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At UN in Congo, Gold and Dealing with Nkunda, Sexual Threats and New Staff Complaints

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, August 13 -- The UN's force commander for its mission in the Congo, Babacar Gaye, confirmed on Wednesday that one of the Indian peacekeepers under his command had praised, on tape, militia leader Laurent Nkunda. He declined to comment what Inner City Press heard when in the Congo in June, that the Indian battalion in North Kivu ignored his orders to engage and fight with Nkunda's forces, and instead after calling New Delhi retreated to their base.  "That is why we are investigating," Gaye said, "to know how deep is the matter, how bad is it." Video here, from Minute 28.

  On other scandals surrounding MONUC, Gaye was dismissive. Inner City Press asked if he was satisfied with the mere warning India gave to three peacekeepers found by the UN to have sought to buy gold in the Congo, then imprisoned and sexually threatened the seller of what turned out to be false gold. We're not talking about a lot of gold, Gaye said, joking that it was nonetheless improper, just as he will not buy a (blood) diamond for his wife, "I'm sorry Madame."  Video here, from Minute 54:40.

  But the gold trading allegations against MONUC under Gaye's watch are more extensive, including returning guns to Eastern Congo militias in return for gold, and escorting gold traders around in MONUC vehicles. So to have the force commander joking about the buying of gold and diamonds in a conflict-ridden environment is only an encouragement toward impunity. Likewise Gaye's statements Wednesday about the finding of prima facie evidence of widespread sexual abuse, allegedly of hundreds of children in Masisi. They pay for sex, Gaye said.  It is against the UN's rules but is it a crime? I don't think so, he said.

Babacar Gaye and MONUC civilian chief Alan Doss, with a Mountain between them

  In fact, on Gaye's way out of the briefing room, Inner City Press asked him again about the gold trading and sexual threat charges which the UN found credible and forwarded to India. So they said, give us our money back or we'll f*ck you, Gaye said. It happens all the time.  So much for zero tolerance.

  The problems at MONUC are not only not only sexual, they are not only military. The national staff have filed two complaints, which Inner City Press is putting online here and here. These are issues that were ostensibly being solved under then-Department of Field Support acting director Jane Holl Lute, now passed on to Susana Malcorra and human resources chief Catherine Pollard. How will they deal with the issues?

Watch this site. And this (on South Ossetia), and this --


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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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