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UN Didn't Respond on Its Role in DRC Fighting, Then Chides ICP, Ends Briefing

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 29 -- If the UN tells the press it is not involved in a military action, when that changes and a member of the UN's Force Intervention Brigade gets killed, shouldn't the UN be expected to provide an update?

  On October 29, UN Spokesperson Martin Nesirky ended the noon briefing by telling Inner City Press to "be careful" about reporting he'd said the UN was not involved in the fighting -- he'd only said not involved "at that time," on October 25.

  Inner City Press asked to be allowed a follow-up question, but Nesirky ended the briefing. Video here and embedded below.

  But the reality is, when what Nesirky said on October 25 about the UN not being involved seemed to no longer be true, when a FIB member was killed, Inner City Press on Sunday, October 27 wrote to Nesirky and his acting deputy and asked them to explain.

They never answered that e-mail. Monday's noon briefing was canceled in favor of two songs on a piano in the Dag Hammarskjold Library Auditorium. Still no answer from Nesirky's office.

Then when asked to explain at Tuesday's noon briefing, Nesirky criticized Inner City Press, saying "be careful" about reporting he'd said the UN was not involved in the fighting -- he'd only said not involved "at that time," on October 25. But why no update? Why no answers?

On October 25, Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson Martin Nesirky if the Tanzanian component of the UN's "Force Intervention Brigade" was involved in the Congolese Army's fighting with the M23:

Inner City Press: I wanted to know whether MONUSCO can say who began this fighting. There is also a DRC citizen, Catherine Gihombo, who was shot by FARDC and is now being treated in hospital, and I wanted to know if MONUSCO was aware of any civilian casualties caused by the DRC army, and also it is said that the Tanzanian artillery of the Force Intervention Brigade has become part of it in some way, I am asking you whether they can confirm or deny that.

Spokesperson Nesirky: Well, on the last, as we have said, the Mission is monitoring what is going on; it is not actively involved at the moment. With regard to the other two questions, I will check on the civilian casualties, whether there is any further update for the Mission on that. And with regard to the very first question about who started it, at this point, I do not have clear information on that. I think the Mission is still looking into it, and obviously what is most important is stopping it at this point.

In the days afterward, the UN provided no information on civilian casualties, and no update to the public statement that the Force Intervention Brigade was not involved.

In fact, the UN and various envoys on the Great Lakes issues calls for restraint.

Then it emerged that a Tanzanian soldier in the FIB had been killed in Kiwanja. Inner City Press asked for an explanation, in writing, of the October 25 statement that the FIB was not involved, and this new announcement:

"On Friday I asked if UN Force Intervention Brigade was involved in fighting between FARDC and M23 and was told 'no.' Now I hear that a Tanzanian soldier in the FIB was killed in fighting in Kiwanja. Please confirm (or deny) this, and describe UN and Force Intervention Brigade in fighting between FARDC and M23."

This question was not answered for two days. Inner City Press asked at the October 29 briefing and was told to be careful about reported what Nesirky said on October 25. But despite the direct request, he never updated what he had said. We will have more on this. Watch this site.

Footnote: We note that the pattern of refusal to answer questions (and now, no follow up) began with Herve Ladsous, video here, UK coverage here. But it ill serves UN Peacekeepers, and the UN.


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