By Matthew Russell Lee, Follow Up On Exclusives
UNITED NATIONS, August 23 -- Should the UN Spokesperson be expected to provide an explanation why his Office told the Press a controversial Burundian colonel was NOT with UN Peacekeeping when a respected radio station in Burundi says the colonel was repatriated? It would seem so. But it's not the case in today's UN.
On August 22, Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's lead spokesman Stephane Dujarric for just such an answer:
To: Stephane Dujarric [at] un.org
From: Inner City Press
Date: Mon, Aug 22, 2016 at 3:13 PM
Cc: Farhan Haq [at] un.org, FUNCA [at] funca.info
Subject: Press Q again about Burundi's Mayuyu - I was told "not on roster," now RPA says he's repatriated: confirm/deny, explain
"I have asked your Office repeatedly about Burundian Lieutenant-colonel Alfred Mayuyu being deployed to MINUSCA in the Central African Republic despite his human rights record in Burundi, including in connection with Dec 12, 2015.
I was told, by Farhan Haq, that Mayuyu was not on any MINUSCA roster.
Last week I heard Mayuyu was in fact being repatriated (with the flight paid for the UN, not Burundi) and aimed to ask at today's abruptly-ended briefing.
Now the below has been published by Radio Publique Africaine, that Mayayu IS being repatriated.
Please immediately confirm or deny, and if confirm, please explain why I was told, after repeated questions, that Mayuyu was not on any roster."
No explanation given; no answer at all for more than a day, from this spokesperson who worked to get the investigative Press thrown out -“aide memoire" to Senate Foreign Relations Committee here,Paragraphs 9 and 10, some video of Q-no-A here. Is this acceptable for the UN?
With no email response, even just to confirm receipt, from Dujarric Inner City Press at the August 23 noon briefing asked again, UN transcript here:
Inner City Press: I wanted to ask you about this Burundian Lieutenant Colonel Mr. Mayuyu. I’d asked a couple of times here and was told he’s not on any roster, and now Radio Publique Africaine in Burundi has reported that he was deployed and has been repatriated. So what is the… what are the facts? And if he was there, why was it said from this podium that he wasn’t there?
Spokesman: I hope to have something on that a bit later today or tomorrow.
Inner City Press: How can the mission not be able to say? He’s a commanding officer…
Spokesman: As I said, I’m trying to harvest facts.
Since Dujarric has a history of rushing out of the briefing room with questions unanswered, Inner City Press began a Periscope video. Dujarric said, gesturing at Inner City Press' Periscoping phone, “You know it’s also live on the web.”
Inner City Press: I understand. But I have to be ready…
Spokesman: Of course.
Inner City Press: to…[inaudible]
Spokesman: And I want people to see that I am the lazy Spokesman that you say I am.
Inner City Press: All right. I did email about Mayuyu…
Spokesman: I’m lazy. That’s what I can tell you.
The reference was to a hashtag, #LazySpox a/k/a (in French) #DroleDePorteParole. And eight hours later and counting, still no answer of any kind.
On July 29 the UN Security Council adopted a resolution to send up to 228 UN Police to Burundi, with four abstentions: China, Egypt, Venezuela and Egypt. Surprisingly, Russia voted yes. Here is the French text; English is below.
Minute before the UN Security Council was to vote on the draft resolution to send up to 228 police to Burundi, French ambassador Francois Delattre spoke with his Chinese counterpart, tweeted photo here, while Angola's ambassador spoke with US Ambassador Samantha Power and her deputy, David Pressman. (Blurrier photo tweeted here.)
But what has been done on the resolution so far? Alexis Lamek, deputy ambassador of its author, France, first declined to answer Inner City Press' question, said he would revert, Vine here, and see below.
On August 22, Inner City Press asked again and Lamek said, “We are speaking with the different stakeholders,”(Vine here) saying after Inner City Press followed up that includes the government.
Ban Ki-moon's Spokesperson's Office under Stephane Dujarric told Inner City Press, after repeated requests about Ban's head of peacekeeping Herve Ladsous taking Lt. Col Alfred Mayuyu into the UN mission in the Central African Republic MINUSCA despite human rights abuses that Mayuyu was not on any roster of the UN. That said publicly on August 5 and never supplemented. Vine here; Video here,UN transcript here:
Inner City Press: I wanted to ask on Burundi, I'd asked you about Lieutenant Colonel Mayuyu, deployment… people continue to say that he's actually being deployed to CAR (Central African Republic), and they've linked him to a unit that was involved in… in… in torture and other abuse in December 2015. So what… is that, in fact, being re… I don't know if you looked into it, but I did ask it here. Go ahead.
Deputy Spokesman: Yes. I did look into that. As far as I'm aware from our colleagues in MINUSCA (United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic), they're not aware that this person is on any of their rosters. They're continuing to check to see whether it was under a different name or something, but no. At this point, we don't have that.
Last week Inner City Press heard that Mayuyu was, in fact, repatriated from CAR, with the UN and not Burundi paying for the flight. Since Dujarric's office, beyond participating in evicting Inner City Press from the UN, and refusing questions on restrictions since, didn't even acknowledge its last round of written questions, Inner City Press intended to ask in-person at the August 22 noon briefing. But Dujarric left abuptly.
Now, RPA reports Mayuyu has been repatriated. Inner City Press has asked Dujarric and his deputy Farhan Haq, who gave the August 5 answer, in writing for an explanation. Watch this site.
On August 19, Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's deputy spokesman Farhan Haq what if anything the UN has done about the abduction by government security of another journalist. Haq said the UN hopes he “found” - so the UN didn't even contact the government? Vine here; UN transcript here:
Inner City Press: on Burundi, I wanted to ask you, there's now a call… there was obviously Jean Bigirimana. There's another journalist, Gisa Steve Irakoze, of a radio station, one of the few independent radio stations in the country, has been abducted, the word RSF uses, by the National Security Agency. And I wanted to know… it's kind of a pressing case… is the team on the ground, rather than just a later report, are they in any way involved in trying to ask the Government to release this journalist who's also diabetic and hasn't eaten in two days by some accounts?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, we're aware of the latest reports, and we are concerned about any efforts that would harm the right of Burundians to the freedom of expression and any crackdowns on the media. So, of course, we hope that this will be resolved and that the person will be found and found safely soon.
On August 18, Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Farhan Haq, Vine here and here, UN transcript:
Inner City Press: I wanted to ask you about Burundi. There have been… first, there's some… there are various Tutsi members of the army, some who are out of the country, who are basically trying to… saying they don't want to go back because they face imprisonment or killing. There's… there's… some nine have gone missing. Six have been killed. So, I wanted to know whether this is something that the Special Adviser or the team on the ground is concerned about, a seemingly ethnic split in the army, and how this also impacts the impending deployment of 800 Burundian troops to the Central African Republic.
Deputy Spokesman: Well, as for the deployment of troops, that's a process that is under way, and we'll see how that is carried out, but it will follow the normal guidelines for vetting. Regarding the situation on the ground in Burundi, the Special Adviser does continue to be in touch with the Government and other sides. We are trying to work with the various communities to make sure that the country continues to deal with its problems in an inclusive manner.
So far, here have been two economic responses. On August 16, Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Farhan Haq, Vine here, UN transcript here:
Inner City Press: it's widely reported that the Burundian Government has closed the border with Rwanda and stopped all trade between the two. So, I wanted to know if there's a… any response by the UN and its Special Adviser. And also, what's been done since the… since in mid-July the Security Council passed the resolution to deploy 220 police, what exactly has DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] and the Secretariat done to implement or begin implementing that resolution?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, we are in touch with potential police-contributing countries, and what we're trying to do is see whether we can construct a police presence in accordance with the mandate provided by the Security Council.
ICP Question: Has the Secretariat communicated with the Pierre Nkurunziza Government? Because they've said publicly that they're not going to take the police.
Deputy Spokesman: We are in touch with the Nkurunziza Government, including through the Special Adviser.
ICP Question: And what about the trade? What about the cutoff of trade? Is the UN taking note of that?
Deputy Spokesman: I am aware of the media reports. I'm not aware of any particular reaction we have. As you know, for most of these sorts of matters, we encourage countries to deal with any differences with each other through bilateral means. If there's anything more to say, I'll let you know.
ICP Question: Sure. I'm only asking because isn't there also a guy working on Great Lakes? It seems to be the problem in Burundi is becoming a regional issue, so I'm wondering whether the UN sees it as such.
Deputy Spokesman: Well, I haven't seen any comment from that particular Adviser on this, just so far.
Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Farhan Haq on August 10 about bodies found in Burundi's rivers, UN transcript here:
Inner City Press: on Burundi, I’d asked you about the journalist that’s been missing and that his publication Iwacu says that he’s been killed. But in investigating a body found in a river, something called the National Committee on Human Rights of Burundi went and they found more bodies in the river. So it gives me… I guess I wanted to know, since the UN has people, including, supposedly, human rights observers, on the ground, do they accompany the Government commission when they go to investigate bodies in a river? Some people are saying 11 bodies have been found. Certainly, two have been found. One is supposed to be a journalist. Given that the Government is accused in some of these cases of being the killer, what’s the UN’s role with its team on the ground?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, the human rights monitors in Burundi follow up on any allegations of human rights atrocities, and then they report back on them, and as you know, those reports are available.
ICP Question: Right, but specifically, I guess, do they… are they in Bujumbura reading about this, or do they accompany the Government to go to the site of bodies?
Deputy Spokesman: You can see the reports. They give details about the work that they do in their periodic reports.
ICP Question: Right but in this instance, I guess I’m just asking you now, since there’s a dead journalist, when would they report on it?
Deputy Spokesman: We would have to see. Obviously, every so often, they have the periodic reports in which they describe the work that they’re doing.
On August 9, Inner City Press asked French Deputy Ambassador Alexis Lamek, now that the government of Burundi has said it rejects the deployment of UN Police, what next? He said, “I will come back to you.” Vine here. He didn't.
At the August 9 noon briefing, Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Farhan Haq what the UN Secretariat is doing, to get the police deployed. His answer cited Burundi's sovereignty and cooperating with the government. Vine here.
On August 8, Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's deputy spokesman Farhan Haq, UN transcript here:
Inner City Press: I'd asked before about this journalist from Iwacu called Jean Bigirimana, and now his publication, Iwacu, seems to indicate that his body has been found. And there are number of press freedom organizations, human rights organizations saying that it has to be investigated. With the UN's presence there, what steps has it taken since he was disappeared and the publication went public with his disappearance? Has anything been done by the UN on this case?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, we do monitor the situation of human rights in the country. We don't have any particular report on this case to share at this point. But they are looking into the circumstances of all of the potential human rights violations in the country. Obviously, any harassment, let alone killing, of any journalist merits a strong reaction and would need to be fully investigated by the authorities on the ground.
On August 5, Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's deputy spokesman Farhan Haq, video here, UN transcript here:
I wanted to ask on Burundi, something new and then one as a follow-up question. There's reports there of a mass grave of 12 bodies being unearthed in Ngozi, and so I wanted to know if it's something that has reached your office or if the UN's going to have any role in examining that. And also, I'd asked you about Lieutenant Colonel Mayuyu, deployment… people continue to say that he's actually being deployed to CAR (Central African Republic), and they've linked him to a unit that was involved in… in… in torture and other abuse in December 2015. So what… is that, in fact, being re… I don't know if you looked into it, but I did ask it here. Go ahead.
Deputy Spokesman: Yes. I did look into that. As far as I'm aware from our colleagues in MINUSCA (United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic), they're not aware that this person is on any of their rosters. They're continuing to check to see whether it was under a different name or something, but no. At this point, we don't have that. Regarding a mass grave in Ngozi, of course, we're concerned about any reports of mass graves, and I'll look and see whether we have anything further about this particular…