By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, December 16 -- With crises in at least three UN Peacekeeping missions, in South Sudan, Lebanon and Mali, breaking out over the weekend, the UN's lack of responsiveness and even presence on social media came to the fore.
Amid heavy gunfire in Juba and a reported attempted coup against Salva Kiir, the UN mission UNMISS not even having a Twitter account became all the more indefensible. Is Riek Machar in the UN compound? Who knows.
When last seen in UN headquarters in New York, UN envoy to South Sudan Hilde Johnson answered Inner City Press question about a tweet by a UN staffer in South Sudan by, essentially, saying the staffer was told not to do it again. But shouldn't UNMISS itself have an account? What is DPKO's policy?
Meanwhile the mission in Lebanon, UNIFIL, has a Spokesperson's twitter account - but amid the shooting and calms for calm, the account has had nothing since December 3, and it only follows three other accounts, all UN, one in Libya: UNsocial.
In Mali, MINUSMA has an account and has in the past replied with answers to the Free UN Coalition for Access. But yesterday there was no response, nor from Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokespeople, to basic questions about the background to the deaths of two UN peacekeepers in Kidal.
The car bombing in Kidal of the Banque Malienne de Solidarite has left not only casualties but a number of unanswered questions in its wake.
Reported are the deaths of two UN peacekeepers from Senegal, Ousmane Fall and Cheikh Tidiane Sarr -- rest in peace -- and the serious wounding, according to Mali's government, of three more UN peacekeepers and two Malian soldiers, all evacuated to Gao for treatment.
The question arose, why were UN peacekeepers guarding this bank facility, which some say has also become a military facility? Inner City Press has asked, both Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokespeople in New York and, online, the UN Mission in Mali MINUSMA. Posed to the Spokespeople:
Regarding the car bombing in Kidal and the Secretary General statement (including calling the target a "bank"), please say whether the building was being used, in whole or part, as a military installation. (This is a major event and there is no noon briefing on Monday.)
Also, separately, please explain the fact that the UN Peacekeepers were guarding this building, and the comparative role of the Malian army, police and other armed forces.
Given what USG Ladsous said Friday about the Malian police and the death of a protester in Kidal, please state whether the UN continues to provide support to this unit of the Malian police and if so, how this complies with the stated Human Rights Due Diligence Policy and how that policy will be implemented in the aftermath of the November shootings in Kidal.
Still having no response, we note that Maliactu, whose censorship by the Malian government both Ban's spokesperson on December 12 and French Ambassador Gerard Araud on December 13 said they had not heard of, has reported that Mali's soldiers were not supposed to guard the bank, but were inside.
This raises serious questions, including about the accountability of MINUSMA and UN Peacekeeping.
The Kidal car bomb came a day after UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous acknowledged that the Malian police in Kidal shot protesters in last November after UN peacekeepers and French Serval forces told the crowd to disperse. Last weekend one of those shot died.
Inner City Press on December asked UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous about the incident, and also how France obtained a non-public Letter of Assist payment from the UN for airfield services in northern Mali,how much it is for and why it is not more transparent.
Ladsous replied that "I make it a policy not to respond to you, Mister," but then provided something of an answer to the first but not second, financial, question. Video here, from Minute 15:45. Inner City PressYouTube here and embedded below.
He said, "I will respond on Kidal, because indeed that was a very unfelicitous occurrence. Our UN Police and Serval, the French troops, ordered the crowd to disperse. It appears Malian police did shoot, and yes, three civilians were injured, one of whom died over the weekend."
In many countries, if an unarmed civilian is shot and killed by police the officer is suspended and charges are brought or put before a grand jury or other tribunal. What is happening here?
Ladsous said, "We are looking further into the matter. Of course we have to say if indeed it is established beyond any doubt that the Malian police did shoot, that is not a way to behave, this is absolutely unacceptable."
But to whom must it be established beyond a doubt? In the case of the 135 rapes in Minova by the 391st and 41st Battalions of the Congolese Army, the UN has continued to provide material support to those two units for the eleventh months before any trial started.
Ladsous did not say anything in response to Inner City Press' question about how France got the Letter of Assist, how much it is for and why it is not more public.
The history of Ladsous and the policy he adopted in May 2012 of not answering any of Inner City Press' questions, including about the Minova rapes except once at the International Peace Institute across First Avenue from the UN, is long; since there was on December 13 at least this plausible interim answer on the Kidal shootings to report, we still leave it here for now. (Longer form here, on Beacon Reader.)
But even on this there are questions of policy -- to use Ladsous' word -- which should obviously be answered or responded to. Does Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's stated Human Rights Due Diligence Policy apply to this case of Malian police shooting at unarmed protesters?
Is the UN's MINUSMA mission still working with these Malian police? If so, does that make the UN peacekeepers combatants?
These questions should be answered. Watch this site.