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After Ladsous Stonewall on Pinga, UN in Geneva Acknowledges Heads, Grenades

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 27 -- Amid chaos and some UN failure in Eastern Congo, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations has ranged from blocking questions to answering them late and incompletely.

  But one benefit of the structure of the UN system is that there are overlapping mandates, joint work, other places to ask.

   After twice being blocked from getting answers from, or even formally posing questions to, DPKO chief Herve Ladsous, and with a long delay in responses to written questions, Inner City Press posed some different but related questions to the Office of the Human Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva.

Yesterday we published, upon receipt, OHCHR spokesman Rupert Colville's explanation of the UN's stated Human Rights Due Diligence Policy (even if DPKO's belated answers, today, make the policy less than meaningful).

   Now we have this information, also from OHCHR (along with a HCHR op-ed), in response to Inner City Press' question about a reported incident in which a local Mayi Mayi group -- Mai Mai Cheka -- "allegedly threw the heads of decapitated civilians at the UN base in the village of Pinga, Walikale territory, North Kivu province."

  The response, from Geneva, is that "the UN did receive reports of decapitated heads, possibly of opposing combatants, being paraded on sticks in the village on two separate incidents on 13 and 19 September 2012.

   "The UN has documented a series of violent incidents, mainly between rival Mayi Mayi groups and between the Congolese army and Mayi Mayi groups between the end of August and November. UN peacekeepers on several occasions actively used force in order to protect civilians at immediate risk from these clashes. For example, on 3 October UN peacekeepers threw two hand grenades in order to stop combatants from harming civilians in the vicinity of the UN base. In November, two peacekeepers were injured as they tried to assist some 500 civilians who had gathered at the UN base in Pinga.

   "MONUSCO deployed a Joint Protection Team to Kashuga, Kalembe and Pinga from 24 to 28 September 2012. The multidisciplinary mission which included representatives of civil society organizations raised several recommendations including the deployment of a UNJHRO investigation mission. The latter was promptly planned but had to be canceled due to security constrains in and around Pinga at the time. However, following the recommendations of the Joint Protection Team , additional FARDC units were re-deployed to the area and Egyptian peacekeepers were also sent from Beni to Pinga to reinforce the local COB."

   So, this information exists. But when Inner City Press asked DPKO chief Ladsous what the UN was doing to protect civilians in Pinga, he refused to answer the question. Even after it was submitted in writing in New York, no answer has come. Only from Geneva. So it goes at the UN.

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