By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, August 15 -- The spokesman for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Stephane Dujarric, on July 14 told the press that the “first group of 25 MINURSO personnel, first batch, of the returning landed in Layun yesterday.”
But, Inner City Press was exclusively informed by sources, that was false. Confirmed below.
Now, with US-based multi-national McDonald's blithely set to open a branch in El Ayun, it is reported that Moroccan forces have entered the zone of Guerguerat a/k/a “Kandahar,” Oued Ed-Dahab-Lagouira crossing in the south of Western Sahara strip, north of the peninsula of La Guera and in the border with Mauritania.
The area is ostensibly under the control of the UN mission MINURSO, compromised by Ban Ki-moon -- who remains silent, as he is on attacks on Yemen. On August 15, Inner City Press asked Ban's deputy spokesman Farhan Haq, Beyond the Vine here, UN transcript here:
Inner City Press: I wanted to ask you about in Western Sahara, just if you have anything on this. There are reports of… of troop movement by Moroccan troops in an area in which supposedly MINURSO [United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara] is in control. I wanted to know if you have anything on that, and also if you have any answer now to the letter that was written by the staff unions about the failure to return staff to MINURSO and their impression that they're being politically traded away.
Deputy Spokesman: The process of returning staff to MINURSO continues to be under way. Like we said at the time when the first 25 were going back that that was intended to be the start of a process of returns. So, that is continuing. And we're working in this in as thoroughgoing a manner as possible.
So, no answer on the troop movements, asked about at the noon briefing.
MINURSO staff through their unions have complained to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous, as well as Atul Khare, about political pressure being applied to them by the UN, about bias, discrimination and lack of due process. This has become a hallmark of the UN of Ban Ki-moon and his officials like Spain's Cristina Gallach, here.
The letter, which Inner City Press exclusively published here, says Ban's UN has been making “political concessions” and violating applicable rules. It cites a message from the Mission never followed through on, and calls for the Security Council to belatedly be informed how few staff have been returned.
Given that, why are “vacancies” to be advertised? What deal has Ban Ki-moon, and/or Ladsous, cut with Morocco? For now, the UN is not saying. On August 5 Inner City Press asked, video here, UN transcript here:
Inner City Press: In Western Sahara, there's a letter that I've seen from a staff union, UNISUR and another union, basically saying that the staff that are supposed to be returned have received a letter that makes them doubt that they'll actually be returned, and the letter from the staff union to the Secretary-General and Mr. [Hervé] Ladsous talks about political compromises and urges a compliance with UN rules in terms of how the staff are… are treated. Can you confirm receipt of the letter? And what is the response of the Secretariat to the staff union, saying that basically the rights of staff under the rules are being traded away from political convenience?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, we're… certainly, we are aware of the letter. I don't have any response to share with you at this point. I believe that that will be considered.
We'll have more on this. We'll have more on this.
On Western Sahara, UN Staff Complain To / About Ban Ki-mooon and Ladsous byMatthew Russell Lee on Scribd
On August 2 Inner City Press exclusively published both the letter Morocco had UN staff sign receipt of in March 2016 as they were expelled from Western Sahara, here (note that no reversal letter has been issued), and the list of 84 international staff ousted, as presented by the Government of Morocco, here.
In full disclosure, Inner City Press did attend, invited, Morocco's Throne Day event at the Waldorf on August 1, Periscoping before, during and after. (Spain's highest UN official Cristina Gallach, who evicted Inner City Press, was also in attendance, right to the end.) But the lack of a reversal letter, and the contents of Morocco's list of 84, call for more questions. Watch this site.
On July 26 after the Security Council's closed-door meeting on Western Sahara, Morocco's Ambassador Omar Hilale in speaking to the press referred to a “package” negotiated with Ban Ki-moon's UN Secretariat. Inner City Press asked Hilale who in the Secretariat negotiated this package, but Hilale would not answer that. Video here.
On July 28, Inner City Press asked Uruguay's Ambassador Elbio Rosselli if this "package" had been discussed, and he said no. Video here. Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon deputy spokesman Farhan Haq, who denied there is a package (he denies many things.)
Inner City Press understands the next tranches to return are 17 and six and that according to some in Ban's Secretariat, some (secret?) commitments HAVE been made to Morocco, to get Ban out of this jam as he seeks to run for President of South Korea.
On July 27, Inner City Press asked UK Ambassador Matthew Rycroft if this “package” had been discussed in the Council consultations. No, he said, what was discussed was the return of MINURSO personnel and full functionality. Video here. So who DID negotiate the package Hilale is referring to? And why was it not discussed in the Council when Herve Ladsous spoke?
On July 26 Inner City Press asked the Council's president for July Koro Bessho of Japan if UN Peacekeeping's Herve Ladsous had given any indication when more than 25 of the 83 expelled peacekeepers would return.
Bessho said that with 25, the MINURSO mission has not reached the goal of full functionality.
Moments later Inner City Press asked Morocco's Ambassador Omar Hilale about this quote. He replied that Inner City Press always seeks to cast doubt on Morocco; he said that a “package” has been agreed to with the UN Secretariat that is a two-way street.
So what has Ban Ki-moon's Secretariat agreed to? Hilale wouldn't say. He said he will be giving Inner City Press a copy of a letter showing 28 heads of state inviting Morocco into the African Union. And here it is: we are putting it online here
along with this AU Press Release.
AU: Morocco did not attend or address the 27th AU Summit in Kigali, Rwanda byMatthew Russell Lee on Scribd
When Inner City Press asked with whom in the Secretariat Morocco had negotiated this package, he called it a vicious question. In fairness,here's Hilale's stakeout via UNTV, and Boukari's via Inner CityPress' Periscope and YouTube.
On July 26, Inner City Press asked UK Ambassador Matthew Rycroft if 25, or 50, would be enough. Video here. From the UK transcript:
Rycroft: from what I hear, I think it's well on the way to getting back to full functionality. So, we're looking forward, and seeing that this is an issue which is resolving itself.
Inner City Press Q: Now it's 25. Would 50 be enough?
Rycroft: I'm not going to put a number on it. I'm just going to say that I think we are moving well towards full functionality. I think the issues that have bedeviled the UN presence there are behind us.
Then Inner City Press tried to asked French Ambassador Francois Delattre about what POLISARIO's representative Ahmed Boukhari had said on the record on July 25, that France is trying for a UN Security Council statement “congratulating” Morocco for 25 of the 83 it expelled. Inner City Press asked, trying to make it as easy as possible for Delattre to answer, “Vous voulez felicitez el Maroc?” Video here.
Delattre congratulated Inner City Press' French, but did not answer, saying he would come out of the Council later. But when he did, after he read out statements in French about Central African Republic and Inner City Press said, “one question on Western Sahara?” Delattre said no, no more questions. Then answered more. Periscope video here. Watch this site.
On July 25 On the eve of the UN Security Council's meeting about Western Sahara, POLISARIO's representative Ahmed Boukhari told reporters that France is trying to get a statement congratulating Morocco for letting back in 25 over the more than 80 members of the MINURSO peacekeeping mission it expelled. He called this, repeatedly, a “joke.”
Inner City Press asked Boukhari if he could imagine Council members Venezuela or Uruguay or others agreeing to such language. He said no. Inner City Press asked if he would imagine France or Senegal agreeing to “regret” that those expelled have not returned. Not that either.
So will there simply by no Security Council statement or even Elements to the Press after the July 26 meeting?
Boukhari said that “someone” had been trying to play for time and delay. As he answered questions, a spokesman of UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous, the fourth Frenchman in a row to hold that post, floated by, smiling, followed by HRW's new UN rep. We'll have more on this.
The sources told Inner City Press, after seeing Dujaric's claim, that:
“Returns to Laayoune: 4 staff returned on wednesday 13 july 2016; 3 staff returned on thursday 14 july 2016; 5 staff shall return on friday 15 july 2016. The balance of 13 staff are awaiting their travel confirmations.”
So why did Dujarric misspeak or mislead? We wrote that we'd be asking - and hoped Dujarric wouldn't run from the podium amid Press questions as he did on July 14, video here.
After Dujarric said 25 staff were back at the July 14 noon briefing - false - he did not appear for or at the July 15 briefing. Inner City Press asked his deputy Farhan Haq about the misstatement, UN Transcript here:
Inner City Press: I wanted to ask about Western Sahara. Yesterday, Stéphane [Dujarric] had said that the first group of 25 MINURSO [United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara] personnel landed in Laayoune yesterday…
Deputy Spokesman: That’s not…
Inner City Press: That is what he said.
Deputy Spokesman: It may have been a little bit garbled as he was trying to express it, but the first batch of 25 people is arriving over the coming days. But, that batch will be there within the coming days, but they haven't all arrived in one go.
Inner City Press: I'm told only seven were there when he said it?
Deputy Spokesman: No. I believe there has been about four or five each day but as of now, right now, the number is at 12.
Inner City Press: Given the unclarity, I'm asking you to confirm as follows that on Wednesday, 13 July, four arrived, that on Thursda, 14 July, three arrived, that five were supposed to arrive today and 13 are still awaiting travel confirmation. Because people that know about this saw what he said and contacted Inner City Press and said it's false, it's false information?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, he had guidance, but I think as it came out of his mouth, it was garbled a little bit, but he was saying that the first batch of 25 is arriving. But it didn't arrive…
Inner City Press: But, why didn't he then send an e-mail around because people reported it?
Deputy Spokesman: No, when reporters approached us, we tried to give them the correct figures.
Inner City Press: I'm interested in this and I didn't approach him because he ran out of the room.
Deputy Spokesman: In the first… that's between you and him.
Inner City Press: Why don't you send an e-mail to the press when you say something false from the podium? That’s my question.
Deputy Spokesman: It wasn't false. They are arriving in the coming days, but in terms out of how much arrived the first day, yes, it is four; and as of now the number is 12; and we will get further groups arriving in basically threes and fours in the coming days, up until the first tranche is completed and that will be a tranche of 25, which is what he said
Well, no, as the video shows. On another question Haq wouldn't even commit to answering by email, saying he might not have time for an email and might leave it until the next briefing. But even by that retaliatory logic, note that Haq did NOT in his opening to the July 15 briefing correct Dujarric's July 14 misstatement on Western Sahara. This is Ban's UN.
When the UN Security Council voted on a draft resolution on Western Sahara on April 29, there were two no votes - Venezuela and Uruguay - and three abstentions: Angola, Russia and New Zealand. Then the UN buried Polisario's Q&A with the Press, and when Pressed said, "It is what it is."
Criticized outside the Council was France's (and Spain's) role, seeking to delay even reporting on MINURSO for 90 days -- so as to impact the selection of Next Secretary General, some say.
Here is an article in Spanish on some of the process at the UN; here is the New York Times of May 14 about the related eviction. UN Under Secretary General Cristina Gallach has told UN Special Rapporteurs the eviction was for an incident or even "altercation" in the UN Press Briefing Room. The video shows there was no altercation, but Gallach has yet to answer or be reversed.
Now there is UN video, with the camera controlled by Gallach's DPI and pointedly NOT showing a disruption in the room which tried to stop the Polisario representative who had been given the floor from speaking. Instead of, as would be natural anywhere in the free world, turning the camera to film the source of the disruption, the UNTV camera focuses more closely on the Polisario representative, to downplay the disruption.Video here from Minute 27:52.
Today's UN and DPI not only selectively use "rules," some of which are not available on the Internet, nor on the UN's iSeek intranet nor even through its Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit - it controls what is shown, and restricts more independent views with minders.
On June 24, Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Farhan Haq, video here, UN transcript here:
Inner City Press: There's been a two-week-long meeting of the Decolonization Committee with some controversy surrounding it. One of the controversies that existed was when the chairperson ordered the meeting to be adjourned because the Polisario representative couldn't speak, and the representative of Morocco said this is a shame… 50 years, it violates all precedence. My understanding is that security was called. I wanted to know, obviously, this is a building owned by Member States, but what's the protocol… what are the rights of UN security as regards to a permanent representative of a country in terms of a meeting being declared closed and a person not leaving?
Deputy Spokesman: Ultimately, the rules for meetings are set by the Member States that share those meetings. They're the ones who organized the meetings, and they're responsible for the rules.
Inner City Press: But, what would be the repercussions of a permanent representative of a UN Member State not obeying such an order?
Deputy Spokesman: Ultimately, we have a relationship with our Member States which depends upon a certain amount of adherence to the rules. The Member States themselves agree to the rules, and it applies to all of them equally.
Inner City Press: Right, but what happens if it's violated, I guess, is what I'm asking you.
Deputy Spokesman: I really don't want to engage in it as a hypothetical. It's something that is dealt with case by case
Here is a non-UNTV, that is, non-DPI, video of a stand off in another UN room, where the Chairperson of the Decolonization Committee asked non-members of the Committee to leave the room and the Ambassador of Morocco refused, saying "Shame, Shame." Gallach will in this case not do any eviction, surely. But why did she in the first case, on Inner City Press? We'll have more on this.
On June 17 as Inner City Press was confined to UN minders to cover the General Assembly meeting voting on the budget of, among other things, MINURSO, Inner City Press was told and Tweeted that Morocco had tried to speak over Polisario. Now, this video.
And this - what was described as "positive momentum" would be a mere 25 returned from over 80 thrown out. But Ban Ki-moon is trying to avoid being further tainted, so he gave in to Saudi Arabia, evicted Press to not cover the Secretariat's role in the Ng Lap Seng scandal, some say, and now might accept the sell out of MINURSO, just to visit Morocco in November before more formal launch (of campaign) in January.
On June 16 Inner City Press asked French Ambassador Francois Delattre, President of the Security Council
Inner City Press: On Western Sahara, the Any Other Business agenda item, what do you think?
Delattre : Well it’s a bit early, because it’s a bit later in the afternoon and we have many other issues to discuss until then. But, regarding Western Sahara we hope we have come to a positive momentum. It remains to be confirmed, it’s up to the SG to say, but that’s what you asked me so I am telling you what I think. I think we are about to confirm a positive momentum. Merci.
Later on June 16, sources told Inner City Press the UN's Herve Ladsous is holding this proposal which France describes as positive. Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Stephane Dujarric, who cut off another Inner City Press question and did not provide a substantive answer to this one, except to say that Ban is always well informed as he travels.
The Press was effectively BANned from covering the stakeout outside the Western Sahara meeting of the Security Council: the glass door was locked, Ban's Dujarric saw it and did nothing. Inner City Press, evicted by Ban's USG Gallach, has a reduced pass which does not open the turnstile.
But when the Western Sahara meeting broke up, Council member Rafael Ramirez of Venezuela told Inner City Press the meeting was not useful, Ladsous refused to provide information.
Inner City Press asks if Ladsous shares the information with his native France, leading to the "positive momentum" comment. We'll have more on this.
On June 10, Inner City Press was BANned from attending a briefing on Western Sahara inside the UN, despite being invited to it. The UN has in 2016 confined Inner City Press to minders or “escorts;” Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Stephane Dujarric told the New York Times, about Inner City Press, that “if he has an issue, there is a staff of media liaisons to help him resolve the problem and get where he needs to go.”
That, like much else, was not true. Inner City Press went to the Liaisons, showed the email invitation - and was told, we never escort people there. Ultimately Inner City Press was unable to attend the briefing, which before the pretextual ouster and eviction it would have been able to. Dujarric called on an attendee first at the day's noon briefing, who asked the questions raised by the briefing. This is how it works, or doesn't at the UN.
Inner City Press had already reported the UNexplained involvement of another Under Secretary General in the MINURSO process -- he was named at the June 10 briefing, Jamal Benomar; the technical team sent there is to return to New York next week. Ban Ki-moon's capitulation to Saudi Arabia puts all this in a new light - the outright censorship not UNrelated.
On May 18, Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric,UN transcript here:
Inner City Press: I wanted to know if you have any update not only of the talks between the Secretariat and Morocco but also of just the current status of the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO). I've heard that Kim Bolduc essentially has no staff at all, that there's a person who's an air traffic controller who is doubling as her kind of factotum. Is that… how would you characterize the current staff levels and what Ms. Bolduc actually does day to day.
Spokesman: She is there as a Special Representative of the Secretary-General and continues to work and lead the mission. Obviously, the civilian staffing continue… has not changed, and the mission is not able to fulfil its mandate as it was designed. The… the work continues, and we will report back to the Security Council as mandated by the last resolution.
On April 29 even while Uruguay spoke in the Security Council, UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric started up “his” noon briefing (whichended with a profanity directed at Inner City Press, sound later edited out or censored on UNTV). After that, finding Morocco's Omar Hilale at the stakeout, Inner City Press asked him to whom his King referred, in criticizing UN officers: only Christopher Ross? Or USg Jeff Feltman too? Hilale said he would not criticize by name.
At 3 pm there was another UNTV stakeout. Inner City Press asked if Polisario could speak. When the representative of Polisario took to the microphone to read a statement (Tweeted photo of statement here) a UN Security guard came over, and the feed and sound went dark. More correspondents came, and the sound went up again. Inner City Press for the Free UN Coalition for Access asked, You have a right to speak here, right? Yes, was the answer.
(On May 2, a UN Security guard told Inner City Press in front of the ECOSOC Chamber where Ban Ki-moon spoke, You have no right to be here; Inner City Press was then told it could not ask questions of diplomats. This is today's UN.)
But the resulting video was not put on the UN's website. So on May 2 Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Stephane Dujarric,video here, UN transcript here:
Inner City Press: for a time the sound and picture went out but then it came back up, which seemed to be appropriate. But I'm noticing now in terms of the archive version, it's not up. What is the UN's position, you say he has every right to be in the building, if he is, in fact, invited and accompanied by the Permanent Representative of a Member State, why is the video of his stakeout not on the UN archives? Can you find out?
Spokesman Dujarric: We can check with DPI (Department of Public Information).
But by noon on May 3, nothing. So Inner City Press asked again, UN transcript here:
Inner City Press: on this World Press Freedom Day theme, since you're saying that all of these things are just small examples or personal examples, I had asked you yesterday about the fact that the… the… the stakeout by the representative of Polisario was not put on the UN's website. You said you could… we could check with DPI. It wasn't clear to me who the "we" was, but I want to ask you, because I have gone back and checked and in 2012 when the same representative spoke, the archive did go up. It seems like… what's the trend here? What is the reason why a taped, several minutes long Q&A with Polisario's representative was not put on the UN's website?
Spokesman Dujarric: I think… this issue… we're trying to work through this issue.
Inner City Press: Meaning what? Somebody's lobbying to not put it up?
Spokesman: I'll leave it at that.
Inner City Press: Okay. But you will finally announce why…
Spokesman Dujarric: I will leave it at that.
On May 4, Inner City Press asked yet again - and while Dujarric said it was archived, as it turns out is was added to the tail end of the Algerian stakeout - Dujarric hasn't yet answers if that was (Gallach's) compromise. UN transcript:
Inner City Press: On this question of Polisario, I wanted to ask, I have been asking a couple times but I have kind of a new… the question of the stakeout that was recorded but was temporarily stopped, then began again, not going into archives, the Turkish Cypriot community that you mentioned, their’s always go up. Yesterday MSF and ICRC, which are not Member States…
Spokesman Dujarric: It's archived.
Inner City Press: It's archived now, great. Can you explain what the delay was?
Spokesman Dujarric: No.
Inner City Press: You won't?
Spokesman Dujarric: I don't.
Before Dujarric finished "his" briefing, Inner City Press found that searching UN Webcast for Polisario would not find the clip - was was merely appended to Algeria, though it was a separate stakeout. Was this Gallach's compromise? Inner City Press audibly asked - but Dujarric did not answer, and it was then not in the transcript.
So on May 6, Inner City Press asked again, UN transcript here:
Inner City Press: you said that the stakeout of the representative Polisario [Front] was, in fact, added three days late to the UN's website. But, it was added sort of as the tail end in the Algerian Permanent Representative's presentation. And I wonder, given that there was a gap between the two and given that usually when that's done… was this a compromise reached after some lobbying? How was that reached?
Spokesman Dujarric: It is what it is, as we say.
Yeah - UN censorship under Ban Ki-moon, "it is what it is," from burying this to evicting the Press, video here.
Meanwhile DPI chief Cristina Gallach, Spain's highest UN official and responsible for UNTV, has ousted and evicted Inner City Press, and now mulls handing its long time office to French or Morocco media.
As is happens, when Polisario spoke on UNTV in 2012, before Gallach's tenure, it DID go into UN archives, here. This is censorship and the decay and of the UN. We'll have more on this.