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UN Assisted Ouattara Forces in Cote d'Ivoire, No Answer on Migiro, Gambari

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 23 -- Over the weekend complaints from Abidjan in the Ivory Coast reached Inner City Press, that UN peacekeepers had stood by as a peaceful assembly of supporters of former president Laurent Gbagbo was attacked.

  And so on Monday Inner City Press asked both Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Martin Nesirky, and a representative of the Ivorian Mission to the UN, about the allegations. From the UN's noon briefing transcript:

Inner City Press: in Cote d'Ivoire, there was a rally of supporters of the former President or leader Laurent Gbagbo, and they are saying that they were rallying and that they were abused by police in full view of UN peacekeepers and that the peacekeepers did nothing... Has UNOCI [United Nations Operation in Cote d'Ivoire] sent you any information on this incident and what is their mandate in terms of econciliation, this seemed to be a peacefully rally, at least according to those who participated in it?

Spokesperson: Well, I’d have to check on that, Matthew. I don’t have anything on that.

  Four hours later the following was emailed to Inner City Press as it was inserted into the transcript:

[The Spokesperson later said that according to UNOCI, Formed Police Units assisted Ivorian police officers and gendarmes who have the primary responsibility for maintaining order. The Operation said it continues to work with the authorities to avoid similar incidents. Nesirky also noted that the Operation had issued a statement condemning Saturday’s incidents and calling on the Government to take the appropriate measures to determine their circumstances.]

  Meanwhile in the UN's North Lawn building, Inner City Press asked a representative of the Ivorian Mission to the UN, who agreed that the UN should issue its own observations of events.

  But here, as in South Sudan, the UN rather than objectively observing and reporting is instead "assist[ing] Ivorian police officers and gendarmes who have the primary responsibility for maintaining order."

  When the UN is found to be standing by while civilians are attacked, whether in Southern Kordofan in Sudan, Pibor in South Sudan or now in Abidjan, the UN will and should always be questioned. Separately, where the UN applies a double standard to where it will report on facts, or issue estimates of casualties, the UN will and should always be questioned.

  But this UN often doesn't want to answer questions. At the January 23 noon briefing, Inner City Press asked about two already public issues, and one pending, without any answer:

Inner City Press: it came out over the weekend that there was a wedding reception in Khartoum, the wedding of Idriss Deby to the daughter of Musa Hilal, who is one of the main leaders of the Janjaweed militia. And unless it is a fabrication, there are photographs, wire service of Ibrahim Gambari, UN-African Union envoy, greeting and smiling and laughing with Omar al-Bashir. So, I wanted to know, since he is indicted by the ICC [International Criminal Court], and the UN has said that they only deal with the ICC indictees on a necessary or as necessary basis, how is it necessary to attend this wedding ceremony and be, you know, be dealing in this way with Omer al-Bashir?

Spokesperson: I’ll have to check on that, I haven’t seen those pictures, Matthew. Yeah, other questions, please?

Gambari & Bashir: now Un see it?

Inner City Press: ...have you seen that there is a comment by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Tanzania saying that Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro has confirmed that her time at the UN is done? Is that an accurate statement by him, and I mean, I guess I will put it that way?

Spokesperson: I haven’t seen that statement, Matthew.

 Well, as media in Tanzania and elsewhere saw over the weekend, the link is here. Then:

Question: about Sri Lanka, and the commitment to do an inquiry into the UN’s own actions in Sri Lanka that was made by the Secretary-General in September. Has that been done, and what would you make of their criticism that the Secretary-General should do more, specifically on the issue of Sri Lanka?

Spokesperson: ...on Sri Lanka, this is for the member States of the Human Rights Council now to look at. It is has been passed to them, and it is for them to look at. That’s the second thing. What was the third part, Matthew?

Inner City Press: the inquiry, where he committed to do an inquiry…

Spokesperson: Yes, right, right, yes, yes, exactly, yes. Excuse me. The third part is to do with looking at how the United Nations system, the different parts of the UN family responded as a whole during that crisis, that is something that is still under way. There’s no conclusion to that yet. But it is under way.

Inner City Press: Who is doing it? I mean, just to… because you gave… the other time there was a follow-up on the cholera Haiti commission, is it possible to know who is in charge of it and -- ?

Spokesperson: I’ll let you know.

  There was no information given, unlike on Cote d'Ivoire, when the UN finalized its transcript four hours later. Watch this site.

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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