By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, April 2 – The UN's High Commissioner for Human Rights Prince Zeid, who will be in New York on April 3, has not included in his statements either the cut-off of the Internet in western Cameroon, or his own country Jordan having rolled out the red carpet for Sudan's Omar al Bashir, under indictment for genocide. Why not? On April 3 Zeid will speak at a lunch in New York about a mechanism for accountability in Syria. Fine - but what about Bashir? And, as Inner City Press asked his Office a month ago, what about Cameroon? Relatedly, as Inner City Press, what about the whistleblowers retaliated against, from Anders Kompass through Miranda Brown to Emma Reilly?
Back on March 5 amid the ongoing abuse of Anglophones in Cameroon, the Internet being turned off for weeks in their regions, Inner City Press asked Rupert Colville, Zeid's spokesperson, questions including this: "What is the UN system, including the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), doing about abuses against the Anglophone community in Cameroon, in the Northwest and Southwest regions where the Internet has been cut for 49 days and counting?"
Past noon the following day, March 6, still no response from Colville or the OHCHR. Is this acceptable?
While UN Security Council members visiting Niger, 188th out of 188 on the UN Development Index, is certainly welcome, it is noteworthy has is not being addressed or even publicly mentioned on this trip.
Beyond the omission, which some called shameful, of the plight of Anglophones in Cameroon -- the Internet has been turned off in their regions -- the common denominator of France's historical power relations with, say, Chad and Niger was omitted even from reporting from inside the Council's bubble.
It was complained to the Free UN Coalition for Access that the UN didn't even inform the News Agency of Nigeria that it could go on the trip (but did inform, for example, Voice of America). Might NAN have been more critical of aspects of the trip? How will this omission be addressed?
And while a Security Council member has responded to Inner City Press that the issue was raised in meetings, given that VOA, invited and on the trip, did not even mention it, one wonders when, where and with what seriousness it was raised. We hope to have more on that.
Inner City Press in the past was informed of such trips, and went on some, for example to Chad where then French Ambassador Jean Maurice Ripert dissembled about President Deby's non-appearance, then confronted Inner City Press about its reporting, in the airport in Kigali, Rwanda. Now, following a retaliatory eviction and continuing restriction at the UN by Department of Public Information chief Cristina Gallach and spokesman Stephane Dujarric for seeking to cover the Ng Lap Seng / John Ashe UN bribery case in the UN Press Briefing Room on January 29, 2016, Inner City Press is no longer informed or invited. DPI under Gallach churns out assemblages of canned quotes and tweets as "stories," as from within the bubble. We'll have more on this.
On a previous Security Council trip that included Sudan, Council members spoke to the Press about standing up to the Sudanese government about abuses. So what happened in Cameroon?