Friday, June 10, 2016

At UN, Ayrault Press Conference Has No Burundi or Western Sahara, He Reads Answer To Set-Aside First Question

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 10 -- When French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault held a press conference at the UN on Protection of Civilians on June 10, one expected him to address Burundi, on which France “holds the pen” (and more) in the Security Council.

  But Ayrault's examples included not only Syria but also Sudan and South Sudan, on which France does NOT hold the pen. Inner City Press asked, “Burundi?” But Ayrault was on the move after four questioners.

  The first set-aside question droned on, and Ayrault looked down at notes to answer it. When he spoke of sexual abuse allegation, he vaguely promised fast action. So what conclusion on the long-pending sexual abuse (and also other physical violence) allegations against the French Sangaris force in the Central African Republic?

  The French Mission spokesman wanted to call on Al Jazeera, but Ayrault called on another, who asked three questions. Then Syria and it was over. No Burundi, no Western Sahara. Penholder and implicit veto. Inner City Press was BANned from attending a Western Sahara briefing to which it was invited - more on that in a future story.

On Burundi, now the social media warning about human trafficking to the Gulf have been further amplified. But still nothing from the UN, much less the penholder. For shame.

On May 31 Inner City Press was informed by sources that Burundi's forces deployed to Central African Republic are slated this summer to be returned to Burundi, and there are no plan to replace them.

Inner City Press was exclusively told by UN sources, and exclusively reported, that Burundi is NOT invited to this week's UN Police event at UN headquarters, despite a protest by the Nkurunziza government. (Then there were Nkurunziza's threat in Mugamba, which Reuters said were against "criminal gangs.")

After Inner City Press exclusively reported and asked about both of these (May 31 video here), the UN confirmed both. See below. Inner City Press also asked about the arrest of students for drawing on the photograph of Pierre Nkurunziza.  On June 6, Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon spokesman Stephane Dujarric, UN transcript hereand below.

On June 8, having obtained the repatriation letter, Inner City Press asked Dujarric to confirm it. He refused (so wepublished it here), and later refused a question about what the UN told a U.S. Senate Committee was its justification for evicting Inner City Press. Video here, UN transcript here: 

Inner City Press:  this has come up in here, and it has to do with the, I guess, described repatriation of the Burundian police in MINUSCA (United Nations Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic) and CAR.  There were some doubts expressed in Burundi, and I want to ask about a letter.  I've now seen the letter of repatriation, and it seems to say that this will take place on 31 July, that it was based on an 22 April meeting held with the Burundian Foreign Minister and other… so I want you to confirm those two things and also that Burundi was actively disinvited from the UNCOPS (United Nations Chiefs of Police Summit) event that was held last week.

Spokesman:  What I can tell you about UNCOPS is that Burundi, with a long record of service in UN peace operations, for which we remain grateful; however, given the current allegations of serious and ongoing human rights violations in Burundi, a decision was made here at UN Headquarters to postpone engaging Bujumbura in decisions on future deployment of their national police force and peace operations.  As for the other dates, I'm not in a position to confirm.

Inner City Press:  And just on UNCOPS, that event, it says repeat… in a number of places, that there were 100 countries represented, but nowhere did I find a list of the countries.  Is there some… can I ask you to, like… who would have that?

Spokesman:  We can try to find the list. [He issued the list of participants following the briefing.] 

The UN inserted that it issued the list - but it did not issue or provide the "Handbook" it told the Senate Inner City Press violated. And on the UNCOPS list was Saudi Arabia, we'll have more on that.