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On Haiti, UN Role in Recount Unclear, US Mirrors UN On Cholera Origins

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 10 -- Fresh from the snafu of UN's involvement in Cote d'Ivoire's contested election, it remained unclear Friday what role if any the UN will play in the recount of Haiti's election, and the run-off.

 Inner City Press asked first the UN Spokesperson, then this month's Security Council president Susan Rice, who also mirrored the UN's position on whether it introduced cholera to Haiti.

At Friday's UN noon briefing, Inner City Press asked the UN's Martin Nesirky:

Inner City Press: the President of the electoral council there said yesterday, in light of all these, the swirling fraud allegations, et cetera, he said that… he read a statement saying that the ballots will be recounted with international observers and electoral officials watching. So I wanted to know, will the UN be playing any role in this; will they be observing a recount? Will they certify the results?

Spokesperson Nesirky: As I said to you, Mr. Le Roy is briefing the Council, and as part of that briefing he said that they are awaiting clarification about the Commission’s terms of reference and membership. So that’s still not clear.

Less than an hour later, US Ambassador Susan Rice came to the Security Council stakeout position to read out a Council press statement. Inner City Press asked her:

Inner City Press: On the recount, did the Council discuss, and, separately, would the U.S. support some kind of a UN role in observing the recount and certifying the results? And also, on cholera, given the allegations that somehow the peacekeepers may have brought it, which may or may not be true, is there any reform that you can think of, in terms of sending people from one part of the world to another, in terms of what the DPKO can do better to just take the issue off the table?

AMBASSADOR RICE: The fact is that no one can determine conclusively where the cholera strain originated. And certainly it has been the U.S. view, and I think, appropriately, the view taken by the United Nations, that it is far more important at this crucial stage, when people are dying and contracting the disease in high numbers, to figure out how to prevent and treat the epidemic, rather than focus principally on its origins, which can never be medically determined with certainty.

Susan Rice over Haiti, cholera and its origins not shown: or sought

With respect to the electoral process, obviously the Council did discuss, having heard Under-Secretary-General Le Roy's briefing, the importance we attach to the will of the Haitian people being respected, and that all efforts being made by the responsible Haitian authorities and by the responsible international monitors and observers is welcome to try to ensure that, as this process unfolds, that there is transparency and maximum support as needed and requested by the authorities to ensure that the ultimate result is free and fair.

We'll see.

* * *

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.

 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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