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At the UN, Deference to the Congo's Kabila and Tank-Sales to North Korea, of Slippery Eels and Sun Microsystems

Byline: Matthew R. Lee of Inner City Press at the UN

UNITED NATIONS, October 13 -- "If it's all night, it's all right." U.S. Ambassador Bolton said this phrase with relish to a gaggle of reporters at 6 p.m. on Friday.  While the reference was to the still-pending Security Council resolution response to North Korea's nuclear test six days ago, the night-right rhyme is from a lyric sung by the Godfather of Soul, James Brown.

            Heard on the grapevine is that Russia's opposition or delay springs from the inclusion of tanks in the list of weapons it could not sell to North Korea. A U.S. diplomat said Russia's opposition on Friday afternoon started out as technical, then became more substantive and intransigent. Amid reporters' questions about the draft resolution's provisions for searching North Korean ships and barring the sale to North Korea of armaments listed in the resolution's still not firm annex, no one asked for John Bolton's view on another James Brown lyric, "Say it loud, I'm black, I'm proud."

            A hour after being confirmed by the General Assembly as the next Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon held a 20-minute press conference. He took only six questions; it was not clear if any of the questions were answered. A question about Africa was left entirely unresponded-to. (See below in this Report.)

Ban Ki-Moon -- Slippery Eel or "Moves All The World"? (See below)

            So to at Kofi Annan's spokesman's noon briefing. In response to two questions about the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the spokesman said that the DRC is a sovereign nation, not run by the UN. From the transcript:

Inner City Press question:  There is criticism of the Kabila Government replacing two ministers with military personnel, the Minister of the Interior and the Governor of Kinshasa.  I know Mr. Gambari is there.  On that or the previous things Iíve asked you on Mr. Bembaís helicopter, has he spoken on these issues?

 Spokesman:  The Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is a sovereign Government.  The helicopter is for the Congolese Government to settle.  It is my understanding that the helicopter was provided to Mr. Bemba in his capacity of Vice-President.  Obviously, Mr. [William Lacy] Swing has been trying to smooth the relations between Mr. Bemba and Mr. Kabila, but the issue of the helicopter is not one, as far as I understand, that we are getting directly involved in.  On the issue of ministers, once again, it is the prerogative of the Government to appoint its ministers.  The Congo is not a UN-administered territory. 

            This hasn't stopped the UN Secretariat and its envoy from routinely exhorting the Congolese to remain calm, to disarm, to eschew hate speech and the like. But when Joseph Kabila, three weeks before the run-off election, puts his military staffers in control of the Ministry of the Interior and the governorship of Kinshasa, the UN then has no comment, out of respect for sovereignty. Even on the open question of Mr. Kabila not having fulfilled his previous pledge to replace his opponent's destroyed helicopter, the UN has no comment. Thus even in a disarmed Kinshasa is ammunition given to those Congolese who allege that the UN has spent half a billion dollar merely to re-anoint Joseph Kabila.

            Speaking of money's ability to talk, Friday afternoon as part of a briefing about the UN Global Youth Leadership Summit, the high-tech company Sun Microsystem was presented as a UN partner, for sponsoring a web site for the summit. Inner City Press asked how Sun Microsystems was selected to partner with the UN, and whether Sun was asked, as Intel was recently asked by Inner City Press, what safeguards it has in place not to use conflict coltan from the Congo. Video here, from Minute 31:24.  Sun was described as a long-term UN partner. But there are more questions: Sun is known to have assisted for Internet blocking and surveillance both China and Myanmar. Global Compact, anyone?

[Transcription on Africa question and non-answer:

"Question:  you are coming at a time when Africa is at two extremes. We have, on one side, nations that are reforming economically and politically and, on the other side, nations that are in deep conflict. I want to know your program specifically for these African nations.

     Mr. Ban Ki-moon: As I have just been appointed, I will have some time to reflect on these issues, and by the time I take on my duty as Secretary-General next year, I'll be able to give you some basic, broad concept of my work plans. But, if I may tell you, in principal matters, I'll try to change the culture where the United Nations has been operating. We need to bring new, fresh wind to the Secretariat, to bring management reforms to make Secretariat staff working on the professionalism, working on the highest level of integrity."

            In fairness to Ban Ki-Moon, after his 20-minute, six-question briefing in Conference Room 2, he met with Korean media and was more expansive. He explained that his nickname, Slippery Eel, can be transcribed in Chinese as "Moves All The World," a moniker he prefers. In his speech to the General Assembly, he spoke eloquently of modesty. He told reporters he plans to appoint a special envoy for North Korea.

            Another hotspot on which Inner City Press will be reporting more, shortly, is Georgia and its contested Abkhazia region. Watch this site, over the weekend.

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At the UN, Annan's Africa Advisor Welcome Chinese Investment, Dodges Zimbabwe, Nods to Darfur

Byline: Matthew R. Lee of Inner City Press at the UN

UNITED NATIONS, October 12 -- "I can assure you the Africans welcome investment from the Chinese." So said Kofi Annan's Special Advisor on Africa Legwaila Joseph Legwaila on Tuesday. Inner City Press had asked him about reports of Russia expanding its business with Zimbabwe to $300 million, in the context of allegations that Russia and Chinese are blocking UN Security Council action on Zimbabwe and, more visibly, Darfur.

            Of China, Mr. Legwaila answered, "If their national interest in the Security Council clashes with the other members, it's not for us to second guess... as long as they support NEPAD," the five-year old New Partnership for Africa's Development. Mr. Legwaila described NEPAD as African-initiated and African-run, and emphasized that all regions of the world, not only "the Continent," have corruption.

     He pointed out that 25 of the African Union's 53 members are going through NEPAD's Peer Review Mechanism, which will certify them on good governance. While declined to directly answer Inner City Press' question about Zimbabwe -- earlier on Thursday, a UN diplomat told Inner City Press that the U.S. has been pushing since January for Security Council action on Zimbabwe -- Mr. Legwaila went out of his way to say, "One of our interests is that the conflict in Darfur must end." Video on UNTV, Minute 28:55 to 33:42.

AU in Darfur

            Sudan is one of the 25 countries which "have so far acceded" to the African Peer Review Mechanism. Inner City Press asked Mr. Legwaila if this mechanism might be used with respect to Darfur, which must be considered a governance as well as human rights issue. "Certainly," Mr. Legwaila responded. "The review is tough, it is not by diplomats like me." Mr. Legwaila previously served as Kofi Annan's envoy to Ethiopia and Eritrea.

            Inner City Press asked Mr. Legwaila to address the involvement in Somalia of Ethiopia, Eritrea and other counties. Mr. Legwaila added Djibouti to the list, and opined that countries are understandably concerned by instability on their borders. "I am not saying they are justified to do that which we read in the newspapers," Mr. Legwaila quickly clarified. "Somalia has had more than enough of misery." Indeed.

            Asked about the recommendation by the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, that Laurent Gbagbo be given another year in power in the Ivory Coast, until a now twice-delayed election, Mr. Legwaila said he's seen official documents on this recommendation. Kofi Annan's spokesman added that the recommendation next goes to the Security Council. But what are Mr. Annan's views on the breakdown in Ivory Coast?  Many feel that as Secretary-General he can't keep deferring to ECOWAS, or Mbeki, as he has done to date to Ben Mkapa on Zimbabwe. We'll see.

News Analysis: Georgia on its Mind, Russia Delays North Korea Nuclear Resolution with Abkhazia Allusions

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

UNITED NATIONS, October 12 -- As the U.S. called for a Friday vote on sanctions for North Korea's nuclear test, China and Russia said more time and a softer approach should be taken. U.S. proposals for travel bans, shipping inspections and assets seizures are in question. At the UN on Thursday, Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin called for a "cool-headed reaction."

            News analysis: admitting the difficulties of knowing anyone's mind, it occurs to Inner City Press that the Russian position on the North Korea draft resolution may not be unrelated to Russia's desire to get the U.S. on its side on the questions of Georgia and Abkhazia. In a purportedly unrelated statement on Thursday, Amb. Churkin said that the "foreign minister of Abkhazia... an internationally recognized party to this conflict" had applied to the U.S. embassy in Moscow for a visa to come to New York. Russia had proposed that he speak to the Security Council in a so-called Arias style meeting.

   According to Amb. Churkin, the U.S. tried to condition the visa on Russia softening its draft resolution on Abkhazia. "The U.S. embassy in Moscow apparently believes that Abkhazia is part of the Russian Federation," Amb. Churkin deadpanned. "It is not." It was reminiscent of the airport abuse claims recently made by Venezuela and others, click here for that Inner City Press story.

Hard road in Abkhazia

            Friday at the UN, the Ambassador of Georgia, with what's being called a "special guest," will be holding a press conference. Perhaps Georgia will complain that beyond having its issues linked with Kosovo, now it's held hostage to the North Korea issue. It's not easy being a former Soviet republic. To be continued.

At the UN, Richard Goldstone Presses Enforcement on Joseph Kony, Reflecting Back on Karadzic

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

UNITED NATIONS, October 12 -- "Justice is not a faucet you can turn on and off," Justice Richard Goldstone told a sparsely-attended press conference at the UN on Thursday. In light of Justice Goldstone having presided over the UN's tribunals for both Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, Inner City Press asked him to weigh in on calls to grant Joseph Kony and the leaders of the Lord's Resistance Army amnesty from the International Criminal Court's indictments for war crimes in Uganda.

            Justice Goldstone directs a response to Uganda's president Yoweri Museveni. "Mr. Museveni switches it on and has the investigation launched. Then when it doesn't suit him, in his view, he wants to turn it off. It can't work that way," Justice Goldstone said. "If you want to have a system of international criminal justice, there is no room for giving amnesties to the worse perpetrators." Video on UNTV, Minute 23:06 to 29:46.

            Justice Goldstone's five-minute answer to Inner City Press' question included his story that if Radovan Karadzic had not been indicted in 1995, there would not have been peace in the Balkans. "If Karadzic had not been indicted, he... would have gone to Dayton. Then the Bosnia and Herzegovina leaders would not have been there. This was two months after Srebrenica. I had it first hand from the leaders of Bosnia they would not have gone into the same room as Karadzic."

Remembering Srebrenica

            While in that story the pressing the indictment -- even though Karadzic, like Ratco Mladic, has still not been apprehended -- resulted in peace, Justice Goldstone Thursday said that is not the test. "I don't know, and nobody else does, if peace treaty in Uganda will last," he said. "Whether it will or it won't shouldn't be the determining factor if there will be justice... Whatever the cost I believe it is worth having no impunity for war criminals."

            Justice Goldstone concluded with a challenge to the Lord's Resistance Army, or really to the Museveni government and its supporters. "There is an escape and it is an important one. The Security Council can request year old suspensions. That' s a political decision. If the Ugandan leaders believe that they need time to negotiate a peace agreement, let them make the case to the Security Council." We'll see.

          Time did not for now allow a question to Justice Goldstone about his service on the Independent Inquiry Committee into United Nations Iraq Oil-for-Food Program, including on whether the reforms and transparency promised during that process have in fact been carried out. Release of some financial disclosure forms, increased -- that is, some -- access to the Office of Internal Oversight Services, these are questions that remain open.

           Launched at the UN on Thursday was the 360-page "Human Rights Learning - a People's Report," coordinated by Shulamith Koenig. Ms. Koenig spoke of the human right to such basics as water and medicine, while her collaborator Walther Lichem, a former Austrian Ambassador to Chile and Canada, spoke of cities in Chile where the subway stops and public squares are all named for wars and not for human rights. "One day," he said. Indeed.

            Also at the UN on Thursday, Inner City Press asked Kofi Annan's spokesman if the UN's Higher Commission for Human Rights Louise Arbour is going to look into and act on the final article about torture in Chechnya written by Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya just before she was assassinated last week. Inner City Pres also asked for a response to charges that Russia has sent to Lebanon soldiers accused of war crimes and other abuses in Chechnya. The spokesman responded that the UN expects soldiers at act appropriately, but that it is up to governments to guarantee that their soldiers act appropriately.  Suuuure... Later on Thursday, the spokesman's office suggested to Inner City Press that the only way to get an answer would be through the Lebanese or Russian mission to the UN. Again, suuure....

The UN Shrugs on Congolese Warlords, While UNDP Assists Sudanese Justice, and OIOS Is In Hiding

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

  UNITED NATIONS, October 11 -- A Congolese warlord identified by the UN as having used child soldiers, Mathieu Ndugjolo, was on Tuesday formally granted the rank of colonel in the Congolese army. Peter Karim, who held seven UN peacekeepers hostage for two months earlier this year, was also made a colonel.

   On May 30 of this year, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan answered Inner City Press' questions about the kidnapping by saying that Peter Karim would face "personal accountability" for his actions, which have included killing UN peacekeepers and looting the Congo's natural resources, according to UN experts' reports.

            Wednesday Inner City Press asked Kofi Annan's spokesman for his reaction to the integration of these two into the FARDC. "We have made clear our position on the first gentleman [Ndugjolo], we have accused him of using child soldiers," the spokesman said. Video on UNTV, from Minute 11:55.

   "We expect armies to respect human rights," the spokesman said. He did not address the kidnapper Peter Karim, for whom Kofi Annan on camera promised "personally accountability ." Getting a promotion and being given more soldiers seems a strange brand accountability for having killed and kidnapped UN peacekeepers. Actually, Kofi Annan had articulated a clear position on Peter Karim: personal accountability. There just was no follow-through.

UN through a glass darkly (Burundi, see below)

Peace Building, Anyone?

         The UN's Carolyn McAskie Wednesday described for reporters the new peace-building commission and its two initial focuses, Burundi and Sierra Leone. Inner City Press asked if the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in which the UN has become so militarily involved with 17,000 peacekeepers and what the UN's William Lacy Swing has described as an air force, is not a candidate for peace-building support, financial and otherwise. Video on UNTV, from Minute 33:26.  

   In response Ms. McAskie cited the danger of mistaking post-election for post-conflict. "The few months before an election are usually peaceful," she had. "But after the election there are winners and losers, giving rising to another set of tensions."

            The United Kingdom appears to be thinking along these lines: it is pulling all of its "non-essential" personnel out of the DR Congo in connection with the run-off election scheduled for October 29. Inner City Press asked Kofi Annan's spokesman on Monday if the UN had any response to the UK's expression of doubts in safety in the Congo, despite the UN and European Union troops there. The spokesman answered that the UN does not comment on security.

            If the DRC is too dangerous for UN peace-building funds, what of Burundi, where the FNL rebels now won't join in ceasefire monitoring, or Sierra Leone, which is embroiled in conflict about Yenga with Guinea? Inner City Press asked Ms. McAskie, who answered that neither of these "elements of fragility" are a problem, in her judgment. And "people trust our judgment," she added.

            The UN Development Program is being put in charge of the peace-building funds, nearly $140 million dollars. The money can be used for such things as paying judges, Ms. McAskie said Wednesday. As it turns out, despite events in Darfur, UNDP is funding the government judiciary in Sudan, according to a press release earlier this year. UNDP has refused to comment on its assistance to governments like that of Islam Karimov in Uzbekistan, and now has pending before it questions about its operation in Somalia, and for an update on its controversial funding of forced disarmament in Uganda. With this lack of transparency, one wonders why $140 million and more is being shifted across First Avenue to an entity not apparently audited by the UN's Office of Internal Oversight Services?

            Since OIOS recently issued a report detailing, among other things, the theft of $179,000 from the UN's Economic Commission for Africa, Inner City Press has been asking the Spokesman's Office that OIOS come and brief reporters, hopefully Under-Secretary General Inga-Britt Alhenius. The spokesman said he would ask. On October 6, following an interview on the 35th floor of the UN Headquarters with Kofi Annan's envoy to The Gambia, Inner City Press stopped in at OIOS' office, also on the 35th floor, and asked about a briefing for reporters. "Have the spokesman ask us," Inner City Press was told. This was conveyed to the spokesman, who said "we can talk offline." We'll see.

            Among the issues for OIOS to answer is why, in their audit of the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, they did not review what safeguards are in place to ensure the OCHA and other parts of the UN system do not work through or offer strength to organizations on the UN's sanctions list, as BBC has asserts the UN has done in Pakistan, click here for more. Despite no mention of this issue in the OIOS' report, has OIOS considered it? So far, no answer. Ah, transparency...

Kofi Annan on Peter Karim, May 30, 2006:

From the video at Minutes 13:40 - 15:25, and the transcript:

Inner City Press question: "On the Democratic Republic of the Congo, what's being done for the 7 peacekeepers that were taken hostage in Ituri? And also, over the weekend, the UN military head in Bunia said elections can't really be held in this type of circumstance? What can be done in the run-up to elections to make it more?"

Secretary-General answer: "It is tragic what happened in Bunia and we lost one Nepalese and three are wounded and about seven are missing. And we have been in touch with Karim's group -- we think that is the group holding them, and demanding their release. And hopefully, we will get them released. But Karim and others who get involved in these sort of activities, must understand that they will be held accountable, as Lubanga has been picked up and is now in the hands of the ICC [International Criminal Court]. They will be held individually accountable for these brutal acts."

  Now, Peter Karim is a colonel in the Congolese army. Accountability?

Other Inner City Press reports are archived on

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Other Inner City Press reports are archived on

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