Thursday, February 16, 2017

On Burundi, UN Tells ICP That Mkapa Assures No Arrests in Tanzania, Constitution Question

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive Series

UNITED NATIONS, February 14 --  When self-styled Burundi facilitator William Mkapa drew up a list of participants, he allowed Pierre Nkunrunziza to in essence choose his interlocutors, making their participation contingent on Nkurunziza granting them provisional immunity.

  On February 14, after Inner City Press asked a second time (and about the constitution, here), the UN sent Inner City Press this response, which we publish in full: "Special Adviser Benomar is in Arusha at the invitation of the Facilitator, former President Benjamin Mkapa, to support his efforts. The Facilitator has invited both the government and opposition and offered assurances to those members of the opposition who are on a Burundian Government arrest warrant list that they will not face arrest or extradition while in Tanzania."
  Meanwhile, an Nkurunziza minister is "visiting" refugees who fled Nkurunziza into Uganda, giving rise to protests.
 Inner City Press first asked the UN's deputy spokesman Farhan Haq on February 13 how the UN can support this. With the answer UNclear, and just before Haq called Inner City Press an obsessive a*hole, Inner City Press asked him, from the UN transcript: 
Inner City Press:  The other thing I wanted to ask about was on the Burundi talks is, you'd said yesterday that the UN is doing everything possible to make sure they're inclusive and that there shouldn't be preconditions.  And I wanted to get your response now.  The ruling party, CNDD-FDD, has said, quote, we are not going to sit with people who are under arrest warrants.  So this means that the peop… that… that exactly what you were saying yesterday you're opposed to will take place in these talks.  And I wanted to know, will Mr. [Jamal] Benomar nonetheless attend?  Will there still be UN funds to support a process in which large parts of the opposition are not allowed to participate?

Deputy Spokesman:  We'll check with Mr. Benomar what his intentions are on that.

From the February 14 UN's transcript:
Inner City Press: In Burundi, the talks that are re-beginning, there's a list out of the participants, but it says at the bottom of the lists that the… the opposition's attendance is contingent on discussions with Pierre Nkurunziza to grant conditional immunity.  Since the UN is supporting this process, is it really a process if one side gets to choose who from the other side can attend?  What is the role of the UN in ensuring inclusivity of the talks?

Deputy Spokesman:  We have stressed and will continue to stress the need for all talks to be inclusive.  And we want, therefore, all people to be able to participate in a manner that is not conditional.

Inner City Press:  But, what is… I mean, conditioned on immunity.  This is a letter… this is a document from Mr. [Benjamin] Mkapa, and he seems to be accepting that Pierre Nkurunziza can choose who can attend.

Deputy Spokesman:  We're in touch with the parties, and we're doing what we can to ensure that talks will be as inclusive as possible.
  So what is the UN doing?
  On top of Mkapa's attempt to up his pay to $1500 a day, and inclusion in his team of a person named in a previous UN sanctions report for DR Congo, there are more and more questions about this facilitation. But the UN, which "supports" it, won't even disclose the delay and blocking of its visas. 
  Herve Ladsous, the fourth French national in a row to run UN Peacekeeping, overrode recommendations and continues to pay the Nkurunziza government for Burundian peacekeepers accused of 25 rapes in the Central African Republic. This is calling out for action and cuts, and a re-thinking of how and by whom UN Peacekeeping should be run. Watch this site.
While the UN claims, even now, that it vets the peacekeepers it deploys before it deploys them, it has already had to repatriate a number, from Burundi. On January 24 Inner City Press asked about another, but the UN in its transcript didn't even take down the name. Video here,UN transcript here and below.
On February 8, Inner City Press asked the UN's holdover spokesman Stephane Dujarric about Burundi. UN transcript here: 
Inner City Press:  Can you give, either now or maybe later today, the status of Burundi's actual cooperation with the UN system?  It was said in Geneva today that there's a need for more land because there are more people being chased out.  So my question to you is, we haven't heard for a while.  Have the visas been given to the Special Envoy's office?  Have… has there been any…

Spokesman:  I have no update on progress on those issues.
 And he closed his office six hours later with no answer, saying it may remain closed due to snow.
On February 6 Inner City Press asked Dujarric what his new boss, Antonio Guterres, had on February 3 told the UN Security Council about Burundi. From the UN transcript: 
Inner City Press: I wanted to ask you about this report put out about the… by the Special Rapporteurs about the closing of… of human rights NGOs (non-governmental organizations) in Burundi, by Representatives Kaye and Forest and others.  And first I just wanted to know, is there anything from the Secretariat kind of reacting to it?  And also, could you give some either summary or indication of what Secretary-General António Guterres said to the Council on Friday?  There was sort a readout, sort of on South Sudan but very little said on Burundi.  What is… what are his plans going forward given that his Security Council resolution has not been implemented and now you have…

Spokesman:  Well, obviously, the Security Council, I think, has a very important role to play in resolving the Burundi crisis, as all of the countries in the region do.  The Secretary-General, during his meeting with the Council, updated them on his discussions during the… at the African Union.  And on the report, we have nothing to add.  It's obviously a very important report, but we have no specific comment on it.
 On January 25, Inner City Press asked this same UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric about deportations, UN transcript here: 
Inner City Press: extradition questions, not South Korea extradition but from DRC to Burundi.  There’s 150 Burundians that face extradition or deportation back to Burundi, and a number of human rights groups are saying that there are human rights implications to this.  And I’m wondering, given that the UN is interested in one country and has a big presence in the other, what is the UN’s position on this impending extradition…


Spokesman:  I’m not aware of these, of this report.  You could check with the mission directly, and obviously, we’d hope that all these things are done in accordance with full respect of international law.
  Not aware - typical, for this Ban Ki-moon holdover spokesman. From January 24:
Inner City Press: the deployments to the CAR (Central African Republic) from Burundi.  And there's now a guy called [inaudible] who was the deputy commander of the unit who burned down Radio Publique Africaine on 12 December.  So I wanted to know, are you aware of it?  And what are the standards…?

Spokesman Stephane Dujarric:  Are you saying that he's being deployed?

Question:  I'm saying he's being deployed using a false name.  That's all over the Burundian…

Spokesman:  I've not seen that report, but I will check. 
 But Dujarric's office didn't include the name in the transcript, nor ask for it. It's Budigi. We'll have more on this.
   At the confirmation hearing for Nikki Haley, nominee as US Ambassador to the UN, on January 18 Haley three times said that countries whose peacekeepers abuse should not keep getting paid.
  Inner City Press asked the UN and UK about this, with the example of the UN having chosen to keep paying Burundi for 800 troops even after the UN's own inquiry charged 25 rapes by Burundian soldiers in the Central African Republic.
  UK Ambassador Matthew Rycroft signaled agreement, that sexual abuse by peacekeepers should be met by repatriation. Tweeted video here. But simply to be replaced by troops from the same country, to get paid? 

(During Rycroft's answer, there was a smirk at the mention of Burundi, from US state media that's had John Kerry on its Board - perhaps aflashback to Liberians, here. We may have more on this.)
 UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq called it a "case by case" decision, tweeted video here. But who decided it, and why? Look to Herve Ladsous, the fourth Frenchman in a row atop UN Peacekeeping.