By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, April 10, more here -- Twenty years after the "genocide fax" from Rwanda to the UN in New York was largely ignored, there's been little visible reaction in the last seven days to a strikingly similar cable from Burundi, about AK-47s being distributed to the youth-wing of the Hutu aligned CNDD party.
Inner City Press on April 9 put the cable online, submitting questions about it to UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric and on April 10 online and at the Security Council stakeout to Ambassador Gerard Araud of France, pen-holder on Burundi in the Council.
But it was US Ambassador Samantha Power who took and answered the question, telling Inner City Press that it is very troubling, that there have been fast trials of 21 young opposition figures and a threat to change the constitution and now, these reports. (We will link to Power's full response when it goes online.)
That the cable was in fact sent from the UN in Burundi to three top UN officials -- Jeffrey Feltman of the Department of Political Affairs, Herve Ladsous of UN Peacekeeping and Great Lakes envoy Mary Robinson -- was reliably confirmed. Inner City Press and the new Free UN Coalition for Accessput this photo online here and here. Below, the full text of the cable is published.
UK Mission to the UN spokesperson Iona Thomas replied to Inner City Press that "I can confirm that Feltman raised this issue in the Council discussion on Burundi yesterday and members of the Council expressed their concern at the reports."
UN Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric, in response to Inner City Press' request for confirmation that Ladsous, who wasFrance's Deputy Permanent Representative at the UN during the 1994 Rwanda genocide against the Tutsis, had received the Burundi cable merely pointed to a read-out of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's April 6 meeting with Burundi's First Vice-President of the Republic of Burundi Prosper Bazombanza.
That UN read-out says that "the Secretary-General expressed strong concerns about reports concerning activities of Burundian youth groups and urged the relevant national authorities to investigate these reports."
But it is the government itself that is accused of distributing pistols, uniforms and AK-47s to the "youth groups," which the UN read-out leaves unnamed. Is this "Rights Up Front"?
US Ambassador Samantha Power traveled from Rwanda to Burundi and issued a statement that the "United States will provide $7.5 million in assistance for the Burundian electoral process" and expressing concerns, here. It did not directly mention the alleged distribution of weapons to theImbonerukure or the cable.
France, in the same week that it snubbed the Rwanda genocide commemoration and called any suggestion it was complicit in the 1994 killings "disgraceful," holds the pen on Burundi in the Security Council.
That is to say, it was up to France after Feltman came and raised the memo to then pen and push for fast adoption some output: a resolution or Statement. But this did not happen.
Instead, when at the end of a higher profile consultation with High Commissioner on Human Rights Navi Pillay including on Syria, where France is pushing a referral to the International Criminal Court, April's Council president Joy Ogwu of Nigeria emerged to speak to the press, there were only two journalists there including Inner City Press. She mentioned Feltman's briefing, but not the cable or its contents.
Nine hours later, Australia's Ambassador to the UN Gary Quinlan tweeted, "#UNSC discussed deteriorating situation in #Burundi for 2nd time in 2 weeks - signs of political exclusion & oppression deeply concerning."
The French Mission to the UN -- the penholder on Burundi -- was even less specific: "Under Secretary General Jeffrey Feltman has briefed #UNSC on current political tensions in #Burundi."
So is the main difference in 20 years since the Rwanda genocide the speed of leaks and of social media?
Other questions are pending. Here is the full text of the April 3, 2014 cable:
OUTGOING CODE CABLE
TO: FELTMAN, UNATIONS, NEW YORK
INFO: LADSOUS, UNATIONS, NEW YORK
ROBINSON, O-SESG-GL, NAIROBI
FROM: [for] ONANGA-ANYANGA, BNUB, BUJUMBURA
DATE: 3 April 2014
SUBJECT: Reports of alleged distribution of weapons to the Imbonerakure
Summary: Informs on reports of alleged distribution of weapons [to] ruling CNDD-youth wing and actions taken by BNUB.
1. "This follows my cable CND-022 of 26 February in which I informed of allegations of distribution of weapons to the ruling CNDD-FCC youth wing the "Imbonerakure."
2. Yesterday UN Chief Security Adviser (CSA) in Burundi conveyed the following message from the DSS daily sitrep:
"After information gathered from key informants, there was distribution of weapons and outfits military and police during the months of January and February for youth affiliated to the CNDD - FDD (IMBONERAKURE) party and the demobilized ex-AIMP Rumonge. An ad-hoc meeting was held in a hotel call[ed] KUKANYAMUENZA belonging to a "General de Brigade" located Nduwumunsi in Rumonge. A night training for the handling of these weapons would be located on the side of the central prison of Rumonge (KUMUREMBWE) and the surrounding population would have heard gunfire. These same activities (distribution of weapons) would be considered to take place in the commune of Nyzana-Laca, Kibago and Mabanda in Makamba province. Another face which tends to confirm the news, these are the statements of people who participated in these meetings but refused to receive weapons.
Two generals originating in the province of BURURI ex-AIMP whose names follow: Bde General Nduwumunsi (currently Director General of former Combatants) and General - Major Niyungeko Jevenal aka KIROHO (currently head of the Office of military Cooperation) would be supervisors of these activities (distributions of weapons and military and police uniforms). In this meeting they emphasized especially, that the beneficiaries of these weapons must remain vigilant and that when there is a trigger that each take care of their opponents in their proximity / neighbourhood."
3. I have undertaken consultations with key embassies including United States, Belgium and the Netherlands, all involved in security sector support activities, to corroborate the information and plan to raise the matter with the relevant ministers. The ambassadors informed have confirmed the grave nature of the allegations which if confirmed may have implications for bi-lateral assistance programmes.
4. CSA in Burundi confirmed the reliability of the sources.
5. The Imbonerakure actions have been on the rise since the beginning of the year and are one of the major threats to peace in Burundi and to the credibility of the 2015 elections as they are responsible for most politically motivated violence against opposition. BNUB has documented 27 cases implicating the Imbonerakure so far in 2014, 23 of which have been politically motivated.
6. The Imbonerakure act in collusion with the local authorities and with total impunity. In the country side they have replaced the law enforcing agencies and act as a militia over and above the police, the army and the judiciary. Opposition parties have repeatedly complaint [sic] about the Imbonerakure violence.
7. One can only speculate about the purpose of the distribution of weapons and uniforms in Bururi which is a traditional stronghold of the UPRONA. However the last sentence of the message indicated a highly decentralized chain of command which is consistent with reliable information on Imbonerakure modus operandi on the ground.
8. In February BNUB had informed of the disappearance of 500 uniforms from military and police installations as well as the distribution of 9mm pistols. Although not confirmed there are indications that the weapons distributed this time can be AK-47 assault rifles. DSS has also informed in the past of radio messages for the population "to be ready."
9. We will continue to closely monitor the situation and keep you informed.
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