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As Haiti Burns and Suffers, UN Stonewalls on Voting and Cholera in Camp Corail

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 8 -- Amid protests of electoral fraud in Haiti, the UN finds itself hindered by increasing reports that its peacekeepers introduced cholera to Haiti. Meanwhile the UN refuses to answer questions, about whether the 100,000 people in Camp Corail were even allowed to vote, what precautions are being taken against a “cholera time bomb” there, even about how much it pays its spokespeople in Haiti.

This last question has been pending with Ban Ki-moon's spokesman's office since November 26. On December 8, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky questions about peacekeepers and cholera:

Inner City Press: There have been a lot of protests of the results that were just announced, and it’s said that the headquarters of [René] Préval’s party have been lit aflame, and the article says there was no UN peacekeeping presence. Has the UN’s terms of engagement or protection presence changed at all? Why were they not there while this party headquarters was burned down?

Spokesperson: Well, you say they weren’t there. Let’s check. As you just heard, the Secretary-General is concerned about the acts of violence. I just read you that statement. The unrest is continuing after the release of the election results. And as you know, MINUSTAH, the Mission, has a very clear role in supporting the Haitian National Police on the ground. Let me find out. I’m sure we’ll be able to tell you precisely what has been going on on the ground.

   But six hours later, no further information had been provided by Ban's Spokesman's Office, about the violence or about cholera and Camp Corail.

  Inner City Press asked about the Camp:

Inner City Press: And I wanted to ask, there is also, there were reports about this camp, Corail, saying two things. Saying, number one, that there was no… 100,000 people lived there and that the polling station wasn’t open on 28 November, and also quoting the NGO that runs the camp as having warned Nigel Fisher that it’s a time bomb for [inaudible] having received no response by the UN’s cluster system. And I just wonder, what is… is the UN aware of this, of the lack of the ability to vote of 100,000 people in the camp as reported, and also of this… What’s being done to cut off the spread of cholera to this concentration of 100,000 people?

Spokesperson: Well, the first thing is that what the Mission has been saying and what the Secretary-General has also said is that there are formal channels. There are legal procedures to be able to appeal or to lodge complaints about the conduct of the elections, the preliminary results of which were announced last night. And there is a time frame for doing that, and that’s so any complaints that surface should be lodged and then they can be looked into by the appropriate authorities.

With regard to cholera, I think that this is an important point that the key task for humanitarian workers on the ground is to help those people and to avoid the further spread to the extent that it is possible. Now, as I understand it, an appeal was made for funding to help the people on the ground — $174 million was required and requested specifically for cholera, to help to fight this epidemic on the ground. So, it’s only 20 per cent funded. That makes the work of the humanitarian teams on the ground rather difficult. And of course, any tension on the ground — tension in Haiti as a result of unrest, because of the release of the election results — that also hinders the work of humanitarian staff trying to treat people and to prevent the further spread of cholera.

Inner City Press: I understand all that. I guess I just… it seems like this article that’s in the Min Post, I guess Minnesota, saying… quoting this guy, Brian Castro of the American Refugee Committee, saying it was raised in a cluster committee meeting, that he’s received no response and a request to interview Fisher went unanswered. Obviously he is busy, but I wonder if maybe you can get some answer from MINUSTAH what… I understand even despite the lack of funds… what is… can nothing be done, are they unaware of this warning by the NGO that actually runs the camp?

Spokesperson: You mean that particular camp?

Inner City Press: Yes, that camp.

Spokesperson: Let me find out. But I think the suggestion that nothing can be done is clearly not right. As much as can be done is being done. More could be done, undoubtedly, if all the funding was received. But as that funding continues to flow in, the people on the ground are doing, the people across Haiti from the UN and from NGOs as well, are doing their very best to help to fight this outbreak and to treat those who have already shown the symptoms of cholera. You said you had another question.

    Again, six hours later, no information had been provided. Watch this site.

* * *

In Haiti, UN Admits APC in Ditch, In Denial on Shooting & Cholera Origins, Clinic

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 23 -- The UN's dismissive attitude in Haiti to those who question it was on display on Tuesday when MINUSTAH chief Edmond Mulet repeatedly called demonstrations on the possible role of UN peacekeepers in introducing cholera politically motivated.

  He insisted that other than a case where 100 people with “machetes and guns” attacked four peacekeepers, they had not fired nor killed any other protester.

   Inner City Press asked about a November 17 incident in Cap Haitien where a UN armored personnel carrier fell into a ditch and had bottles thrown at it, after which witnesses say a civilian was shot dead. Mulet acknowledged an APC in a ditch, but denied any exchange of fire.

   The UN's Nigel Fisher, and then Mulet, called the Cedimat clinic in the Dominican Republic “independent” and credible. But Mulet confirmed that Cedimat has had a contract with MINUSTAH since 2004. The head doctor specializes in obesity. “Maybe the director general has another specialty,” Mulet said.

UN's Ban shown around by Mulet (& Montas), Nov 17 shooting & cholera origins not shown

  On November 22, Inner City Press asked UN acting Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq about reports that a Chilean component of the MINUSTAH force engaged with demonstrators in Cap Haitien in a separate incident on November 15, following which a dead body was found on 24th Street. Video here, from Minute 45:09. To questions about the source of the cholera and how it has been investigated, Haq referred back to previous answers.

  Afterward, the UN's deputy for Field Support Tony Banbury, previously quoted that three rapes in the Haitian camp “almost elated him,” was reportedly providing more UN perspective to a wire service based in a country which previously occupied Haiti.

  The UN has previously had Banbury give exclusive interviews on topics of wider concern, during his Banbury would deny “conspiracy theories” without having to directly engage the arguments against the UN (for example, in the alleged cover up of the murder of UN staff member Louis Maxwell by Afghan National Forces, click here for that).

  While one can debate the appropriateness of such a “spin strategy” anywhere by the UN, in the case of Haiti it has worked particularly badly. The failure to investigate, and statements to the effect that it doesn't matter where the cholera came from, have led to deadly protests against the UN. Deadly for the protesters -- and it is not yet clear how many. Watch this site.

 Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

* * *

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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