Saturday, December 10, 2016

On Burundi, UN 3 Weeks Late on 25 Rapes, Now Gives 6 Months to Nkurunziza

By Matthew Russell Lee, Follow Up to Exclusives

UNITED NATIONS, December 6 -- Amid human rights abuses in Burundi and the Central African Republic, on November 23 Inner City Press exclusively reported and documented that the United Nations has told the Burundian government of Pierre Nkurunziza it must replace, and cannot deploy to CAR, nine officers.

Inner City Press exclusively obtained and published the UN's confidential Note Verbale with the nine names, below. 

But before that, on November 14 Inner City Press reported from UN sources that 25 Burundian troops were linked to rapes in Central African Republic; on November 16 it asked Ban Ki-moon's deputy spokesman Farhan Haq about just this number: 25.

  On December 5, Ban's lead spokesman Stephane Dujarric read out a canned statement about 16 Gabonese and, yes, 25 Burundi troops identified by OIOS.

Inner City Press asked, how can it be that the UN, led by Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous, decided to bring in 800 more Burundian troops AFTER the finding of the 25? Tweeted video here.

Dujarric replied, Due process. UNreal.

On December 6, Inner City Press asked more, UN transcript here: 

Inner City Press: the way to incentivise is to say no further deployments.  I remember there was a police conference, a UN police conference, that Burundi was disinvited from, that was told not to come.  They didn't come.  They were very upset about it.  A decision was made that, based on human rights issues in the country, they shouldn't come.  What would you say to those who say this… this sexual abuse… 25 cases that OIOS finds cause to believe were sexual abuse is pretty serious and yet the response is less so than was…?

Spokesman:  I think no one here is debating the seriousness of the issue.  There is due process.  That process is being followed.  We're doing all we can to keep you updated in the most transparent way possible.  OIOS has done its investigation in the presence of Gabonese and Burundian national investigative officers.  We await with great interest the report, reporting back from those countries to see what measures have been taken.  There… I think it's important for the process to play out.  There are all sorts of different options.  We, as we've done in the past, repatriate the whole contingent.  We can also… as the resolution says, we can also block all countries from deploying again.  We can bar commanding officers from being deployed if they don't apply the right command responsibilities.  What is important is that the process plays itself out along established lines.

ICP Question:  I just say because it's kind of ironic… there are actually flights that have already been scheduled by Ethiopia Airlines to fly 800 more peacekeepers in right at this time, so I just…

Spokesman:  Well, I think you may see the irony in it.  I don't.

Inner City Press:  Is there a deadline?

Spokesman:  We've asked that they be completed within six months.

From the December 5 UN transcript:

 Inner City Press:  I want to ask you about the… the announcement you made of the sexual abuse in the CAR.  My question is about the Burundian contingent.  In around mid-November, I'd asked, I guess… looked back at it; it was Farhan [Haq] that day, about specifically that number, 25 Burundians charged, because people inside the building knew that that was the number: 25.  They said that there is strong evidence against them.  So I'm wondering, now can you explain how after that date DPKO (Department of Peacekeeping Operations) wrote a letter to Burundi saying we're going to take 800 more peacekeepers; we're watching you closely.  How is it consistent to be watching you closely… if 25 Burundian peacekeepers committed rape, isn't that grounds to not…

Spokesman:  First of all, I think we're looking at accusations., right?  I think… so that's… everyone deserves due process.  We're talking about individuals, right, who may have committed horrible crimes, and if they did, they should face… they should clearly face justice.  Following consultations with relevant offices within the system, the Secretariat has decided to continue with the deployment of Burundian troop battalion in the Central African Republic.  The deployment of the Burundian troops will remain under close review based on the evolving situation in Burundi and cooperation with the UN.  The conduct of Burundian troops in the Central African Republic will also be closely monitored.  Just to give you an example, we reviewed the names of the new incoming Burundian troops.  Nine individuals, for various reasons, were excluded at our request from the rotation.  If you look back at Security Council Resolution 2272 on sexual abuse, it gives the UN the authority to bar troops wholesale from a country.  We will… we've… we're in the middle of a process here.  We… the UN has concluded what it is responsible for.  We've concluded our investigations, and I would stress that, during those investigations, the national investigative officers from Burundi and Gabon were also present.  Once we get the information back from those two countries to see what they have done, the sort of investigations they've done, the accountability they've done for each of these alleged crimes, we'll then consider whether the various provisions of 2272 apply.  And at this point, we can't exclude any option, but we do need to let the process play itself out.

ICP Question:  But I have two… thanks.  I have two follow-ups.  One is that… is that the UN… various parts of the UN system have… has… have been critical of the judiciary process in Burundi.  For example, there are journalists missing.  There are cases… and also, over the weekend, basically, a new… It seems that the… the Arusha Accord and the constitution are being overridden in terms of the makeup between Hutu and Tutsi in the army.  This has been… I was going to ask you that separately from this.  But, given the things that are going on, it seems… I understand due process, but from my understanding, the… I guess what I'm saying is this same number, 25, is what I'd heard three weeks ago.  And so it seems like people in the system… and from what I was told, there's, in some instances, video evidence, cell phone video evidence.  So due process or not, it seems like, how desperate is the UN for peacekeepers in CAR to continue to work with this battalion that has problems at home…

Spokesman:  Whoa, whoa.  We're not… Matthew, all the people that were accused, right, have been rotated out.  They're gone, right?  We're talking… the Burundian troops that are coming in are different units; they're different people.  We've excluded people based on a review.  It's clear that no one who is accused while the process is ongoing would be allowed back.  And we expect the Burundian military to do an investigation and to bring the perpetrators to justice.

ICP Question:  But they can go to AMISOM (African Union Mission in Somalia), right?  Just one last question.  For example… that's why I've asked you before, about whether the UN is part of its financial support to AMISOM.  Has any human rights review [inaudible]…?

Spokesman:  The UN does not provide; the European Union does.

We'll have more on this - because the UN including its US/UN official Jane Holl Lute claims “zero tolerance,” that's not what this is.

   And even these 25 could redeploy to AMISOM in Somalia tomorrow. This is a joke. Zero credibility. It's impunity day everyday in Ban Ki-moon's UN.

Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's spokespeople questions about the note verbale in writing on November 25: no answer. On November 28, Ban's lead spokesman Stephane Dujarric told Inner City Press he would “take a look at it.” On November 29, he had nothing - but the paperwork for more deployments by and payment to the Nkurunziza government emerged.

On December 1, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric, Twitter video here, UN transcript here:

Inner City Press: in Burundi, there's an attack on the presidential adviser, Willy Nyamitwe.  And it's unclear sort of who did it.  They accused Rwanda.  There are pictures circulating today saying this was an intra-government thing by General Bunyoni's forces.  Is the UN itself looking into who attacked him?

Spokesman:  We have no way of knowing who may have committed the attack, but, obviously, regardless of who may have committed it, is something we condemn, as we condemn all forms of violence, especially political violence.

ICP Question:   I'd asked, I guess, two days ago, there's a widely, at least in Burundi, reported letter by the opposition to the Secretary-General saying that… that the Mkapa/Museveni process has not worked at all.  Today, [Benjamin] Mkapa put out another statement.  I just wanted to make sure that the Secretariat has, in fact, received a request that that process be superseded.  Is that…

Spokesman:  I will check

 And again, six hours later and counting, nothing.

On November 30, Inner City Press asked Ban's deputy spokesman Farhan Haq, YouTube video here,  UN transcript here: 

Inner City Press: I wanted to ask you on Burundi, on Burundi, you gave the readout of Prince Zeid's statement in Geneva about the pos… the problems in Burundi.  And both… I… he and the panel of experts seem to both… to believe that the UN peacekeeping should… should stop using Burundian peacekeepers given the human rights issues both in CAR [Central African Republic] and in Burundi.

So given that I've now seen a deployment order for flights beginning on 10 December to… to, in fact, send more Burundian troops to CAR than are currently there, up to 800, and it's dated 28 November, I'm wondering, either from this podium or sometime today, can you… can the UN explain why the Secretariat and DPKO are… are… are rejecting this human rights recommendation to not take the peacekeepers and how that's consistent with Rights Up Front and consistency of the system?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, regarding that, following consultations with all relevant offices within the UN system, the Secretariat has decided to continue with the deployment of the Burundian battalion in the Central African Republic.

The deployment of the Burundian troops will remain under close review based on the evolving situation in Burundi and cooperation with the UN.  The conduct of the Burundian troops in the Central African Republic will also be closely monitored.

And regarding what, what you've been asking about people's individual records, one thing I can say is that, following a review of the CVs of the proposed incoming battalion, nine individuals were excluded from the rotation.

ICP Question:  And I… just one follow-up, because I've seen that letter on the nine and published it.  But I wanted to ask you, I've also… since you've gone this far, since the letter, the note verbally, says it's based on cooperation by the Government of Burundi with the UN system, given this week… this past weekend's demonstration against the UN, and allegation by the ruling party that the UN is distributing weapons, and a memo that's come out showing that government employees were required to protest the UN, is that cooperation?  And who… who's reviewing it under what time frame, given that they're going to fly 2 December?

Deputy Spokesman:  We will evaluate all these developments, but regarding the weekend events, of course, you're aware of what my colleague Stéphane said at the start of this week. 

   In front of the UN Security Council on November 29 Inner City Press asked French Ambassador Francois Delattre about the protests. midtown Manhattan.  He replied that Burundi was one of the topics discussed by new Secretary General Antonio Guterres when he was in Paris. Video here. From the French Mission's transcript, this time included by them:

Inner City Press Q: What about the Burundi protests against the UN? Do you intend to do anything on Burundi, there were major protests against the UN. They said that the UN is trafficking weapons in the country, pretty much ignored the call...

Amb Delattre: We remain completely mobilized on Burundi. This was one of the topics of discussion when Antonio Guterres and then Ban Ki-moon went to Paris a few days ago. Thank you for mentioning it, this remains for us a key priority. And as we speak we work on the implementation of resolution 2303.

  We'll see.

This is an attempt by outgoing UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous to protect the Nkurunziza government and his CAR mission accused of sexual abuse from Human Rights recommendations that no more Burundian peacekeepers by used and paid by the UN.

But as even Ladsous' terms -- "full cooperation" with the UN - was immediately rejected by the Nkurunziza goverment with a mandated protest of the UN scheduled for November 26 - Ban Ki-moon's UN stayed silent.

On November 28, after Ban's spokespeople left entirely unanswered the Burundi questions Inner City Press submitted to them on the morning of November 25, a day on which they got paid, Inner City Press at the (next) noon briefing asked Ban's lead spokesman Stephane Dujarric, UN transcript here:

Inner City Press:   I have some questions on Burundi, many of which I sent to your office on Friday and were not answered.  One has to do with this note verbale between the UN and the Government of Burundi, where it says that nine officials are not to be deployed, but says that the rest of the things can be deployed but will be subject to the full cooperation of the Government of Burundi with the UN system.  And, as you know, on Saturday, there was a protest in Burundi at which it was mandatory to attend the protest if you're a Government official, and the UN has been accused by the chairman of the ruling party of having distributed weapons in connection with what they say is a plot against them.  So I wanted to know couple of things.  Also… finally, I just want to get your answer to this.  There's a French company called OMP Solutions, which is online saying it sold uniforms and provided services for pay in connection with the Burundian deployment.  So I wanted to know how many UN Missions this French compay, they're promoting it, and many in Burundi now allege that the fact that the head of peacekeeping is from France and that this company is openly selling services only to Francophone Africa deployments creates a conflict of interest.  So those were the questions.

Spokesman:  I don't know about the company.  We can try to find out.  You can look on the procurement website to see if they do any business with the UN.  As far as any link between… conflict of interests between the fact that the head of peacekeeping may be… is French and that the company may be French, I think, is completely out of the question.

Inner City Press:  My question is…

Spokesman:  (cutting in) Mr. [Hervé] Ladsous is an international civil servant.  There are a lot of the companies that do business with the UN where its nationals are also there.  To me that's a non-issue.  On the… we've seen these reports of accusing the UN of participating in weapons trafficking.  I can tell you that we, obviously, categorically deny any allegations of weapons trafficking in Burundi, which are untrue, without basis, and extremely dangerous.  The UN has been working to support the Burundian people, with extensive humanitarian development efforts, and has also been supporting efforts to find a political solution to the crisis in Burundi.

Inner City Press:  One follow-up on that.  The reason for the follow-up is… is this, is that the letter… this note verbale, which was never announced from your platform, but we… Inner City Press obtained it and published it on Wednesday, said… it goes against what the Panel of Experts propose, which was to not use Burundian peacekeepers anymore be… due to the human rights issues.  And so, clearly, somebody… and I'd like… I think you should be able to announce… to say this.  Who overrode the human rights, given Rights Up Front and other things, who made the decision to continue the deployment?

Spokesman:  Let me take a look. I haven't seen the note verbale.  Let me take a look at it.
   By the time Ban's spokesperson's office closed hours later, nothing.

  On November 25, a day on which the UN was open and Ban Ki-moon's Spokesperson's office had many people in and getting paid, Inner City Press in the morning submitted this question:

“In Burundi tomorrow Nov 26 there is scheduled to be a demonstration against the UN Panel of Experts, in which government employees are required to participate. (Photo attached). Please before the event provide the UN Secretariat's / Ban Ki-moon's comment - and, separately, how it will be acted on under the Note Verbale about Burundian troops in MINUSCA which Inner City Press obtained and published on November 23.”

   Neither that day, nor in the two days since, has Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson's office provide any response. This as UN staff members in Burundi call in, scared of the targeting. Ban Ki-moon, Ladsous and others including UN “Communications” / censorship chief Cristina Gallach, have failed, and are responsible. #BanGenocide.

Even the UN's “Note Verbale” to the Burundian government which Inner City Press exclusively obtained and published said that “the deployment of Burundian troops to MINUSCA will remain under close review, based on the evaluation of the situation in Burundi, the full cooperation of the Government of Burundi with the entire United Nations system” -- click here for exclusive photo.

   Not only has the Pierre Nkurunziza government since the Note Verbale openly rejected the three members of the UN Panel of Experts replacing the three it previously declared Persona Non Grata -- now mandatory protests of the UN Panel have been decreed for Saturday, November 26. Letter here.

This is the opposite of the “full cooperation” Ladsous and Ban Ki-moon said is required to continue paying Burundi. So will the UN payments and deployment immediately end?

Neither Ladsous nor Ban Ki-moon have lived up to “Rights Up Front” to date. So incoming Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who should fire and replace Ladsous and Under Secretary General Cristina Gallach who has censored Inner City Press as it reports on human rights, has been written to, by the RDB to demand a new UN mediator. We'll have more on this.

There's more. Inner City Press then reported on the "100% French" firm, OMP Solutions, which makes money selling equipment, uniforms and services to Troop Contributing Countries in UN Peacekeeping operations run by Ladsous.

  Now OMP Solutions has responded to Inner City Press with this paragraph, which raises more questions than it answers:

"In 2014, Burundi was selected by the UN to take part in the “Minusca” peacekeeping operation in the Central African Republic. Burundi chose the OMP Solutions group to supply its personnel for the operation carried out on behalf of the UN. The 5-year contract between the Government of the Republic of Burundi and the OMP Solutions group involved the supply of equipment and maintenance in operational condition of this equipment, along with accompaniment for the deployment of one battalion (750 troops) and 2 Police forces (140 men per FPU). This contract covered the equipment with which the troops would be supplied (mobile kitchen, solid toilets, generators, tents, uniforms, logistical vehicles, etc.); under no circumstances were any weapons to be supplied. In July 2016, the UN decided not to relieve the Burundi Police forces present in the CAR. This meant repatriating the equipment and men to Burundi following the UN’s decision. The Buderrundi battalion should be relieved in December 2016. 95% of the equipment specified in the contract was delivered by OMP Solutions to the port of Douala in Cameroon. These goods were then transported to the theatre of operations by the UN (Sibut, Bangui) Each year, the UN dedicates nearly $7.5 billion to Peacekeeping Operations around the world. The States who want to take part in these operations submit their applications to the UN, which then examines the intervention conditions and declares whether or not the States are eligible."

  We'll have more on this.