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In DRC, Tshisekedi Asks for Protection, UN Tells Him Kabila Is In Change

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 4 -- Amid reports of anomalies in the voting and vote-counting in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and incumbent Joseph Kabila cutting off text message service and directing the tear gassing of supporters of his opponent Etienne Tshisekedi, the $1 billion UN Mission in the Congo, MONUSCO, has been criticized for remaining quiet.

   Tshisekedi's spokesman Albert Moleka, the cabinet director of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress party, said "We found out that all these election figures were all made up with the complicity of the MONUSCO because it was part of the commission that validated the results. It’s a serious matter because MONUSCO was supposed to [bolster] security for the Congolese people and also to help us through the electoral process."

  The UDPS party wrote to the UN asking for protection of Tshisekedi, and "regretting" MONUSCO's failure to respond. Inner City Press on Wednesday asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Martin Nesirky:

Inner City Press: ...reports of a letter from the UDPS, the opposition party in the Congo, to the UN asking that MONUSCO [United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo] provide protection to Mr. Tshisekedi and expressing, I guess, some regret that there has been a lack of response by MONUSCO. Can you confirm such a letter and is MONUSCO going to protect him?

Spokesperson Nesirky: There is certainly a letter that has been received, and it is being looked into. That’s what I can tell you at the moment. MONUSCO has certainly received a letter, and they are looking into it. And the same goes here with DPKO; with our colleagues in the Peacekeeping Department here.

Inner City Press: Okay, but if they have a protection of civilians mandate it would extend to opposition figures?

Spokesperson Nesirky: As I say, Matthew, the letter has been received and they are looking into it. Yes? Last question.

  Later on January 4, Ban's spokesperson's office provided this response:

Subject: Your question on the DRC
From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply [at]
Date: Wed, Jan 4, 2012 at 5:09 PM
To: Matthew.Lee [at]

Concerning your question at today's Noon Briefing, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations informs us of the below:

The provision of security for prominent political figures is the responsibility of the Congolese authorities.

(c) UN Photo
Tshisekedi in Ban's office, protection back in DRC not shown

It is MONUSCO's understanding that the Congolese authorities and UDPS are in direct discussions regarding the provision of appropriate security for Mr. Tshisekedi, including at his residence in Kinshasa.

In cases where the national authorities lack the capacity to provide security to major political stakeholders, the Security Council has given our peacekeeping missions the specific mandate and the essential specialized capabilities to perform that task, in cooperation with the national authorities.

In accordance with its mandate, MONUSCO will do what it can with existing capabilities and within the Mission’s areas of deployment to protect civilians who are under imminent threat of violence, as needed.

Often in the history of UN Missions in the Congo, including under MONUSCO's predecessor MONUC under Alan Doss and UN Peacekeeping chiefs Jean-Marie Guehenno and Alain Le Roy, failure to protect by the UN was defended based on the size of the country, the lack of notice, the lack of road.

Here, a figure earlier received in New York by Ban Ki-moon (how ever much Ban may now regret it) is asking Doss' successor Roger Meece and Le Roy's successor Herve Ladsous for protection, after authorities tear gassed his supporters and, he says, put him under house arrest -- and he is told that "the provision of security for prominent political figures is the responsibility of the Congolese authorities."

Does the UN do more these days to protect civilians, or less? The answer seems clear. Watch this site.

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