Inner City Press

Inner City Press -- Investigative Reporting Since 1987

From the Inner City to Wall Street to the United Nations

- In Other Media   For further information, click here to contact us         .

Home -For the Media

How to Contact Us

Inner City Press recommends buying this book

Click on cover for secure site orders

also includes "Toxic Credit in the Global Inner City"

How to Contact Us


Bank Beat/ RSS Feed
Freedom of Information
Human Rights
Current Campaigns
How to Contact Us

Inner City Press Global Inner Cities Report - March 20, 2006

Kofi, Kony, Kagame and Coltan: This Moment in the Congo and Kampala

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee, Inner City Press U.N. Correspondent

  UNITED NATIONS, March 20 -- As Kofi Annan visits Congo-Brazzaville and then Congo-Kinshasa, it is reported that Joseph Kony and others in the Lord's Resistance Army have taken refugee in Garamba National Park in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. Speaking in Nairobi, Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni has threatened to send soldiers across the border after Kony "to the Garamba National Park of Congo-Kinshasa [which] is under the control of the United Nations and the Kinshasa government." DRC spokesman Henri Mova Sakanyi told AFP that Museveni is threatening to continuing looting Eastern Congo. "Museveni can still recollect how Uganda looted from our country's northern region for five years and what he did through militia who remained on the ground," Mova said.  The looting of the Congo has included everything from timber to the coltan used in cell phones. Indicative on the continuing chaos, Mova added that the DRC authorities have "no means of establishing whether the LRA were present in the country."

            The United Nations has 17,000 peacekeepers in the DRC, and Joseph Kony has been indicted by the UN's International Criminal Court. On Monday, Inner City Press asked Kofi Annan's spokesman at the noon briefing if the UN / MONUC could confirm Joseph Kony's presence in the DRC, and if so what action would be taken.  The response, given after the briefing, was that "We're not in a position to confirm Kony's whereabouts" and "we continue to encourage the resolution of this matter through political rather than military means. Also, the international community would find it very difficult to condone any violation of the DRC's territorial integrity by any of its neighboring states." Other incursions into the DR Congo have been directed by the Rwandan government of Paul Kagame.

            The Kampala newspaper New Vision reported on a meeting in Washington last week between Ugandan journalists and the U.S. Director for African Affairs at the National Security Council, Cindy Courville, quoting Ms. Courville that "We know that you are challenged by Kony. Many people feel frustrated but we have to work with you and get a solution. We feel that it is probably not right to deploy 2,000 American soldiers to fight one man." (How this relates to Osama Bin Laden, or Saddam Hussein for that matter, is not clear, noted one wag.)

            A question here is how much involves pretexts to access DR Congo's resources, versus a commitment to human rights and end to impunity. Another question involves how credible, even with the EU force agreed to earlier today, the results of the elections slated for June can be. A third question involves reports of avian flu in both DR Congo and Uganda. And a fourth question, ongoing, concerns MONUC's "Operation Ituri Engraver," regarding which Inner City Press was informed on March 20 by an OSSG staffer: "heard back from the Mission on Operation Engraver... not much to report there except that units are still in position and a few skirmishes but that's pretty much it -- no change in deployment or serious encounters." We will continue pursuing these questions - watch this site.

 MONUC / UN helicopterBrazzaville 3/19/06

Elsewhere at UN headquarters on Monday, during a discussion of human rights in the Hong Kong SAR it was noted (and by wi-fi confirmed) that the official web site's index link on human rights -- leads nowhere...

An update: on Monday UNHCR disclosed that it has been asked to leave Uzbekistan in one month's time, noting that "[t]he fate of an increasing number of Uzbek asylum seekers who have been detained in Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries and forcibly returned to Uzbekistan is also of continuing concern to UNHCR." Inner City Press, which reported last month on the eleven Uzbeks deported from Ukraine, has asked UNHCR how many more Uzbek asylum seekers have been detained in CIS countries and, separately, have been forcibly returned to Uzbekistan. This would seem to be a question that can be answered in the next month.

In Congolese Chaos, Shots Fired at U.N. Helicopter Gunship

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee, Inner City Press U.N. Correspondent

UNITED NATIONS, March 2 – In the eastern Congo, a joint operation between UN peacekeepers and Congolese soldiers to drive militias out of the town of Tchei has been called off, following a mutiny by dozens of Congolese soldiers. The soldiers fired on a UN helicopter carrying General Padiri of the Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo, or FARDC. What this means for the DRC elections scheduled for later this year, and for the 17,000 UN peacekeepers in the DRC, is not clear.

            At a noon briefing at UN headquarters in New York, the Secretary-General’s spokesman described the operation to re-take Tchei.  In response to a question by Inner City Press, he also described Congolese army officers taking refuge from their troops in a UN compound.  The questions of implications for UN peacekeeping and DR Congo’s slated elections were left open. Following the briefing, a staffer tracking developments in Ituri confirmed that shots had been fired at UN helicopter.  He reported that a UN camp had been looted of foodstuff, saying that might explain the mutiny. He added that despite some reports that rebels were using human shields, there is no evidence of that.

            The mutiny by the FARDC troops in Tchei is not a one-off or primarily food-driven event. Further south, there have been reports of desertions from the FARDC’s 109th brigade, by soldiers refusing to fight the Burundian National Liberation Front Hutu rebels. In Ituri, the major groups are not Hutu and Tutsi but rather Hema and Lendu, and the largest rebel group is the Congolese Revolutionary Movement, which claims 18,000 militiamen.

            In terms of natural resources, the DR Congo has many, including but not limited to the coltan which is used in cellular phones; its resources have been up for grabs during the last years of chaos. Now some politicians in the Congolese Rally for Democracy (CRD) party are demanding immediate implementation of provisions concerning the share of the tax revenues between the central government and the provinces. Joseph Kabila’s People's Party for Reconstruction and Development (PPRD) has refused. Meanwhile, there’s been a recent leak of a report by the DRC's National Assembly's Special Commission on the war contracts reporting up to $10 billion may have been embezzled by the regime of Kabila père and the other warring parties.

            While public announcements of financial arrangements are few, in a rare and surreal November 2005 press release, First Canadian American Holding Corporation (FCAHC)  announced that its CEO Sandy Winick had “met with the Chargé d'Affaires -- Madam Louise Nzanga Ramazani of the DRC at their Embassy in Ottawa with First Canadian's consulting firm Quathemetin Consultants, to discuss furthering the development of low-cost housing in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. First Canadian American Holding Corporation is the international licensee for Terrablock building products, a construction and development firm based in Orlando, Florida.” FCAHC describes itself has having “operations in areas of digital television, radio and building and construction” and as “actively looking at several other opportunities in many different industries such as natural resources, wireless, technology and biotechnology.” 

            In terms of housing, or the re-housing of those displaced, amid reports that hundred of civilians have fled Tchei, Inner City Press inquired with UNHCR in Geneva regarding provisions for refugees but was still awaiting a response at press time. From Kinshasa, MONUC issued a press release stating that civilians in Tchei are or were being “held against their will,” but distinguishing this from human shields since “due to their rules of engagement, blue helmets have to identify their targets before opening fire with light or heavy weapons, such as attack helicopters.” Meanwhile the rebels in Tchei have fired at UN helicopters.  The Congo war and its four million dead, already barely covered in major media, can barely hit the news even when a UN helicopter is fired upon. This is a developing story that we will continue to follow.

Multimedia:  Audio report from VoA

Inner City Press Global Inner Cities Report - February 28, 2006

In the Sudanese Crisis, Oil Revenue Goes Missing, UN Says

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee, Inner City Press U.N. Correspondent

    UNITED NATIONS, Feb. 28 – The UN’s Jan Pronk, briefing reporters on Tuesday about developments in Sudan, said that his mission is underfunded and that as regards Sudan’s oil sales, there is no transparency and little benefit to the Sudanese people. In the North –South conflict, according to Mr. Pronk, the North claims to have forwarded $700 million in oil revenues to the South, as a sort of peace dividend. But the South says the money has not been received. Mr. Pronk said, “Where is the oil? How much is there? How much is being produced? What is the reference price?”  Mr. Pronk said he is awaiting information from the International Monetary Fund. “There is no transparency,” he said.

     When asked by Inner City Press if he could, within the bounds of diplomacy, provide guidance to countries which are economically engaged with Sudan, Mr. Pronk declined, limiting his response to the Security Council’s consideration of a list of responsible individuals (but not corporations). Unstated at the briefing was the well documented engagement in Sudanese oil by Security Council member China.


  Mr. Pronk also spoke of Chad, into which the conflict has spread, and where the government recently reneged on its previous commitments that the revenue from the Chad-Cameroon oil pipeline, run by ExxonMobil, would be devoted to social welfare programs. Mr. Pronk stated that Chad is blocking action on cease-fire and other issues in the Abuja process.

  Mr. Pronk referred several times to Al Qaeda. On the one hand he stated that a force from the UN, rather than NATO, would be less likely to “set off a jihad.” On the other hand he referred to death threats in letters – not against him, he said, but unnamed others. This is based on intelligence, he said.

   Interviewed after the briefing by Inner City Press, Mr. Pronk elaborated on his earlier comment that NATO has “boots on the ground” in Darfur. Asked about press reports that NATO has been providing air support to the African Union force in Darfur, Mr. Pronk shook his head. “They have a few helicopters,” he said. “But nothing more than that.”

 Logistically, while Mr. Pronk had planned to meet with the African Union at a meeting about Darfur on March 3, that meeting has been postponed for a week. Mr. Pronk will be in Paris on that day at what he called “his” Consortium meeting, but said that “we” will be represented at the Feb. 10 AU meeting. We’ll see…

Another Inner City Press report earlier this year on Sudan:

Darfur on the Margins: Slovenia’s President Drnovsek’s Quixotic Call for Action Ignored

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee, for Inner City Press

   UNITED NATIONS, Jan. 18 – If the president of a lesser-known former Yugoslav republic calls for coordinated global action in Sudan, does anybody hear?

  At the United Nations on Jan. 18, Slovenia’s president Janez Drnovsek briefed reporters about the initiative he began two weeks ago by writing letters to the presidents of other, mostly larger countries, highlighting the crisis in Darfur. So far few countries have responded. Just prior to the press conference, the U.S. representative to the UN, John Bolton, told Slovene media he hadn’t heard of Mr. Drnovsek’s plan. When asked by Inner City Press if he still intends to go to Washington to meet with members of Congress, Mr. Drnovsek said no, since “some Senators have not come back from their holidays yet.” Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito might disagree.

  Mr. Drnovsek compared Darfur with Rwanda and, closer to Slovenia, to Bosnia. He stated that in the past three years in Darfur, three million people have been displaced, and 100,000 killed. He proposed, in the short term, opening a refugee camp for up to 10,000. He mentioned China’s business involvements in Sudan, without mentioning the word oil. Without mentioning Iraq, Mr. Drnovsek noted that the U.S. might not be in a position to send soldiers, but should otherwise contribute. “Mr. Bolton,” he said, “has surely heard of Darfur.” But apparent not of the Slovene president’s plan, nor perhaps of the Slovene president himself.

  Several reporters noted the relative importance of what is said, and who does the saying. John Bolton can ignore a Slovene proposal.  Similarly, for readers of Inner City Press’ recent UN reporting, the International Monetary Fund and the IAMB can apparently ignore questions from the smaller, more independent media about the oil metering contract in Iraq with a still unnamed U.S. company that was mentioned at their December 28 press conference. The U.S. company has still not been named, despite a public commitment to do so by early January. Inner City Press will continue to follow this and other UN-related issues.

  Janez Drnovsek is not the first Slovene president to trod the UN stage in Turtle Bay. Janez Stanovnik, president just after the collapse of Yugoslavia, served for years at the United Nations’ Economic Commission for Europe, and at UNCTAD. Mr. Stanovnik told the UN Intellectual History Project that “it is completely illogical that the operational decisions be carried out under the principle of one country, one vote,” given the difference in population between countries. Perhaps that is why some can ignore current Slovene president Drnovsek. But as he pointed out, what role is the world’s most populous nation playing in Sudan? The power-players at the UN are all otherwise occupied, with Iraq and now Iran (and, much further down the list, bird flu).  Egypt still has imprisoned several hundred Sudanese refugees, including from Darfur. In these swirling news cycles in which Africa is so often an after-thought, Mr. Drnovsek’s lonely voice is welcome. But will it be enough?

Some previous reports:

In Locked Down Iraq, Oil Flows Unmetered While Questions Run in Circles

What is the Sound of Eleven Uzbeks Disappearing? A Lack of Seats in Tashkent, a Turf War at UN

Kosovo: Of Collective Punishment and Electricity; Lights Out on Privatization of Ferronikeli Mines

Abkhazia: Cleansing and (Money) Laundering, Says Georgia, Even Terror’s Haven

Post-Tsunami Human Rights Abuses, including by UNDP in the Maldives

Halliburton Repays $9 Million, While Iraq’s Oil Remains Unmetered

Darfur on the Margins: Slovenia’s President Drnovsek’s Quixotic Call for Action Ignored

Who Pays for the Global Bird Flu Fight? Not the Corporations, So Far - UN

Royal Bank of Scotland Has Repeatedly Been Linked to Terrorist Finance and Money Laundering, Not Only in the Current Brooklyn Case

From Appalachia to Wall Street: Behind the Mining Tragedy, UBS and Lehman Brothers

Iraqis Absent from Oil Oversight Meeting on Development Fund for Iraq, Purportedly Due to Visa Problems

Watching the Detectives: Oversight of the Development Fund for Iraq Will be Discussed at the UN on December 28, 2005

From the UN Budget, Transit Strike, to the USA Patriot Act, 2005 Ends with Extensions

Some previous highlights and special reports:

Citigroup Dissembles at United Nations Environmental Conference

The United Nations' Year of Microcredit: Questions & No Answers

Older Inner City Press reports are archived on -  if you have trouble finding previous articles, please contact us


©opyright 2006 Inner City Press, Inc. To request reprint or other permission, e-contact Editors [at] - phone: (718) 716-3540