the southern province of Kasai. Very gently, the spokeswoman recounted Kofi Annan's visit to the DRC some weeks ago, including speaking with the churches. But if the churches, now a week before the vote, are calling for boycott, past communications may be not guarantee of future success, as they say.

            Inner City Press asked pointedly if the UN Mission has spoken with the churches which are preaching about boycott. The spokeswoman said she would check.  Near deadline the following was received:

"Matthew, The SRSG in the DR Congo has commented on the call by local priests that Congolese boycott the elections. Mr. Swing has called that move 'untimely.' He has also said that tremendous progress has been achieved in preparing for the election and that the DRC 'is arguably the only sub-region in Africa that has always lacked any centre of political stability and because of the size of this country, with nine neighbors, it is the only country that can give it that stability.'"

            It remains to be seen what Mr. Swing means by "untimely." There is a legalistic meaning, meaning "raised too late." Or he may mean, "raised at an unfortunate time." But the criticisms have long been raised. Wanting stability is not the same thing as achieving it.

Seven UN blue helmets in Congo

            Inner City Press last week asked if the UN was aware, when its seven kidnapped peacekeepers were released earlier this month, that the warlord who took them hostage would be made a colonel in the Congolese army. The response included references to "no ransom" and "we did not try to have any conditions attached." Written requests for on-the-record comment from the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations remain outstanding. The election is six days away...

            In that context, Inner City Press waited more than an hour outside Conference Room 7 in the UN Headquarters basement, hoping to ask Secretary-General  Kofi Annan if he knew about Peter Karim.  On May 30 at a then-more-frequently stakeout by the Secretary-General, Inner City Press asked about the peacekeepers, and Kofi Annan named Peter Karim, saying he would be held "personally accountable. From the video at Minutes 13:40 - 15:25, and the transcript:

Inner City Press question: "On the Democratic Republic of the Congo, what's being done for the 7 peacekeepers that were taken hostage in Ituri? And also, over the weekend, the UN military head in Bunia said elections can't really be held in this type of circumstance? What can be done in the run-up to elections to make it more?"

Secretary-General answer: "It is tragic what happened in Bunia and we lost one Nepalese and three are wounded and about seven are missing. And we have been in touch with Karim's group -- we think that is the group holding them, and demanding their release. And hopefully, we will get them released. But Karim and others who get involved in these sort of activities, must understand that they will be held accountable, as Lubanga has been picked up and is now in the hands of the ICC [International Criminal Court]. They will be held individually accountable for these brutal acts."

            Fifty four days later, as Mr. Annan left the Conference Room where he'd been meeting with pharmaceutical executives for more than an hour, Inner City Press approached with a "Congo question." One of two bodyguards motioned to stay back. As Mr. Annan exited from the bathroom, Inner City Press gave him wide latitude, only asking "Peter Karim?"

            Mr. Annan gestured that he was otherwise occupied, that his mind was full. "I've got the pharmaceutical," he said.

            Inner City Press provided Kofi Annan, directly in his hand, a copy of the prior week's article, "Congo Rebel to Lay Down Arms, Become Army Colonel."  The question in the margin: personal accountability? (May 30, 2006). Or impunity.  And contact information. 

  Inside Kofi Annan met with executives from, among others, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Merck (which for those counting was up fully 4.6% on the day, higher than absent rival Pfizer's 3.4%. One wag said perhaps the trip to the UN was too arduous for Pfizer.

            While waiting, rudimentary research shows that Peter Karim was described as a thief of the DRC's resources in the 2002 UN Report " Uganda's illegal resource exploitation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo," S/2002/1146, at Paragraphs 98 and 116 --

"98. The elite network operating out of Uganda is decentralized and loosely hierarchical, unlike the network operating out of Rwanda. The Uganda network consists of a core group of members including certain high-ranking UPDF officers, private businessmen and selected rebel leaders/administrators. UPDF Lieutenant General (Ret.) Salim Saleh and Major General James Kazini are the key figures. Other members include the Chief of Military Intelligence, Colonel Noble Mayombo, UPDF Colonel Kahinda Otafiire and Colonel Peter Karim. Private entrepreneurs include Sam Engola, Jacob Manu Soba and Mannase Savo and other Savo family members. Rebel politicians and administrators include Professor Wamba dia Wamba, Roger Lumbala, John Tibasima, Mbusa Nyamwisi and Toma Lubanga. 

"116. Trinity Investment’s local transporters in Bunia, the Savo family group among others, carry agricultural products, wood and cattle from Bunia to Kampala exempt from UPDF toll barriers and export taxes. Trinity investment also works with another front company under the name of Sagricof to fraudulently evacuate wood from North Kivu and the Ituri area. Tree plantations have been raided in the areas of Mahagi and Djugu along the north-eastern border with Uganda. Concerned citizens and research by local nongovernmental organizations have identified Colonel Peter Karim and Colonel Otafiire, in addition to the Ugandan parliamentarian Sam Ngola, as key figures in the illegal logging and fraudulent evacuation of wood."

            The UN has other, even more personal and damning information on Karim. So, when does allowing a warlord who kidnapped UN peacekeepers to become a colonel in a national army scream of not only of impunity but distraction, disinterest and lack of attention? At 5:15 p.m., after having devoted an hour and forty-five minutes to corporate executives, Kofi Annan swept away through the hall, bound for Rome and not Bunia, head filled with GlaxoSmithKline not the Congo, with an article and question. We'll see.

At the UN Poorest Nations Discussed, Disgust at DRC Short Shrift, Future UN Justice?

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee at the U.N.

UNITED NATIONS, July 20 -- The plight of the 50 least developed countries on Earth was the topic of discussion Thursday at the UN, at the margins of dueling stakeouts between the Ambassadors of the U.S. and Lebanon, Israel, Peru and Kofi Annan's band of three envoys to the Middle East.

  In from the Palais des Nations in Geneva, the UN's Charles Gore spoke with passion and at length about how countries in Africa are now inundated with food exported by more developed countries which subsidize its production and export.

  While not responding directly to Inner City Press' request for his analysis of the World Trade Organization regime and protectionism and subsidies by Europe and the U.S., Mr. Gore noted that fully 47% of aid actually transfers capital to the beneficiary nation. For the U.S.'s aid, said Mr. Gore, only 10% involves capital transfer. The rest is debt cancellation, emergency and food aid and "technical assistance," which is often just a transfer to the donor nation's own technocrats, as Ugandans have complained of the UNDP's aid.

Afghan Herat per UNHCR

          The reported increase in aid is largest attributable, Mr. Gore said, to Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, DRC. Out on the second story's main floor, the DRC and its looting for resources for armed insurgent groups was on the Security Council's agenda. Due to the Lebanese crisis and briefing by Kofi Annan, the DRC agenda was by all accounts rushed through. A three page draft resolution was perfunctorily dropped by the head of the sanctions committee Oswaldo de Rivero, the UN envoy from Peru.

            Amb. Rivero also came to the stakeout, to speak of Lebanon. He sounded suspiciously Boltonesque, stressing that it is impossible to negotiate a ceasefire with a terroristic group. Earlier Amb. Bolton went further, asking what a ceasefire would mean to any non-elected government. Given the number of UN member states, including U.S. allies, which are not democracies, it seemed a loaded question.

            At Amb. Rivero's stakeout, Inner City Press asked what countries were pushing-back on the proposals for a ceasefire or cessation of hostilities in Lebanon. He answered non-committally that the Council is united, at least on matters humanitarian. After the stakeout, at he re-entered the Council chamber, Inner City Press asked him why Peru had abstained from the Gaza resolution on July 13.  "Because these two are connected," Amb. Rivero answered, gesturing into the Council.

            "Gaza and Lebanon?"

            "Exactly. They have to be solved together," he said.

            "It wasn't that you thought the resolution should be directed less at Tel Aviv?"    "No, no," Amb. Rivero insisted. "It was because Lebanon had to be included. That's the only reason we abstained."

            Perhaps... Substantively on the Congo, while still awaiting straight answers, more information emerged Thursday about the UN's negotiations with Peter Karim, who parlayed the kidnapping of seven UN peacekeepers into a job as a colonel in the DCR army. Not only did Karim demand shoes, and lots of them -- he also insisted that his motorcycle be returned to him by Congolese authorities. The bike was returned. And then, Peter Karim was offered a position as colonel in the Congolese national army.

            Improvements in staff justice? Thursday afternoon there was a sparsely attended briefing by the Redesign Panel on the UN Internal Justice System. Five of the members of the Panel presented their proposal, which would they said provide faster and more professional justice. Inner City Press asked if the cases and results would be public, unlike the current system. Mary Gaudron, currently a judge for the International Labour Organization Administrative Tribunal, answered the hearings would be public as would be results, unless the judge "in the interest of justice" decided otherwise.  Inner City Press asked about some current cases; a colleague correspondent of shall we say school boyish charm asked about bringing the corrupt to justice. With questions still unasked, the briefing was brought to a close. One of yesterday's questions, however, received a one-line answer. "In response to your question from yesterday: the Deputy Secretary-General met with members of the Iraq Revenue Watch as part of his briefings to understand better the issues related to the preparation of the International Compact for Iraq." Alright, then. To be continued.

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Conflicts of Interest in UNHCR Program with SocGen and Pictet Reveal Reform Rifts

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee at the U.N.

UNITED NATIONS, July 12, 11:45 am, updated 7 pm -- Eager to "team up" with banks Societe Generale and Pictet & Company, the United Nations' refugee agency allowed SocGen to use the UN logo in a way subsequently criticized by UN legal staff, and to invest Kashmir Relief Notes funds in a Pictet & Cie fund despite owner Ivan Pictet being a member of the UN Investment Committee. Criticized by other UN units, UNHCR agreed to cease renting out the UN logo, but said nothing can be done about the investment with Pictet et Cie.

    Inner City Press first raised these matters in April 2006. Earlier today UNHCR in Geneva finally responded, confirming but defending the investment in a Pictet fund.  UNHCR's Ron Redmond wrote to Inner City Press that

"based on the information available to us, there is no conflict of interest created for Mr. Ivan Pictet, managing partner of Pictet & Cie, and ad hoc member of the UN Investments Committee, by the fact that Pictet Funds Indian Equities is one of the funds in which KRN funds are invested. Societe Generale, the issuer of the Note, is solely responsible for choosing the funds and this selection is based on recognized risk management and hedging criteria; UNHCR plays a purely passive role as the recipient of a donation and has no interest in the performance of the Note. Moreover, Mr. Pictet's membership in the UN Investments Committee was unknown to all parties involved in drawing up this investment product, and we trust therefore that the decision to include a fund managed by Pictet & Cie was taken in good faith."

         Whether this is in keeping with current and proposed UN standards of ethics and transparency will be seen in coming days. Whether the stated lack of knowledge of Mr. Pictet's membership on the UN Investment Committee comports with minimal corporate or competence standards is also in question. The problem is a wider one: in a defensive internal memo reviewed by Inner City Press, UNHCR lawyer Helmut Buss argues that UNICEF similarly partners with FIFA and NIS Petrol Co, and that the World Food Programme does the same with TNT Airways and the World Rugby Board. Nevertheless, UNHCR has agreed to drop the logo use and the "teams up" language deployed in its April 5 press release.

            The investment in a fund controlled by a member of the UN Investment Committee UNHCR defends, including by pointing out that Morgan Stanley's Francine Bovich is also on the UN Investment Board, while the UN does much business with JPMorgan Chase. (Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan Chase, despite the comment reference to Pierpont, are not related companies.) The UNHCR memo's argument is that it's too complicated or burdensome to avoid conflicts of interest. UNHCR's earlier justification to Inner City Press argued that "we are not talking about the usual procurement procedure," when talking about an investment in a fund controlled by a member of the UN Investment Committee.

            This conflict-or-reform debate has included at least in the carbon copies Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch-Brown, who appears to have agreed that UNHCR's actions were improper. The paper trail may be important. The story began with a UNHCR press release on April 5 of this year, headlined "New corporate investment scheme helps fund UN quake relief efforts" and stating that "the United Nations refugee agency has teamed up with two Swiss investment companies in a scheme that will benefit its earthquake relief operation in Pakistan. The joint project launched by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Zurich-based Societe Generale Corporate & Investment Banking, and derilab s.a., a derivatives company, will allow investors to participate in a financial product that affords a unique opportunity to support reconstruction and relief efforts."

   Inner City Press inquired into the release and published a round-up article on April 11 questioning the partnership: "It might well be on the level. But it's not yet clear that if it weren't, the scheme would not proceed. It would help if the follow-up questions were answered."

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