Sunday, June 4, 2017

After Cameroon "National" Day, UN's Fall Finally Speaks, Only Against Flow of Non-State Weapons

By Matthew Russell Lee, New Platform
UNITED NATIONS, May 29 – After Inner City Press repeatedly asked UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and his spokesman about Cameroon's Internet cut-off and abuses, the UN's answer was that its Central Africa envoy Francois Lonseny Fall would be visiting in May. Now it's May 29 and Fall has issued this canned quote: "We will continue to support efforts of the subregion in its determination to prevent, to combat and to bring an end to the uncontrolled flow of arms in Central Africa. This would strengthen confidence among states and reassure the population, the main victims of this phenomenon, which is also a hindrance to the sustainable development of Central Africa." This is the focus on Lonseny Fall's much-hyped visit to Yaounde, while Guterres' Deputy SG and chief of staff party with Paul Biya's representative amid songs for Chantal Biya and French champagne. We'll have more on this. Well over a week ago, Inner City Press asked UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres' holdover spokesman Stephane Dujarric about Cameroon administering in areas to which it cut off the Internet for 94 days a General Certificate of Education test, specifically citing UNESCO. Dujarric said he would look into it. Having received no answer even as Guterres' Deputy and Chief of Staff appeared at Cameroon's (boycotted) national day, on May 23 Inner City Press asked again about this, and Amnesty International's press conference on 10 year sentences to students (whose jokes included the GCEs) being shut down. After Dujarric on May 25 had no answer on this, on May 26 Inner City Press asked his deputy, Farhan Haq, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: Do you have anything on Cameroon and Amnesty, the closing down of the Amnesty press conference about 10-year jail sentences for students that I asked Stéphane about two days ago?

Deputy Spokesman:  What we can say is simply that we hope that the freedom of expression and freedom of assembly will be respected in Cameroon.  Have a good weekend, everyone.
  That's it? On May 24 Dujarric said he had an answer from UNESCO - that he never provided to Inner City Press, and apparently would never have, if not asked again. From the UN transcript: Inner City Press: today in Yaoundé, Cameroon, Amnesty International had scheduled a press conference about three teenager students sentenced to ten-year prison sentences for joking in text messages about Boko Haram.  So, I wanted to know, they… basically, this was closed down. The press conference was disallowed.  Many human rights groups have said it's an outrage. And I noticed yesterday evening, the Deputy Secretary-General and the Chef de Cabinet were both at the National Day of Cameroon on 73rd Street in New York.  So, I wanted to know, what does the UN think of… of this country that just recently celebrated its National Day with these two officials shutting out Amnesty International, sentencing students to ten-year prison sentences…

Spokesman:  I'll look into the case.  I have not…

Inner City Press:  Did you ever look into the testing thing?  I'd asked you about administering a test…

Spokesman:  Yes, I think… we were given some guidance by UNESCO...
Now here it is: "Your question on the Cameroon tests: Regarding a previous query on a test being administered in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon despite the regions being affected by school closures and a internet blackout, while this is not an issue covered by UNOCA, but rather UNESCO, UNOCA has informed that there have been reports of abstentions from the examinations in the North West and South-West regions of the country. We are not aware of any reports of these tests being taken at gunpoint.  Nonetheless it is of concern that these examinations [General Certificate of Education] were held, despite school closures and the internet blackout for over three months, which disrupted normal activities. However that is an issue for the relevant national authorities to respond to. UNOCA, in close cooperation with the Acting Resident Coordinator, is monitoring the situation in the North West and South West regions of Cameroon and will continue to liaise with the authorities to promote a peaceful resolution to the grievances of the Anglophone population."
While the UN Security Council visited Cameroon during the 94 day Internet cut off and said nothing publicly about it (but see below), Inner City Press has obtained and has exclusively published on Patreon and now Scribd, here Cameroon's "Urgent and Confidential" letter to the UN Security Council, about weapons. On May 23, Inner City Press went to the New York event for Cameroon's "National" Day, which was boycotted in the Anglophone regions of the country. In New York, however, UN Deputy Secretary General Amina J. Mohammad and Antonio Guterres' Chef de Cabinet Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti attended, along with French Permanent Representative to the UN Francois Delattre, Burundi's Albert Shingiro and others. Video here.

 Periscope inside was not possible due, ironically, to a lack of Internet. There were toasts in French for Chantalle Biya and for the UN officials; on the way out UN staffers told Inner City Press it was sure to criticize them. What matters, as always, is what happens going forward. Italy is a member of the Security Council this year, and on the morning of May 18 including in light of Italian President Mattarella's meetings this year with Cameroon's 34 year president Paul Biya, Inner City Press asked Italy's Mission to the UN: "your Mission was part of the Security Council's trip including to Cameroon earlier this year, during the country's 94-day Internet shut off to millions of people in the Northwest and Southwest (or Anglophone) regions. The IMF, for what it's worth, told Inner City Press the government's Internet cut off is among other things a financial risk in 2017. Could you comment on your Mission's aware of the issue, during the Security Council visit to Cameroon and since, and on whether you believe the Secretary General and DPA, as a matter of prevention of conflict, may have a greater role to play in this long-standing, UN-related conflict or dispute?" Eight hours later, the Italian Mission's spokesperson Giovanni Davoli replied on Cameroon that "the situation you are mentioning was not in the agenda of the UNSC visit." To his credit, Swedish diplomat Carl Skau tells Inner City Press, "I can confirm that the issue was raised by the delegation in meetings." Now Italy's spokesman insists, "I confirm: it was not in the agenda of the visit. Whether it was raised, it is another matter on which I have no elements." Meanwhile, party in interest France has yet to respond, while Emmanuel Macron is in Mali. We'll have more on this. On May 17, Inner City Press asked UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres' spokesman Stephane Dujuarric what if anything Guterres is doing about Cameroon. From the UN transcript: Inner City Press: there are people saying that António Guterres' strategy of being Secretary-General is to sort of downplay the peacemaking powers of it and engage in quiet diplomacy.  And I guess the reason I'm asking you is just objectively speaking, compared to the previous administration, there are many fewer readouts, there's less… there's less being said.  Maybe it's to the good.  But, does he believe that… that this approach is bearing fruit, and if so, what fruit can you point to?

Spokesman:  I think the Secretary-General is a believer in the need for discreet contacts to be had in order to resolve crisis.  And I think it's something I… well, I think we've all observed since he's come into office.  And I think it's an important tool and not the only tool, but it's an important tool in the tools available to the world's top diplomat.

Inner City Press:  I want to ask this very specifically because I've asked you this a couple of times.  I keep hearing from people at various high floors that, in fact, the UN is concerned about Cameroon and not just the Internet, but what seems to be a case of preventive diplomacy.  So, I wanted to ask you, is there anything actually being done?  Am I missing some secret work that the UN…?

Spokesman:  I think if… well, if it's secret, it's secret.  Mr. [Francois Lonceny] Fall has been following and is the point person for the UN on this issue. 

  Fall is failing.