Thursday, October 27, 2016

In Burundi, NGOs Targeted, Inner City Press Asks UN, Which Calls Talks Constructive

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITES NATIONS, October 25 -- Amid warnings in Burundi of the risk of genocide, when UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on September 24 met with the country's foreign minister Alain Aime Nyamitwe, Inner City Press went to cover it as closely as possible.

   The meeting went less than twenty minutes, but took nearly three hours for Ban's office to summarize. Inner City Press live-streamed the handshake and book signing on Periscopeas it did Alain Aime Nyamitwe's speech in the General Assembly hall. But when Ban's office issued a read-out, seemingly negotiated with Burundi, it did not mention the deployment of 228 UN Police, much less the UN's risk of genocide report.

Now in Burundi, with Ban Ki-moon silent except for his planned run for South Korea president, it seems the government has arrested journalistsJulia Steers, an American, and Gildas Yihundimpundu, a Burundian journalist (CPJ deems his a fixer) whose station Radio Bonesha was burned down and closed by the government -- while Ban praised Nkurunziza for “re-opening” two pro-government stations.

On October 25, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric,  Video here

UN transcript here:

Inner City Press: on Burundi, there've been… there's been a widely publicized, at least in Burundi, order banning and removing the permits of a number of NGOs [non-governmental organizations], including a human rights group run by Pierre Claver Mbonimpa and a number of other ones that are basically part of what's called the moderate opposition.  So I'm wondering, you said yesterday that the Special Adviser's meetings with the Foreign Minister were constructive.  Did they address the… the… the disaccrediting of… of… of a large proportion of civil society?

Spokesman:  We're very disappointed by the Government's decision to withdraw the permits of a number of NGOs, including the ones you mentioned.  And our message to the Government is to reconsider it.

ICP Question:  But what was constructive about the talks then?  Because I asked you about the journalists, and then I asked you about this one.  So is there some secret kernel of constructivity that took place?

Spokesman:  The constructivity is, I think, in diplomatic terms, can be interpreted in many different ways.  The fact that the talks took place in a constructive atmosphere, I think, says it all.

On October 24, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric, UN transcript here: 

Inner City Press:  some journalists were arrested, reportedly while investigating mass graves.  It was an American journalist, J.C. [Julia] Steers, and a Burundian journalist, Gildas, and their driver.  This has gone out all over the world.  There's a list that's emerged of enemies of the State put out by the CNDD-FDD. 

So what I wonder is, what… if he's there and these things are taking place, how… do these constructive meetings involve talking about journalists being arrested for trying to document [inaudible]…

Spokesman:  We're very much aware of the arrests of the journalists, something that's very regrettable to say the least.  We understand that both the journalists and the driver, who was also arrested, have now been released.  We are in touch with our colleagues at the Human Rights Office in Bujumbura and trying to look into the exact circumstances of what has happened.

It is clear that there is a need for the media and the press to be able to operate freely in Burundi and every other… every other place for that matter.

ICP Question:  And what about the lists that emerged?  Are there any steps being taken by the UN to make sure the UN itself doesn't target media that are listed on the list?

Spokesman:  The UN is not in the business of targeting media.

  Really? See this, and today's Swiss Radio and TVtranslated into English here.

At the UN in New York, when a photo of Burundi's Ambassador'sempty seat during the first speech by Ban's successor Antonio Guterres is tweeted out, threats including death threats ensue. Then again, today's UN has no respect for freedom of the press, even in its own headquarters, evicting its perceived critics and restricting them to minders. So where is the US, UK, EU and others? Watch this site.

Separately, there's this list.

On October 20, Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric, UN transcript here: 

Inner City Press: on Burundi.  I wanted to ask, yesterday and today, there was a Peacebuilding Configuration meeting at which a question was asked but not answered and has to do with this announced national militia, excuse me, national volunteer corps.  And the question was asked by one of the Member States whether this is, in fact, just a militia.  And I wanted to know, since the UN at least… first of all, what's the status of the UN's presence in the country, including through the… of the Office of Human Rights people that are supposedly being contacts broken off with to?  And also what is the UN's analysis of this announced national volunteer corps which many see as a new parallel militia? 

Spokesman:  I'll see what I can get on this latest development.

ICP Question:  What about the people?

Spokesman:  The people, as far as I understand, they're still, discussions are on, and the human rights staff remain in country.

On October 19, the UN Peacebuilding Configuration on Burundi met in Conference Room 7. Inner City Press went to cover it but was stopped at the door and asked why it wanted to go in. Uh, risk of genocide? Inner City Press insisted, it is an open meeting. But it was not on UN webcast, and given Ban Ki-moon's and DPI Cristina Gallach's willingness to censor and retaliation, it did not Periscope.

  In the meeting, Burundi's Albert Shingiro spoke at some length, including about the World Bank -- but did not explain the withdrawal from the International Criminal Court. Belgium's new Permanent Representative asked about the new “volunteer” corps: is it really just a militia?

   The EU's new Deputy, Joanne Adamson of the pre-Brexit UK, cited  Article 96 of the EU-ACP Cotonou agreement. (As she spoke, new ASG for Human Rights Andrew Gilmour of the UK listened and nodded; as we've said, without rancor we continue to ask how this ASG post was given out, without notice to member states or the D-2s in Geneva).

 Morocco's representative, after offering apologies for his PR Hilale for being at the airport, praised the Burundian government's cooperation. Egypt suggested that the Peacebuilding Configuration participate in Security Council consultations: a good idea. The Chair, Switzerland, is proposing a retreat in Geneva with the international financial institutions. We hope to cover that as well. Watch this site.

On October 13, after the UN Security Council had a closed door meeting about Burundi and Inner City Press just outside the Council asked about leaving the ICC and the Mkapa or Museveni process, a draft Security Council press statement was proposed and put “under silence” until 10 am on October 14.

   But, Inner City Press has exclusively just learned, major changes were proposed - and accepted by the drafter and pen holder, France. France's approach to Burundi can be contrasted to the position(s) it took on its recent Syria draft. We have put the marked up draft online, here. We'll have more on this.

Here's what was accepted and emailed out past noon:And 

And here's the final:

Security Council Press Statement on the implementation of resolution 2303

 On 13 October the members of the Security Council were briefed by Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on conflict prevention, including in Burundi, Jamal Benomar, on the status of the implementation of resolution 2303 (2016).

The members of the Security Council expressed their deep concern over the political situation and the lack of progress in implementing resolution 2303 (2016). They took note of the African Union Peace and Security Council communiqué of 6 October 2016. They reiterated their demand that all sides in Burundi refrain from any action that would threaten peace and stability in the country or undermine the EAC-led inter-Burundian dialogue. In that regard, they stressed the utmost importance of respecting the Constitution as well as the letter and spirit of the Arusha Agreement, which has helped to sustain a decade of peace in Burundi.

The members of the Security Council requested the Secretary-General to dispatch his Special Adviser to coordinate with the Government of Burundi on the modalities for the implementation of resolution 2303 (2016), in particular with regard to paragraphs 8, 13 and 14 as per UN  practice. They expressed their full support to the Special Adviser in this regard.

The members of the Security Council called on the Government of Burundi to advance its cooperation with the Special Advisor to develop, in a consensual manner, a plan and timeline for the implementation of the resolution, and to continue to cooperate closely with the United Nations team under the responsibility of the Special Adviser with a view to reaching a peaceful resolution of the crisis, consistent with its resolutions 2248 (2015), 2279 and 2303(2016). They further expressed their support for the efforts of the Secretary-General and his Special Adviser on conflict prevention, including in Burundi, in that regard.

The members of the Security Council called on States in the region to contribute to a peaceful solution to the crisis in Burundi, and recalled commitments of the States of the region under the Framework agreement for Peace, Security and Cooperation for the DRC and the Region.

The members of the Security Council reaffirmed their strong commitment to the sovereignty, political independence, territorial integrity and unity of Burundi.

The members of the Security Council expressed their concern about the humanitarian and human rights situation in the country and called on the Secretary-General to continue to sustain United Nations humanitarian assistance in support of the Burundian population. They regret the decision by Burundi to suspend all cooperation and collaboration with the Office of the UN High Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR), which has been providing technical assistance since 1995 to strengthen Burundi’s rule of law institutions, and hopes that a swift solution can be found through dialogue between OHCHR and the government that will enable OHCHR to resume its activities.

The members of the Security Council expressed their determination to continue to closely follow the situation in Burundi, including progress in the implementation of resolution 2303 (2016).

On October 12, Inner City Press asked Erastus Mwencha, Deputy Chairperson of the African Union Commission, if the AU vets those whom the Nkurunziza government sends to the AU Mission in Somalia, AMISOM. The answer was no -- although Mwencha did say that Burundi needs an inclusive dialogue.

On October 11, Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Stephane Dujarric about the reported plan to deploy Nkurunziza guard Ildephone Habarurema to the peacekeeping mission in Somalia, AMISOM, to which the UN provides support. Despite Ban Ki-moon's claims about human rights first and vetting, Dujarric said the UN has no role in vetting to whom it provides support. So does no one vet?

Inner City Press also asked Dujarric about Burundi's government's widely circulated letter breaking off contacts with the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Dujarric said he was not aware of the letter. Here it is.

On October 12 Inner City Press asked Dujarric why the UN is, this week, circulating this recruitment:
Senior Political Affairs Officer [Temporary]
Level : P-5
Job ID : 68334
Job Network : Political, Peace and Humanitarian
Job Family : Political Affairs
Department/Office : Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Conflict Prevention
Duty Station : BUJUMBURA
Staffing Exercise : N/A
Posted Date : 10/12/2016
Deadline : 10/18/2016

From the October 11UN transcript: 

Inner City Press:  I’d asked you yesterday about Burundi doing a persona non grata statement about three UN officials.  I’m wondering if you have some more formal, less generic response to it.  And I also… they’ve now issued a letter today saying they suspend all cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights.

Spokesman:  I didn’t think my response was that generic.  I haven’t seen the letter.  I’ve not been aware of the letter.  I know, currently, there are about 51 staff members for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Burundi who are monitoring, reporting, protection officers.  Obviously, we feel their work is critical in order to shine a light on the situation in the country, and we very much hope that they will be able to continue their work.

ICP Question:  And I guess I… I’d wanted to… to… one, I’d just make it an ongoing request on the… the… the individual who is going to be deployed to Darfur.  It was said, maybe in your absence, by Farhan [Haq] that it’s on hold and under review, just that if that changes…

Spokesman:  Sure.

ICP Question:  But I wanted to ask, there are a number of people in civil society and Burundi raising… there’s the… the… the chief of the security for the President, Idelfon Habaruama [phonetic], who they say is about to be deployed to AMISOM (African Union Mission in Somalia).  And I think… you know, obviously, people have a right to due process, no question, but as the head of security of the President, he’s been listed as… by Radio Publique Africaine as a [inaudible]…

Spokesman:  I think that’s a question you should reach out to the African Union.

ICP Question:  But does the UN… just to nail the point down, given that the UN provides support, has this support office… does the Human Rights Due Diligence Policy enunciated by the Secretary-General apply to such a deployment?

Spokesman:  Our due diligence policy applies specifically to UN Missions.

On October 10, Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Stephane Dujarric about Burundi declaring “persona non grata” the UN experts Heyns, de Grief and Maya, Vine here. Following asking French foreign minister Jean Marc Ayrault with no response at all on October 8 (Vine here) about Burundi moving to quit the ICC, on October 10 Inner City Press asked France's Ambassador who said he hadn't heard of it but would be back. Vine here. We hope to have more on this.

On October 6, Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Farhan Haq about the next turn of the screw - dropping out of the International Criminal Court just as Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda begins looking at Burundi. From the UN transcript: 

Inner City Press: about Burundi.  There was a meeting of the Council of Ministers today, and they did a couple of things.  They set up something called the National Volunteer Corps, which people think is going to be a parallel militia, but they also are moving to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the face of a preliminary inquiry by Fatou Bensouda.  So I wanted to know, what does the UN think of these two moves, and what steps has DPKO (Department of Peacekeeping Operations) or Mr. [Jamal] Benomar taken in terms of the deployment of the police, and do you see this as a worsening situation?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, to start from the last bit about the deployment of the police:  Of course, you've noted the rejection by the Government of Burundi of a police deployment, and following that rejection, the UN made a request to the Government of Burundi to carry out a technical assessment mission on implementation of the resolution.  The Government also rejected this request.  While the Security Council reviews its options, the Special Advisor, Jamal Benomar, and his team have been consulting with the Government to find a way forward.  The Special Advisor will travel to the region ahead of reporting to the Council at the end of the month.  In addition, the Security Council has requested the Secretariat to brief on 13 October.  The next round of East African Community-led consultations on an inclusive dialogue in Burundi is expected to take place in November.  So that's where we stand.  And, like I said, Mr. Benomar will go ahead now with his travels and will then brief the Security Council.

ICP Question:  On the ICC issue, you might say they've been a member, and now that there's an inquiry and there have been some communications by the ICC about the country, they're moving to withdraw from it.  Do you see this as an attempt to get away with international crimes?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, I wouldn't speculate on what they may or may not do with regard to the ICC.  What we have asked for is that all the countries who have ratified the Rome Statute continue to abide by the terms of the Rome Statute.

Now it seems that Ban Ki-moon's UN doesn't follow Burundi's statements in Geneva, that it will not cooperate with the new independent inquiry, just as Ban has done nothing to deploy the 228 police mandated by the UN Security Council. Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric on September 30; Dujarric still had nothing on if Nahimana is being deployed by the UN, Vine here.

It seems the UN is deploying another dubious Burundian military figure. Inner City Press on September 28 asked Ban's spokesman Dujarric, Beyond the Vine video hereUN transcript here: 

Inner City Press:  on Burundi, there's another deployment question.  There's a guy called Cla… Claver Nahimana, who was widely described as being involved in the recent arrest and assassination of another military figure, Claude Mangera -[sic - it's Nyongera].  And he's being deployed… to the UN African Union mission in Darfur as a military observer.  And it seems like these are pretty high-profile human rights cases in Bujumbura.  Is there some kind of… I mean, I'm asking you here, and maybe you can ask them.  Is there…

Spokesman:  I'll find out.  Obviously, I don't have those sort of granular details…

  Dujarric as is his wont never returned with any details. So Inner City Press had to ask again, to Dujarric's deputy Farhan Haq, on October 3 - to be told it is on hold. Vine video here;  From the October 3 UN transcript: 

Inner City Press: on Burundi,  in the past, I've had to ask a number of times, so I wanted to ask again about Mr. [Claver] Nahimana, this Burundian figure, have you checked with UNAMID (African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur) whether he's, in fact, as civil society in the country says, being deployed as an observer?

Deputy Spokesman:  I've been told that any deployment of Mr. Nahimana is on hold while we evaluate his record.

  We'll see - a similar claim was prematurely made regarding Mr. Mayuyu. This is Ban's UN- and it has to end.