Thursday, July 21, 2016

After Gambia's Jammeh Jails Darboe For 3 Years, UN Has No Comment

By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, July 21 – As in Gambia Yahya Jammeh locks up the opposition, the UN Secretariat which has previously dabbled in the issue with no follow through said nothing on May 10 (nor on May 11 or 12). This despite the emergence of what's said to be audio of Gambia's Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Sam Sarr saying he would shoot the protesters. 
On July 21, Inner City Press asked Ban K-moon's deputy spokesman Farhan Haq, UN transcript here
Inner City Press: in Gambia, the opposition leader, Mr. [Ousainou] Darboe, has been sentenced to three years for participating in a demonstration, and I wanted to know, I know previously the UN and the UN Office of West Africa and Mr. [Jeffrey] Feltman had been trying to engage with Gambia; what has been done since and do you have any comment on this prison sentence?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, we need to look into what the process is and make sure that due process has been followed in this particular case.  But I'll also check up and see whether there is any other reaction about this.
Eight hours later and counting, nothing.
On May 11, Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric about the crackdown, and audio. Vine hereUN transcript here and below.
On June 1, Inner City Press asked Dujarric, video here, UN transcript here: 
Inner City Press: Yahya Jammeh of Gambia, you know, he has been quoted as saying Ban… the Secretary-General… I mean he may have said Ban Ki-moon; that's I was trying to determine… can go to hell.  And this has to do with calls to investigate the death of activist Solo Sandeng.  So, I wanted to know two things.  One is kind of a setup for you, a softball.  What's the response of the Secretary-General to this statement by the leader of Gambia?  But, two, what has the UN actually been doing to… to try to bring about an investigation of the death of Mr. Sandeng and other… other activists…?

Spokesman:  We've seen the quotes.  The UN's position is unchanged, and I'll get an update from our colleagues in the region as to the contacts they've had.
From May 11:
Inner City Press: There’ve been reports of kind of a crackdown in Gambia in the last few days of opposition people locked up, and I know that the UN had previously worked on it through DPA (Department of Political Affairs).  So do they have any comment?  One of the reports involves an audio clip of the Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN here in New York saying, if I were in charge, I’d shoot all the protesters… [inaudible]

Spokesman:  I don’t have anything on Gambia for you today.
(The audio includes the F-bomb, in vogue this year in the UN Press Briefing Room, on January 29 when Spokesman Dujarric and his Deputy Farhan Haq threw Inner City Press out of the room where it was pursuing the UN corruption scandal story, and since, deriding a question concerning the Department of Public Information which ousted and then evicted Inner City Press, video here.)
 On May 13 the UN system spoke - but not the Secretariat, where the Department of Political Affairs had purported to be following and working on Gambia, rather from OHCHR spokesperson Rupert Colville on Geneva:
We remain deeply concerned at the situation of dozens of protestors who were arrested during a peaceful rally on 14 and 16 April in the Gambian capital Banjul. We have received worrying reports that some of them, who are still in detention, have been tortured. There are also reports that their family members have not been allowed to visit them, and some have been denied access to medical care.

We urge the Gambian Government to release all those who have been arrested and detained for simply having exercised their rights to freedom of expression, opinion and assembly.

We also reiterate our call to the Gambian authorities to launch an impartial investigation into the reported death in custody of Solo Sandeng, Chairman of the youth wing of the opposition United Democratic Party (UDP) on 14 April.

Two other female opposition figures, Fatoumata Jawara and Nogoi Njai, who were also feared to have died, were found in custody – but reportedly in very bad condition.

We are also deeply worried about the situation of Alhagie Ceesay, Director of the Teranga FM radio station, who has been on trial for sedition and false information since July 2015. Ceesay has been hospitalized on several occasions for serious health problems reportedly due to torture and ill-treatment he has endured while in detention. He was last seen alive on 11 April. We urge the Gambian Government to clarify his whereabouts, ensure that he is not submitted to torture and ill-treatment, and guarantee that his right to fair trial is fully respected. "
   So where is the UN's Department of Public Affairs on this? Ban Ki-moon has been on another tour gather honorary degrees and talking about the Sustainable Development Goals, while his Spokesman Stephane Dujarric refuses to answer Inner City Press twice asked question about Ban's and his UN's engagement with the “Global Governance for the UN Sustainable Development Goals” group, and its links with the ongoing Ng Lap Seng UN bribery scandal. Inner City Press is now under restrictions, including minders, not imposed on other more UN-friendly media. To this has the UN descended. Watch this site.
  Back on April 17 after Gambia killed three opposition figures in jail after locking up many more during an April 14 protest, the US and Ban Ki-moon UN both issued statements. 
  Tellingly, while the US statement cited the "United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights," Ban Ki-moon's did not. This is because Ban's UN is lawless, as shown on Haiti cholera and, right at Headquarters, on April 16 when Ban had evicted the investigative Press without any process, video here.
  Ban's UN pretended to care about Gambia in late 2014 and early 2015, but never followed through.
Back in late December 2014, the UN has said the coup attempt in Gambia was important to it, even as it was mis-reported. On February 4, the UN told Inner City Press its official Jeffrey Feltman was going to the country.
 On the morning of February 10, Inner City Press learned that the visit had not taken place, that by some accounts President Yahya Jammeh had canceled it, after publication of an article online.
 Inner City Press looked online and found an article that might have triggered this, calling the previous visit of the UN's Mohammed Chambas a failure, and saying "This time the UN is dispatching United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman to visit Banjul on 4 February 2015 for an audience with the country’s leader Yahya Jammeh, according to a press statement from the UNDP."
  So Inner City Press went to the website of the UN "country team" in Gambia, run by UNDP, but when one clicks "news" it leads to a message of "404." Failure.
 At the February 10 noon briefing, Inner City Press asked UN deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq about all this. Video here.
  Back on February 4, having seen mention in the African press, Inner City Press asked UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Stephane Dujaric:
Inner City Press: Can you confirm that Mr. [Jeffrey] Feltman is going to Gambia on a follow-up to Mr. [Mohammed ibn] Chambas' visit?

Spokesman Dujarric:  I do believe he is in Gambia, and we will get more details.

Inner City Press:  And is there some reason that his schedule is not public? I mean, this was reported in the press there.  It seems when he goes places, he's representing the Secretary-General.

Spokesman:  I think we try to share his schedules.  Sometimes things fall through the cracks.  But, we try to be as open and transparent as we can

Inner City Press / FUNCA: Can you ask [the Department of Political Affairs] to put it online?

Spokesman:  Thousands of [Department of Political Affairs] staffers are probably watching this briefing.
Inner City Press:  I’m sure.
  Not only are Feltman's schedules not made public, as now formally requested by the Free UN Coalition for Access - just after this exchange, Ban Ki-moon held a lunch with scribes the Q&A of which has not been released. Click here for that.
The Gambia coup attempt was discussed for a second time in the UN Security Council on January 8, but discrepancies emerged.
On December 31, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that he “encourages the establishment of a transparent investigation into the events of 30 December, in compliance with due process and respect for the rule of law.”
  The call for a transparent investigation was missing from the January 8 briefing by UN official Chambas, who told the Security Council  “I am planning to visit Banjul on 14-15 January and meet with President Jammeh. I will reiterate our firm condemnation of any attempt to seize power by unconstitutional means, and encourage the Gambian authorities to work with the support of international partners, to ensure the credibility of judicial procedures and the respect of human rights.”
  Afterward Inner City Press asked Chambas about the different, and on behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access about radio station Taranga FM, shut down during the coup bid and now told to play only music.
   Chambas told Inner City Press he had not heard of the station -- Inner City Press in the hallway urged him to tune it in while he is in Bangui, to see if it is only music -- and spoke of trying to liberalize West Africa. We'll see.
  Before 10 am on December 31, Ban Ki-moon issued a 123 word statement calling for restraint and an investigation of the attempt in the The Gambia, albeit not mentioning the name of the target of the coup, Yahya Jammeh.
  After the Security Council's 45-minute meeting, Inner City Press asked the Council's president who is supposed to do the investigation Ban had called for before the meeting. He responded that UN official Chambas will go to Banjul; Inner City Press later learned and published that this will take place on January 2.
  Reuters however reported that "Following brief talks at the U.N. Security Council, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for a transparent investigation into the events and also urged restraint."
 This is false. 
   Ban's statement was at 9:37 am; the Security Council meeting didn't start until 10 am, and didn't end until 10:45 am. (At that time, Inner City Press asked Ban's Under Secretary General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman for more detail; he replied that since Ban had issued a statement, he had nothing to add -- all too common at the UN, as pointed out and opposed by the Free UN Coalition for Access.)
  Reuters was not present at the UN Security Council stakeout before, during or after the meeting on Gambia (Tweeted photo here), and apparently not in the UN building either. The crediting on the above quoted story is"Reporting by David Lewis and Diadie Ba in Dakar, Lesley Wroughton in Washington, Louis Charbonneau in New York; Writing by David Lewis and Matthew Mpoke Bigg; Editing by Giles Elgood."
  Six journalists listed; one outright falsehood. What does Reuters do in these cases? We've asked management including Stephen J. Adler before, amid censorship, withno real answer. #ReutersFail.
  Since then, African Union commission chief Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has expressed "preoccupation" and rurged deepening "democracy and the respect for human rights."
  By the time of Ban's 9:37 am December 31 statement, later misrepresented by Reuters, the US had already issueda statement: “The United States is aware of reports of a coup attempt on December 30 in The Gambia. We strongly condemn any attempt to seize power through extra-constitutional means. We regret the loss of life and call on all parties to refrain from further violence.”
    Thirteen hours later when Ban Ki-moon issued his statement, he went a bit further and cited calm and called for an investigation, apparently by Jammeh's government itself:
“The Secretary-General is following closely developments in The Gambia. He reiterates the United Nations principled condemnation of all attempts to seize power through unconstitutional means. Referring to reports that indicate that the situation in Banjul is calm, he calls for all parties to exercise restraint and to refrain from further violence. 
“Noting the seriousness of any attempt to overthrow governments by force, the Secretary-General encourages the establishment of a transparent investigation into the events of 30 December, in compliance with due process and respect for the rule of law. In that regard, he urges the Government of The Gambia, and its security and defense forces to act in full respect for human rights. The United Nations will continue to closely monitor the situation.”
  When the UN Security Council meeting on the topic began at 10:10 am on December 31, there were tumbleweeds at the stakeout in front. Some may denounce The Gambia, but at the UN or at least in its press corp, there is not apparently much interest.
  When the meeting ended, in less than 45 minutes, Inner City Press asked Feltman about it. He said since the SG had issued a statement, he had nothing to add. In 2015, theFree UN Coalition for Access will be pressing for all UN Under Secretaries General to answer questions. 
  Finally, the Security Council's president for December, from Chad, came and summarized the meeting, saying that UN official Chambas, previously the head of UNAMID in Darfur, will file a report. There have been problems with UNAMID's reporting. 
 (Again in terms of micro-news, Inner City Press is exclusively told by sources that Chambas will go to Gambia on Friday, January 2. Since the UNSC President was asked on camera when Chambas would go and only said "soon," call it a coup scooplet.)
  Inner City Press asked the outgoing Security Council president about the December 30 closed door meeting about Sudan throwing out two UN officials, Yvonne Helle and Ali Al-Za'tari. He said he couldn't speak, nothing had been agreed to. Which is why the UN Secretariat should have spoken and taken questions, as FUNCA requested and will continue to request in 2015. Watch this site.