By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, March 14 -- In the UN Security Council, France along with sometime-member Mexico has proposed a voluntary relinquishing of the veto in cases of mass atrocity. But France maintains itself as Security Council penholder, that is drafter, on many of its historic colonies in Africa, often to the detriment of the citizens of these countries. Inner City Press and the Free UN Coalition for Access ask, what about a voluntary - or if necessary involuntary - relinquishing of Security Council penholder status? Even beyond the allegations that French peacekeepers sexually exploited and abused children in the Central African Republic, on which France holds the pen while controlling UN Peacekeeping for twenty years and counting, compare Burundi to Cameroon.
Cameroon's Paul Biya has held power for 32 years, since Ronald Reagan. He has cut off the Internet to the country's Anglophone areas for 56 days and counting. Yet French Ambassador Gilles Thibault this month congratulated Biya for his treatment of the areas, just after the Security Council visited and stayed quiet. So, even on this ground alone, how can France hold the Council's pen on Burundi, where the third and possible fourth term of Pierre Nkurunziza is a major issue? It's time for France to relinquish the pen.
Likewise, if the UN Security Council issues a Press Statement but the UN Spokesperson doesn't email it to the Press, and the Council's penholder doesn't even tweet it, does it make a sound? On Burundi that is the question, where a belated March 13 Council Press Statement was tweeted first by Sweden, then Japan, then the Council's President for March, the UK - but never that day by France. As Inner City Press reported, earlier on March 13 to the UN Peacebuilding meeting on Burundi, France did not send its number 1 or 2 Ambassador. Nor did the UN's holdover spokesman Stephane Dujarric, it seems, email out the Council Press Statement. There are echoes here of his non-answers on Cameroon's abuses including Internet cut-off.
When the Burundi configuration of the UN Peacekeeping Commission met on March 13, France spoke but not through its top Ambassador Francois Delattre or even his deputy Alexis Lamek. It again called to mind France's approach in Cameroon, where its ambassador Thibault last week congratulatedPaul Biya for a non-existent dialogue with the Anglophone areas. Why isn't at least UN Peacekeeping working on these areas, where the Internet has been cut off by the government for 56 days and counting? Watch this site.
UN Peacekeeping is training the Burundi security forces in how to use drones; Army spokesman Gaspard Baratuza -- himself repatriated from the UN Mission in the Central African Republic after Inner City Press questions (credited on AllAfrica.com here) bragged about it and refused to answer about Burundi's use of drones.
So Inner City Press on February 24 asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric why Herve Ladsous' UN is training this already problematic Burundi contingent in the use of drones. Video here from 25:50. Dujarric didn't substantively respond to that question and on Inner City Press next question about Ladsous, Dujarric ran off the podium and out of the room. UN DPI under Cristina Gallach produced a video with the audio of the question cut, see here at end.
Not only Gallach, whose post's advertisement was extended from March 6 to March 20, but Dujarric who is trying to hold on while refusing to answer questions, ill-serve new Secretary General Antonio Gutteres.
Likewise an attempt by Dujarric, who has become increasing abusive in defending corruption under Ban Ki-moon, to stay on will undermine the UN. Watch this site.
Meanwhile at the UN on March 20, the UN's lead evicter of the Press Cristina Gallach and others will celebrate the Day of Francophonie. More like Francophony, at least as regards the Thibault - Biya meeting. We'll have more on this.
Inner City Press asked both the International Monetary Fund and the UN Security Council's president about the crisis in Cameroon's Anglophone areas on March 9 and heard that while the IMF acknowledges the financial risk, the Security Council does not see it as a threat to international peace and security. But the UN's Resident Coordinator Najat Rochdi has said nothing about the crisis, and blocks on Twitter the Press which asks about it. Is the UN system failing, in its new Secretary General's promise of increased preventative diplomacy?
When the IMF's spokesperson Gerry Rice took questions on March 9, Inner City Press asked about Cameroon, specifically the crackdown in the northwest and southwest of the country. Inner City Press asked, "On Cameroon, after the mission led by Corinne Delechat, what is the status of talks for a program, and since the IMF cited “civil unrest in the neighboring Central African Republic,” please state the IMF's awareness of civil unrest and arrests in Northwest and Southwest Cameroon, also known as the Anglophone areas, and their impact." Rice read out the question and then said, among other things, that the risk factors for 2017 include a continuation of the "social and political events" in the "so-called Anglophone" areas of Cameroon. Interim video here. On IMF site, here, from 34:56. IMF transcript below.
But a few hours later when Inner City Press asked the month's UN Security Council president Matthew Rycroft of the UK, who had just been in Cameroon, about the crisis, he said it is not a threat to international peace and security, though he did say, untranscribed, that this is kept under review - as should France's status as penholder on Burundi, CAR and elsewhere.
On January 4, Inner City Press asked about the Security Council's (lack of) Follow through on Burundi, to Ambassador Delattre of France, the "penholder" on Burundi. Tweeted video here.