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After Ladsous Met Bashir, His Spox Orders Mic to AFP for Softball, Seized It

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 24 -- While the UN claims to have a policy of only meeting with indictees of the International Criminal Court when it is "strictly necessary," UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous this month met with Sudan's Omar al Bashir, indicted by the ICC for war crimes and genocide in Darfur.

Ladsous and his four spokespeople have refused to answer Press questions; as Inner City Press reported, rights groups -- but not Human Rights Watch -- say they lobbied against the meeting but were rebuffed.

So when the head of Ladsous' Mission in Darfur Mohamed ibn Chambas came to the UN Security Council stakeout to take question on Wednesday, Inner City Press was ready.

  When Chambas arrived at the UN microphone, Inner City Press was the only reporter there. In the spirit of the Free UN Coalition for Access, Inner City Press suggested to Chambas he make whatever opening statement he liked, before Inner City Press would ask the Bashir and ICC question. Video here, at beginning.

  Chambas spoke, including about the unsolved killing of seven Tanzanian peacekeepers under Ladsous' command and "care," then looked to Inner City Press for a question.

But just then Ladsous' spokesman Andre-Michel Essoungou who in December went so far as to grab the UN microphone to try to prevent Inner City Press from asking Ladsous about the 135 rapes at Minova by Ladsous' partners in the Congolese Army including the 391st Battalion, intervened.

  Essoungou ordered the person with the UNTV boom microphone, an employee of new contractor TeamPeople and not of the UN, to move it away from Inner City Press and give it instead to the Agence France Presse reporter who has defended Ladsous since Ladsous was given the job, not at the first choice, back in September 2011.

This reporter, who has done more for Ladsous through the UN Correspondents Association and since, not surprisingly thanked Ladsous' spokesman Essoungou.

  But given what happened in December with the microphone, and repeated promises by the UN Department of Public Information that Essoungou had been spoken to, Inner City Press asked him what his role was, and if the goal was to give the question to AFP, Agence France Presse. Video here, from Minute 1:00.

Essoungou, like Ladsous, did not answer. Inner City Press waited while the AFP reported asked a generic softball question about the peacekeepers killed under Ladsous' watch, and then ask about those killings (specifically reports that the stolen UN vehicles were seen in the possession of an associate of Ali Kushayb, also ICC indicted) and about Ladsous' meeting with Omar al Bashir. Video here, from Minute 2:43.

On the killings, Chambas said there is an investigation, now a UN "Board of Inquiry" such as was held -- but not acted on -- in the case of UN Security officer Louis Maxwell killed in and by Afghanistan, click here for that.

Chambas did not answer the Bashir meeting question, so Inner City Press asked it again. Video here at Minute 4:37. Chambas said it was better to leave that to Mr. Ladsous.

But he hasn't done a stakeout in a while, Inner City Press pointed out. (Even when he has, he has refused questions or tried to avoid them, for example by Essoungou's microphone grab.)

He may soon, Chambas said, and left the microphone. Essoungou was long gone. This is how this UN works - or doesn't. We'll have more on this.


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