Thursday, May 19, 2016
As UN Talks of Fallen Peacekeepers, Inner City Press Asks of UNequal Treatment of TCCs
By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, May 19 -- In the run-up to the UN's commemoration for fallen peacekeepers, five more Chadian peacekeeper were killed in Mali. After covering the commemoration - Ladsous inquired and was told that UNfortunately, the Press is allowed in the General Assembly Visitors Lobby - Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric, UN transcript here:
Inner City Press: in covering this… the day of fallen peacekeepers, I wanted to ask you a question. Earlier this year, I'd asked you whether MINUSMA [UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission] in Mali… I had heard from actually a troop-contributing country that the various contingents don't have the same equipment, that the Dutch battalion, in particular, had communications, and they called it safety equipment that could only be shared with other NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization] members. So, I wanted to know, has this issue… what would you say to that? Because several… even at the ceremony, people were saying that… that some contingents are put at more risk than others, both by their place in Northern Mali and if… the equipment thing is still the case by choice.
Spokesman: I don't have the operational details of the equipment that one contingent may have as opposed to another. Obviously, the contingents come with their own equipment. If they can't come with their own equipment, then equipment is provided… is provided for them. We obviously ensure that the safety… the safety of the peacekeepers is the same across the board. It is true that some contingents serve in places that are more dangerous than others. And it's very true of… of the Chadians. We have paid tribute time and time again to the Chadian soldiers who have been killed and in extremely difficult circumstances in Mali.
Question: And I wanted to ask, yesterday there was a presentation by four force commanders to the Security Council, and in previous years, that's been an open meeting, and we've gotten the speeches. So, I wanted to know, I understand the Security Council decides how it wants to run things, but for the purposes of DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations], is it possible to get the presentations that were made, particularly by the MINUSCA [UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic] presenter given the sexual abuse issues in the mission?
Spokesman: Again, I think it's… if it's… it's up to the Security Council to decide how the meeting will be organized.
Ban Ki-moon has evicted the critical Press. See New York Times to May 14, here, to which Ban has not responded.
Back on February 26 when two UN peacekeepers from Chad were killed in Kidal in northern Mali, the UN in New York made no mention of it. This stands in contrast to announcements in other cases of peacekeepers' death. But this one was "friendly" fire. So, silent.
Inner City Press, after being Banned from the UN for the first three days of the week (BI here, petition here) for having tried to cover in the same UN Press Briefing Room an event it believed relevant to the current UN corruption scandals -- the UN Correspondents Association took money from Ng Lap Seng and gave him a photo op with Ban Ki-moon -- was back in with reduced access on February 26 and asked, UN transcript here:
Inner City Press: I wanted to ask about this incident in Mali where one Chadian peacekeeper killed two other peacekeepers. It says that it's based on tensions in their contingent. Is it based on the conditions there? Why didn't you announce it from the podium if two peacekeepers are dead?
Spokesman Dujarric: On the incident, yes, there was a press release issued this morning by the Mission in Kidal. There was a shooting incident in the camp yesterday within the Chadian contingent. One soldier opened fire, killed one of his colleagues. Another one was wounded and later succumbed from his injuries. As for the… the perpetrator was detained and is in custody, and there's an investigation going on.
Inner City Press: I guess I'm asking because there… there… there are even some Security Council or recent Security Council members have said that the conditions for particularly the African contingents in Northern Mali are quite negative. But I also… I repeat the question. Is… is it the norm to… to announce here… not by a press release from Bamako, but here, when peacekeepers are killed, and if so… why didn't that happen in this case?
Spokesman: Well, I'm confirming it now, and as I said, the announcement was made very publicly from the Mission in Kidal… in the Mission in Mali. The conditions for peacekeepers in Mali, especially in the north, are extremely challenging.
Question: Are the conditions… [cross talk]
Spokesman: I'll come back to you. Sherwin?
And after this dodge, a second round:
Inner City Press: what I wanted to know is whether the conditions of the Dutch contingent, which is a part of MINUSMA (United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali), are similar or different than those of the Chadian contingent, as I previously asked you about their equipment, their communications equipment, that seem to also be different. So some people look at it and they say it should be one peacekeeping. How do you explain the different… or do you acknowledge or disagree that… [cross talk]
Spokesman: I don't know where the Dutch are stationed. I don't know if they're stationed in Kidal. The issue of equipment, especially sometimes with contingents, they don't come with enough equipment, creates challenges for DPKO (Department of Peacekeeping Operations). I know the Chadians have been on the front lines of the UN's work in Mali, have borne the brunt of some of the violence that we've seen. And I know we and DPKO, everyone, is extremely grateful for what they do. And I'm sure the Mission does whatever they can to ensure that their conditions are acceptable.
Back on January 11 when the UN Security Council heard about Mali it was not from the new UN Envoy to the country, but rather first from UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous, who has overseen two-tier peacekeeping in the country and bears responsibility for rapes in Central African Republic.
In Mali, where many UN peacekeepers nearly all of them from Africa have been killed, the Dutch battalion has communications equipment that only contingents from NATO member countries can use, Inner City Press has been exclusively informed.
While the reasoning may be to prevent copying of the technology by others, the result leaves non-NATO troops at increased risk. Belatedly, there is an attempt to procure alternative, non-NATO limited technology.
But this two-tier system, which some even call in context racist, has been allowed by UN Peacekeeping under its boss Herve Ladsous.
Two week ago, Inner City Press asked Ladsous, who usually refuses to answer all Press questions, about the two-tier nature of UN peacekeeping.
On December 2 after a screening of a film about UN Peacekeeping, “Last Station Before Hell,” which portrayed missions in Lebanon, DR Congo and Central African Republic, Inner City Press asked Ladsous why French and other European troops like the Dutch serve alongside but not with UN peacekeepers, in Mali (including Germans and Slovakians now replacing French), Cote d'Ivoire and CAR. The second was for an update on the rape allegations against French and UN peacekeepers in CAR. Video here and embedded below.
Ladsous, who has repeatedly outright refused to answer Inner City Press questions in the UN, did respond to the first question, denying there is a two-tier system and describing what some view as a vestige of colonialism: he listed the UK having a special interest in Sierra Leon, like France has in Mali, and a desire to serve under its own command.
Ladsous pointedly did NOT answer the request for any update on the sexual abuse allegations against Sangaris and MINUSCA, something pointed out afterward by a number of those in attendance at the International Peace Institute.
One also noted this: while Ladsous trumpeted a number of female SRSGs in UN Peacekeeping, only that day one of them, Ellen Loj, was confined to speaking behind closed doors after Ladsous' public speech, and then followed his pattern of no comments to the media afterward, a come-down from her predecessor Hilde Johnson and even her own previous appearances. (Johnson, sources say, pursued the Somalia SRSG post that was given to Michael Keating.)
One of Ladsous two fellow panelists at IPI, Lise Morjé Howard, an Associate Professor of Government, Georgetown University, answered Inner City Press that the French troops are not really peacekeepers but more akin to counter-insurgency forces.
Ladsous called France “the country I know best.” He is listed in UN Dispute Tribunal documents as having tried to fire, then to retaliate against, the whistleblower who revealed the allegations of child rape by French soldiers in CAR.
There's talk, even about the P5, of Ladsous being a liability who shouldn't remain even during Ban Ki-moon's remaining time. His non-answer on sexual abuse on December 2 is particularly noteworthy given his Septembr 11 on-camera linking of the CAR rapes to “R&R,” video here. We'll continue on this.