Friday, May 12, 2017

On DRC Amid Massacres in Kasai and Kabila Breaking Deal, ICP Asks But UN No Comments

By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, May 9 – The UN has spent billions in the DR Congo and still spends it, but has nothing to say about massacres and the breaking of political deals. On May 9 Inner City Press asked the UN's holdover spokesman Stephane Dujarric, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: I wanted to ask you about the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  First, whether the UN has any comment on President [Joseph] Kabila naming a transitional Government in seeming violation of his agreement.  And also, there are reports of new massacres in Kasai.  There are witnesses saying that the army just bas… went into people's houses and summarily executed them.

Spokesman:  We've seen the reports in Kasais, which are, obviously, very disturbing.  And I know our colleagues in the mission are looking into it.  I don't have any comment on the political end at this moment.
 No comment? Back in March two members of the UN's DR Congo Panel of Experts were confirmed by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres as dead. The UN Security Council issued this Press Statement: "The members of the Security Council condemned in the strongest terms the killing of two UN experts from the Group of Experts who were monitoring the sanctions regime in the Kasaï Central region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and expressed concern over the unknown status of the four Congolese nationals accompanying them. The members of the Security Council expressed their deepest sympathy to the families of the victims, the Governments of the United States, Chile and Sweden, as well as to the Group of Experts on the DRC and the UN Secretariat.
 The members of the Security Council urged the Congolese authorities to continue the search for the four missing Congolese nationals.
The members of the Security Council called on the Government of the DRC to swiftly and fully investigate these crimes and bring the still unidentified perpetrators to justice. They encouraged a UN inquiry into the matter, as per the statement by the Secretary General on 28 March 2017, and encouraged cooperation from the government of the DRC in this regard. The members of the Security Council underlined that attacks targeting civilians, such as these UN-appointed personnel, may constitute war crimes under international law."
 US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley commented: "It is with great sadness that we received confirmation today of the deaths of Michael Sharp and Zaida Catalan. Michael and Zaida were killed senselessly while on a mission working for the United Nations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. My prayers and heartfelt condolences are with Michael and Zaida’s families during this terrible time. It is always difficult to lose a brave American dedicated to service. Michael was working on the front lines of what we try to do at the United Nations every day: find problems and fix them. He selflessly put himself in harm’s way to try to make a difference in the lives of the Congolese people. His courage and desire to serve others is an example for us all. "
  Here was UNSG Guterres' earlier statement: "I am deeply saddened to confirm that the remains discovered by peacekeepers from the United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) on 27 March outside of the city of Kananga in the Congolese Kasaï-Central province are those of Michael Sharp (United States) and Zaida Catalan (Sweden), members of the Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of the Congo missing since 12 March 2017. I convey my profound condolences to Michael's and Zaida's families, loved ones and colleagues. Michael and Zaida lost their lives seeking to understand the causes of conflict and insecurity in the DRC in order to help bring peace to the country and its people.  We will honor their memory by continuing to support the invaluable work of the Group of Experts and the whole UN family in the DRC. It is our hope that the cause of their deaths will be determined following a more thorough examination.  I trust that the Congolese authorities will conduct a full investigation into this incident. The United Nations will also conduct an inquiry. In case of criminal acts, the United Nations will do everything possible to ensure that justice is done. I urge the Congolese authorities to continue the search for the four Congolese nationals who accompanied our colleagues. The United Nations will cooperate with the authorities in the continuing search."
  Rest in peace. But what will the UN do different? After UN Peacekeeping boss Herve Ladsous refused to answer the Press' question about DR Congo Panel of Experts member Michael Sharp and his colleagues, on March 28 Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Farhan Haq, "The father of UN DRC Panel of Expert member Michael MJ Sharp has said, "We have been informed that two Caucasian bodies have been found in shallow graves in the search area, one male and one female. Since no other Caucasians have been reported missing in that region, there is a high probability that these are the bodies of MJ and Zaida” Catalan. Please state the UN's role, if any, in finding the bodies, and state what steps will be taken to further identify them, and by whom: the DRC authorities? Any UN role? What are the UN's / MONUSCO's / DPKO - DPA's lessons learned from what has happened?" In response, Haq said "We have been getting many questions about reports from the Democratic Republic of the Congo that the bodies of the members of the Group of Experts on the DRC have been found. What I can tell you is that peacekeepers from the UN Mission, MONUSCO, have found remains which are being examined to determine if they are indeed those of our missing colleagues. We cannot at this moment confirm that they are the bodies of the experts. We hope to be able to provide more information on this soon. In any case, we will provide all verified information first to our colleagues' families and to the authorities of Sweden, the US and the DRC." Watch this site.

Back on March 21 Inner City Press asked Francois Delattre the UN Ambassador of France about the kidnapping. Video here.Here's how the French mission transcribed it: 
Inner City Press: Q: What about the panel of experts, two of them are missing and their staff disappear, what should MONUSCO be doing, is the Council concerned, what should be done?

Amb Delattre: There is a huge concern of course about these two experts who disappeared. It is too early to say what will be the conclusions of the enquiry but of course it is a matter of big concern for all of us. 
  Back on March 16 Inner City Press asked UN holdover spokesman Stephane Dujarric how many, if the government of the DRC was told, and of complaints from Kansas. Video hereUN Transcript: 
Inner City Press: in the DRC [Democratic Republic of the Congo], the two internationals and four… I think it's four nationals or can you… do you know how many… how many Congolese…

Spokesman:  My understanding is that it's two internationals and [four] Congolese.
Inner City Press: What I wanted to ask is about a quote by Lambert Mende, a Spokesman for the Government.  He said: "It is not normal for people to come here and start moving around like this, Mr. Mende said Tuesday.  If the Government had been informed of the activities of these officials, perhaps they would have had an escort for their safety.  He said he would raise the issue with the United Nations."  Has the DRC raised it?  But, also, was the DRC Government informed of the movement…?

Spokesman:  I think… I will let my colleagues on the ground answer the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo as to the details.  I think our focus now is on our continued search for two colleagues and the [four] Congolese that were travelling with them, and we continue that search.  And I'll leave it at that.

Inner City Press: elected representatives from Kansas have been quoted saying… where Mr. Michael Sharp comes from, have been quoted as saying that they are calling on both the State Department, and in particular, the UN to do more.  So…?

Spokesman:  I think we… we completely understand the anxiety of the families, of the people involved, and the people that are close to them.  I can assure you that the UN is doing everything it can, has deployed assets on the ground, and we continue to look for them.   
  Back on March 13 Inner City Press asked Dujarric if the UN's MONUSCO mission had, in fact, moved troops into the Kasais, and if the Panel members had any UN protection. Dujarric did not answer either question. He confirmed the two Panel members, and others, had "gone missing." 
  Meanwhile down in Washington, where 50% UN budget cuts are being discussed and opposed by "UN advocacy group" the Better World Campaign and advocacy media which channel them, State Department Acting Spokesperson Mark Toner said, "We’re aware of reports of a U.S. citizen who was reported missing in the Democratic Republic of Congo. I will not be very forthcoming because we’re still trying to get more specifics about the case; so I won’t be mentioning the individual’s name. I’m somewhat restrained in what I can talk about except to say that we obviously take the security and welfare of American citizens abroad very seriously. We’re watching this case very closely. We’re working with local authorities to try to find out more information. We’re also in touch with the UN as well..  we’re aware of reports that he’s missing, this individual’s missing. I don’t want to lean too far forward until we’ve really gotten a better factual basis to talk about it."
From March 13 the UN transcript: 
Inner City Press: Can I ask about DRC [Democratic Republic of the Congo]?  It says two UN officials, one American and one Swedish, have been taken hostage in Kasai.  One, what can you say about that?  And, two, has DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] or MONUSCO [United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo], in fact, deployed any personnel to Kasai?  I know there was some discussion in the Council of that maybe a week or so ago.  I want to know whether it took place.

Spokesman:  We're clearly looking for these two people.  As you know, two members of the UN Group of Experts have gone missing near the locality of Moyo Muswila.  It's about… in Kasai.  MONUSCO is actively looking for them at this point.
Inner City Press:  But are there MONUSCO personnel in Kasai?  Do they travel around with no UN security?

Spokesman:  My understanding is that there are…

Inner City Press:  So, were they without security?

Spokesman:  No, I don't know the circumstances.  We're still unsure of the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of these two people.  We are actively looking for them. 
  We'll have more on this.
  The UN spends more than a billion dollars a year in public funds in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, yet when massacres are documented, even filmed, the UN does next to nothing. UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous has been responsible for this inaction, in the DRC for example covering up the Army rapes in Minova, as he covered up and justified his peacekeepers' rares in the Central African Republic. What will also-French replacement Jean Pierre Lacroix do, on filmed atrocities?  
Inner City Press on February 20 asked UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq about just such a video, and why the UN continues to work with the Congolese Army. From the UN transcript, text below.
  Now, after the UNSC Presidency declined to answer Inner City Press on February 23 and on February 24, French Ambassador Francois Delattre told Inner City Press he wasn't sure of the status of the draft Press Statement but he would revert (the Mission didn't), here just out is the UNSC Press Statement: 
"The members of the Security Council strongly condemned the violence witnessed in the Kasaï region over recent months. They expressed grave concern at the recent reports of serious violations of international humanitarian law committed by local militia in that region, including unlawful recruitment and use of child soldiers, and of killings of civilians by members of the security forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), all of which might constitute war crimes under international law.

They recalled that the Government of DRC bears the primary responsibility to protect civilians within its territory and urged the Government of DRC to constantly exercise maximum restraint and proportionate lawful use of force in its efforts to restore order. They called on the Government of DRC to immediately dispatch a credible and impartial investigation and to bring to justice and hold accountable all those responsible. They welcomed the announcement by the Government of DRC in this regard. They encouraged the Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) to provide support to the Congolese authorities, if requested, in the conduct of this investigation, developments in which they will follow very closely. They further called on MONUSCO to monitor and report on violations and abuses of international human rights law and violations of international humanitarian law and to update its contingency plans in this regard. In the longer term, they encouraged the Government of DRC to continue its efforts for the extension of state authority, ensuring credible governance with capable institutions, especially in the security sector, to prevent and deter violence.

The members of the Security Council expressed their concern at recent incursions of former M23 combatants in DRC and recalled the commitments by all States of the region under the Peace, Security and Cooperation (PSC) framework for the DRC and the region. They noted with appreciation the communique of the third meeting of the guarantors of the PSC Framework on 27 January 2017 in that regard and urged them to continue advancing their commitments.

The members of the Security Council reaffirmed their strong support for the 31 December 2016 political agreement, and its pursuit of peaceful, credible, free, fair and inclusive elections by December 2017, leading to a democratic transfer of power. They expressed their increasing concern regarding the continuing lack of progress in the dialogue among the political stakeholders in DRC related to the implementation modalities of the agreement. They expressed concern that, two months after the signing of the agreement, the appointment of a Prime Minister presented by the Rassemblement coalition, as well as the installation of a new transitional government and of the Comité National de Suivi de l’Accord (CNSA) have yet to take place. They stressed the need to maintain the political goodwill that led to the signing of the agreement in order to avoid further insecurity in the DRC.

In this context, the members of the Security Council called on all stakeholders in the DRC, including President Kabila, the presidential majority and the opposition, to redouble, in good faith, their efforts towards a speedy conclusion of the ongoing talks on the “arrangements particuliers” of the agreement, in order to urgently nominate a Prime Minister presented by the Rassemblement, as per the 31 December agreement, to put in place the CNSA and to fully implement confidence building measures. They recalled that security issues should not delay the implementation of the agreement, and that the rapid implementation of the agreement is important for ensuring peace and security in the DRC.

The members of the Security Council reiterated their full support to the mediation led by Conférence épiscopale nationale du Congo (CENCO), and reaffirmed the need for all parties to support and participate constructively in these mediation efforts. They recalled that that full and timely implementation of the 31 December agreement, in accordance with the Congolese Constitution and in line with UN Security Council  Resolution 2277 (2016), is critical in upholding the legitimacy of the transitional institutions until elections.

The members of the Security Council stressed the importance of the Government of the DRC and its national partners taking all necessary steps to accelerate preparations for the elections, without further delays, and to ensure an environment conducive to the peaceful and inclusive conduct of political activities. They further stressed the importance of the inclusion of women in the follow up and implementation of the agreement.

The members of the Security Council further called for the assistance of DRC’s development partners and regional States to support the efforts of relevant Congolese authorities to implement the 31 December agreement and the electoral process, as well as the establishment of sustainable peace and security in the country.

Noting that the effective and swift implementation of the 31 December agreement is critical to the peace and stability of DRC, the members of the Security Council reiterated their commitment to support the implementation of the agreement, in close cooperation with the African Union and regional mechanisms, and their determination to continue to closely follow the situation in the DRC, in particular the respect of human rights, the security conditions on the ground and the efforts to successfully conclude a credible electoral process, and, in particular regarding all Congolese actors whose actions and statement impede the implementation of the agreement and the organization of the elections, to act accordingly.

The members of the Security Council reiterated their strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of the DRC.

The members of the Security Council reiterated their full support to MONUSCO and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the Democratic Republic of the Congo."
From the UN's  Feb 20 transcript: 
Inner City Press: I wanted to ask you about this DRC video of summary executions by the army of civilians, including women and children.  A number of countries have spoken out, but I’m wondering, particularly given since the UN does joint operations with the… the… the DRC authorities, what steps is the UN taking to investigate the… the murders shown on the video and to see whether it, in fact, supports and works with any of the units involved?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, first of all, we don’t provide any support to the Congolese Armed Forces in the Kasais, which is where this video applies.  All current cooperation with the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is focused on efforts to neutralize armed groups in the Eastern DRC according to the established procedures under the Human Rights Due Diligence Policy.

The Mission has requested from the DRC authorities a credible and independent investigation into the actions of the Congolese Armed Forces in the Kasais.  MONUSCO has also deployed a mobile monitoring response team in the area to investigate and document human rights violations and has reinforced its civilian, police and military engagement at all levels with the Congolese authorities to address the situation.

Inner City Press:  I guess one question I have about this is… I mean, I understand that the units are broken down by geography, but the way… the… the… the… it seems to reflect so badly on the army as a whole, the fact this would… that unarmed people would be shot in this way and that it would be filmed and circulated in the way that it was that I’m wondering, at what point is… is the… is the human rights due diligence only triggered by the specific unit that does something, or is there, in fact, command responsibility given, like, could there be commanders in Kinshasa in charge of not only the units in Kasais but also, to some degree, the units in the east and their failure to… to… to train, investigate, or discipline would… would trigger loss of support?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, as I just mentioned, that’s why we requested… even though we don’t cooperate with the Congolese Armed Forces in the Kasais, we have requested from the DRC authorities a credible and independent investigation into the Congolese Armed Forces’ overall action in the Kasais.

Regarding the video, obviously, it shows very shocking footage of killings and executions of civilians by uniformed personnel.  The Mission is looking into verifying the source of the video and identifying whether it is linked to the recent events in the Kasais.  This video is one piece of information among many that we’re looking into in connection to the spate of incidents that have taken place in Kananga in the past days.

  We'll have more on this.