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At UN, Outsourced Report and Reporter Dodge Congo Rapes, Unanswered Questions

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 20 -- The UN might not actually protect civilians, but it has been counted on to issue reports, often statistical, about demographics, discrimination and forms of development.

  But the UN Population Fund's “State of the World Population 2010,” despite its title, is a sort of extended pro-UN magazine article written by former New York Times UN correspondent Barbara Crossette.

  When Ms. Crossette introduced the publication to the UN press corps on October 20, it was first in a faux Q & A format with a UNFPA staffer.

  When this staffer cum questioner opened the floor for questions, Ms. Crossette answered the first question about UN peacekeepers by saying “the UN is unfairly blamed.”

  Inner City Press then asked, since her report contained photos and quotes from Secretary Bank Ban Ki-moon's Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict Margot Wallstrom, whether Ms. Crossette thought Wallstrom was unfairly blamed for not having heard of the mass rapes in the Congo until three weeks after they occurred. (Even then, Ms. Wallstrom did not go to the Congo for several more weeks.)

  Ms. Crossette pointed out that Ms. Wallstrom “prefers to be called MargoT” (with a T) and talked about Wallstrom's more recent statements. But what about the breakdown in communications between the MONUSCO peacekeeping mission (and wider UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations and Ms. Wallstrom's office, which has been in operation for months?

  When Inner City Press followed up by asking about the UN's role in negotiations with disproportionately few women in both the Kivus in the Congo and in Doha about Darfur, Ms. Crossette said it is the governments which choose who goes to the peace talks. But the UN flies them - and pays. As does UNFPA.

  The UNFPA editor of Ms. Crossette's report, Richard Kollodge, then said that it would be better to ask DPKO about this. Ms. Crossette went on to say “I don't speak for UNFPA, I speak as a journalist.”

  After the press conference, several correspondents questioned just this. If a person is paid by the UN to write a pro-UN report, is it an act of journalism? How much was Ms. Crossette paid, and how was she selected? Would a report more critical of the UN have been published by UNFPA?

  What, one correspondent asked, about Ms. Crossette functioning as The Nation magazine's UN correspondent while being paid by the UN to write pro-UN reports? Certainly The Nation is free to be pro-multilateralism and pro-UN. But why not then called UN spokesman Martin Nesirky The Nation's UN Correspondent?

  (Inner City Press has learned from a number of Ms. Crossette's dispatches in her former positions. But the questions about UNFPA's pay and selection process and implications should be answered.)

Ms. Crossette at the UN, disclosures re UNFPA & Wallstrom not shown

  A request after the press conference for the type of information one expects to be in a report like “State of the World Population 2010” resulted in an offer to produce a “statistics expert” later. Why does an anecdotal (faux) journalistic report have such a title? Questions, questions. Watch this site.

Footnote: As we reported on October 18, MONUSCO chief Roger Meece, speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations that day, refused from the podium to say when he had informed Ms. Wallstrom about the rapes, which e-mails indicate MONUSCO became aware of from July 30 onward. Afterward, his special assistant Reuben Culpin urged Inner City Press not to wait to ask Meece on his way out, but rather to send the questions by e-mail.

  Inner City Press did, to both Messrs. Culpin and Meece. But Culpin's email said “out of the office,” and in the two days since, no answer has been provided. So much for “ask DPKO.” Inner City Press even asked Farhan Haq of Nesirky's office, without yet getting a response. But the inquiry will continue.

* * *

UN Dodges on Congo Rape, When Knew & Told Wallstrom, Meece at CFR

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 18 -- When did the UN Mission in the Congo become aware of the burst of mass rapes this summer in North Kivu? And when did the Mission, now known as MONUSCO, inform Margot Wallstrom, the UN's Special Representative on Sexual Violence and Conflict, who didn't appear in the Congo until a month after the rapes occurred?

  Roger Meece of MONUSCO was asked these questions by Inner City Press, again, Monday morning at the Council on Foreign Relations on Park Avenue in Manhattan. When he previously appeared before the Press at the UN by video conference, Meece said that MONUSCO only learned by mid August.

  Since then, a July 30 e-mail within MONUSCO has emerged, showing awareness of the rebel takeovers and rapes within 20 miles of a MONUSCO peacekeeping base. But Meece has never altered his timeline, much less explained or apologized.

  Monday Meece continued the smoke screen, saying that there were only “bits of information” and that it “did not alter” what MONUSCO could do.

  But when did MONUSCO know? And why didn't Meece know, if he didn't?

  Wallstrom said she only learned of the rapes in the second half of August, from “emerging media reports.” Inner City Press on Monday morning asked Meece when he told Wallstrom, and he didn't pointedly did not answer.

Meece in suit in Kivu fog, clear answers & Wallstrom not shown

  Inner City Press repeated the question, and CFR's moderator Philip Gourevitch closed the session, saying there was no more time. More time was spent saying this then simply providing a date. Afterward, Inner City Press waited to get such a date from Meece, while he chatted with a consultant from Dalberg Global Development Advisors. By deadline, the question was not answered. Watch this site.

Footnote: the other speaker, Tony Gambino formerly of USAID, described Nkunda as being under “loose house arrest” in Rwanda, and said the UN “gave up on its protection of civilians mandate.” Gourevitch noted, correctly, that there were “almost no Africans in the room.”

  Meece, when asked about indicted war criminal Bosco Ntaganda, continued the double talk that began under his predecessor Alan Doss, that the UN has no contact with Ntaganda -- despite his recent interview right next to UN peacekeepers. Most surprising was the lack of any mention of the Lord's Resistance Army. To be continued.

* * *

Congo's Bosco Exposes UN War Crimes Double Talk, Gambari's Planned Darfur Turn Over Confirms It

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 13 -- As indicted war criminal Bosco Ntaganda has walked freely around Goma in Eastern Congo, bragging about leading military operations which the UN has supported, the UN has claimed it did not deal with Bosco, that it wanted him arrested.

   Inner City Press has published at least four stories on the UN's dalliance with Bosco, indicted for child soldier recruitment, in 2008 and 2009. In May 2009 Inner City Press obtained and published minutes showing Bosco was in the chain of command of UN supported military operations, click here to view.

   The UN doggedly ignored the written evidence, claiming it it had obtained a letter to the contrary, even as a former UN peacekeeping official called the UN's double talk "shameful." Click here.

Then on October 11, 2010, days before a human rights report further detailed the UN's duplicity, Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Martin Nesirky:

Inner City Press: Last week there was an interview with [Jean] Bosco Ntaganda — indicted for recruitment of child soldiers and other war crimes — in which he said openly that he is part of the Congolese Army’s action in Walikale, and that that’s some action that the UN provides logistical support to. So, since the UN has in the past claimed that it does not support any action in which he is a commander, how do they respond to him doing this interview in full view of UN peacekeepers and bragging about UN support to him?

Spokesperson Martin Nesirky: In precisely the same way as we have done before, Matthew.

Inner City Press: Meaning what? Saying it’s not true just by…?

Spokesperson: Correct. That we do not deal with him and we would not participate in operations with him.

Inner City Press: Is the UN providing logistical support to the attacks, to the attempts to rein in the FDLR [Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda] in Walikale, which he claims to be the commander of?

Spokesperson: As I have said, we would not be dealing with him. Okay?

Inner City Press: [inaudible] as I am sure you know, quotes a Western diplomat as saying everyone knows that he commands it. It’s basically that the UN doesn’t want to admit it. So I guess I am just… I am asking you, is it… how is it possible that the UN…?

Spokesperson: You’ve asked me, Matthew, and I have given the answer. So, what’s the next question?

Bosco & John Numbi, UN human rights standings not shown

Inner City Press: Okay, the next question is does the UN have any comment on the arrest in Paris of Callixte Mbarushimana?

Spokesperson: I know who you mean, and this is an ICC [International Criminal Court] arrest. We’ve seen the same press release or statement that you have on this person…

Inner City Press: He worked for the UN; I am wondering what the response…

Spokesperson: We of course know where he worked before, and you also know the full history to that. What I can simply say is that we are aware in the same way that you are — from the media and from their press release — that the International Criminal Court has announced that this man was arrested earlier today in Paris by the French authorities following a sealed ICC arrest warrant. That’s what I can tell you.

This last point is not unrelated -- since the UN is willing to mince words about providing logistical support to military operations involving and even led by a war criminal, why be surprised that a war criminal like the FDLR's Callixte Mbarushimana ended up in the employ and pay of the UN?

After Nesirky's dogged insistence that the double talk that began when MONUC was run by Alan Doss, who asked for “leeway” to get his daughter Rebecca Doss a job at UNDP then retired while the UN delayed and buried its investigation of nepotism, should continue unabated now that Roger Meece runs MONUSCO, Inner City Press necessarily turned to another UN official.

On October 12, Inner City Press asked Ban's Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict Radhika Coomaraswamy about MONUSCO working with Bosco, despite Bosco's indictment by the ICC for recruiting child soldiers.

While Ms. Coomaraswamy began by repeating the UN's line, under Nesirky's watchful eye, later to her credit she indirectly acknowledged that despite the UN's stated position, Bosco is still there -- taking photos with UN peacekeepers.

While truncated, the UN's own summary of Ms. Coomaraswamy's press conference states:

“Asked about the case of Bosco Ntaganda, a former rebel commander charged with using child soldiers and war crimes by the International Criminal Court, she said that she had strongly advocated for his arrest and trial. The United Nations as a whole had the same policy, but had not able to arrest anyone anywhere in the world. She would not comment on photographs that allegedly showed him with peacekeepers.”

While in Sudan last week, Inner City Press continued reporting on the UN's next de-evolution: UN Darfur chief Ibrahim Gambari being on the verge of turning over five rebel supporters to the Sudan regime of indicted war criminal and genocidaire Omar al Bashir, relying on Bashir's promise he won't execute them.

It was been said, without any direct response from the UN spokesman when asked, that this would make the UN complicit in genocide. Bosco and MONUSCO are part of this picture. Now what will the UN do? Watch this site.

* * *

In Darfur, Gambari Criticizes Nur & Inner City Press on Video, Transcription Here

By Matthew Russell Lee

DARFUR, October 8 -- Peacekeepers were sent to Darfur after reports of a brutal campaign by the government of Omar al Bashir against opponents of his regime and civilians perceived as supporting them.

Now top peacekeeper Ibrahim Gambari, as shown by documents leaked to and published by Inner City Press, is near to turning over five supporters of rebel Abdel Wahid Nur to that same Bashir regime, in exchange for a promise by Bashir to commute any death sentence his courts impose.

Several members of the UN Security Council, which ostensibly oversees Gambari's actions along with the African Union, expressed surprise to Inner City Press once they saw the leaked documents, consisting of a draft letter and “Additional Terms” from Gambari to Bashir's foreign minister Ali Karti.

On the UN plane Thursday to El Fasher from South Sudan, US Ambassador Susan Rice told Inner City Press that she intends to inquire into Gambari's offers about the Kalma Camp Five while in Darfur. This echoed a statement of intention previously issued by another Permanent Member of the Council.

After a closed door meeting with the visiting Security Council members, Gambari and two of his military officials, in uniform, came to see the Press. Gambari called Inner City Press' publication of his draft documents “reprehensible” and told Inner City Press to “be careful... lives are at stake.”  Transcription below.

  Yeah, a witness to Gambari's statements later said, the lives of the Kalma Camp Five are at risk if the UN turns them over to a strongman already indicted for genocide and war crimes. “Is this what the UN should be doing?”

Gambari, Lyall Grant, Susan Rice, Churkin- oversight not seen? (c) MRLee

  Gambari's statements to Inner City Press were caught on video and will soon be published online as such. For now, here is a transcription, prepared late Thursday night at a guest house in El Fasher outside of Gambari's UNAMID compound:

Inner City Press asked Ibrahim Gambari, “What's happen with the Kalma Camp Five that you are considering turning over to the government... or that documents indicate you are considering turning over?”

Gambari answered: “Here is the situation. We have these five sheikhs who have been accused of some very serious offenses. We have no means as UNAMID to try them... Down the line if ever there was a death sentence, the President has the prerogative of mercy. All has been discussed confidentially. I want to say how reprehensible it was that somebody leaked the confidential communication of the government of Sudan...endangering the lives of those in the camps. The recipient of such a leak I think should also think twice about what they do considering that they are endangering the lives.. We've lost 27 peacekeepers between UNAMID and UNMIS, I mean AMIS.”

Inner City Press asked about Abdel Wahid Nur saying that if the Five are turned over, it will make UNAMID complicit in genocide, and that his group would not cooperate with the UN any more.

Gambari responded, “you quote words Abdel Wahid was supposed to have said... I met Khalil Ibrahim yesterday, asked how about how someone said JEM wants Gambari to resign for Tarabat Market. [He said he] ever said that, never authorized this... I want to hear from Abdel Wahid. I've been to Paris twice, I went to Tripoli...What happened in New York I condemn it. Matthew I have known you a long time, you should be careful... You are a recipient of a leaked document... Journalism also is a responsibility. I regard you as a friend, I used to, I regard you as a friend, I am admitting that.”

Of Abdel Wahid Nur, Gambari said: “He wants all issues resolved almost before he comes.”

“Matthew, I'm very angry with you , what are we supposed to do, keep people indefinitely?”

Inner City Press said, “Several Security Council members, when they saw the leaked documents, said they were not aware that you or UNAMID were in such discussions, and some expressed worry. How much is this Mission overseen by the Security Council?”

Gambari said “Ask them. Ask the S-G. I am responsible to two masters. You have the AU and you have the UN. The unity of the international community is key to finding a solution.”

Inner City Press said, as Gambari backed out the door toward his vehicle, “Transparency you can always say is dangerous, but I think it's probably a good thing.”

“No,” Gambari said. “Believe me, lives are at stake.”

Or maybe jobs, a witness to Gambari's statements later said, adding that the lives of the Kalma Camp Five are at risk if the UN turns them over to a strongman already indicted for genocide and war crimes. Among other lives put at risk, without oversight, transparency or explanation. “Is this what the UN should be doing?” Watch this site.

Footnote: it's worth noting that even before Inner City Press obtained and published Gambari's draft letter to Sudan's Ali Karti, Gambari had already expressed anger at Inner City Press' publication of other leaked documents concerning his time as UN envoy to Myanmar.

  That time, before the UN's September 24 high level meeting on Sudan, Gambari didn't argue about lives being at risk. He claimed the documents were “old” (2009) and not newsworthy. “Just leave me alone,” he said, having in the past declined to respond to questions sentto his UN e-mail address by Inner City Press. Now, the claim that lives are put at risk. Is it just opposition to transparency?

Watch this site, follow on Twitter @InnerCityPress.

 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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