Wednesday, March 22, 2017

After Morocco Tried to Ban ICP W Sahara Photos, Gallach's DPI Makes Bogus Threat, Response


By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 22 – The UN's willingness to censor Press coverage of itself and its failures such as in Western Sahara, including at the behest of abusive UN member states like Morocco, shows a need for radical reform not currently being attempted much less achieved. A complaint conveyed to Inner City Press on March 22 by the UN Department of Public Information, which previously evicted and still restricts Inner City Press after it pursued the Ng Lap Seng UN bribery case in the UN Press Briefing Room and regarding DPI's Cristina Gallach is a case in point.
  The background is that when UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres' schedule was updated on the afternoon of March 17 to add Brahim Ghali, Secretary-General of the Frente Polisario at 4 pm, Inner City Press remained at the UN Security Council stakeout working. When the Polisario delegation, including UN envoy Christopher Ross, was escorted to the elevators at 3:45 pm, Inner City Press took a photograph and tweeted it, along with urgingGuterres' holdover spokesman Stephane Dujarric to issue a read-out. But then one of the Morocco diplomats who had been hovering around the Security Council stakeout for hours went and complained to UN Security that Inner City Press had taken a photograph - from the Security Council stakeout where it is authorized, and where at the same time tourists were taking photographs. Inner City Press was encouraged to stop so that a UN Security supervisor would be called. (Here's how UN Security ousted Inner City Press from the same stakeout, at the order of Under Secretary General Cristina Gallach, audio here.) This is the disgusting level of censorship in today's UN, that must be reversed.
  Now on March 22 the UN Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit, cc-ing superiors in the Department of Public Information, has warned Inner City Pres about "recording... near the Security Council.  You were mentioned by name in this regard, and we take the opportunity of this sensitive occurrence to remind you that the Turkish Lounge is not part of the stake out area and is off limits to media unless invited by the delegation."
  One irony is that Inner City Press never entered or enters this so-called Turkish Lounge, while other insider correspondents do, including without any invitation. DPI has a double standard; Gallach's record in this regard, on this issue, has been noted for example here. This is pure targeting. Inner City Press has responded, in pertinent part:

"For your information, on Friday March 17, I was in the press area of the UNSC stakeout, after the 3 pm meeting. I took a photograph of the Polisario delegation, with Christopher Ross, going up to the 38th floor. There were diplomats I recognized to be from the Moroccan Mission sitting in the so-called Turkish Lounge. I did not record any conversation or take any photo of them (although in the past, Moroccan Ambassador Omar Hilale has invited me to photograph him and his associate there).

After I took and tweeted photograph of Polisario and UN official Ross going up, a Moroccan diplomat / associate walked the UN Security officer at the turnstile my pass no longer works on; the officer came over and told me, seemingly apologetically, that the diplomat can said I shouldn't take photographs.

 I said I was within my rights to take photographs from the stakeout, but I nevertheless - in light of DPI's / MALU's previous punitive acts with no due process, and ongoing restrictions after more than 1 year - left the UNSC stakout.

I consider this complaint by Morocco to be an attempt to limit coverage of the Western Sahara issue. Given DPI's / MALU's previous actions, if any of this is put in my / Inner City Press' history or file with MALU this must be included to.

This is a formal request to see my / Inner City Press' file. And this is, again, a request to be returned to Inner City Press' long time shared office S-303A, and a statement for the record that ... Inner City Press' office and resident correspondent status must immediately be restored.

Please confirm receipt and provided the requested information / file as well as the list of those waiting for office space, the prioritization the UN has assigned and the reasons therefor." Watch this site.

UNcensored 30: UN Minders Told Press Not To Approach Diplomats With Questions, Covering Up Corruption


By Matthew Russell Lee, SeriesVideo, Reply


UNITED NATIONS, March 21 – After the UN evicted and restricted me I tried, at least, to be persistent. Some noticed it - my friend who'd come to sign Corey of the New York Times in, though said he could never be quoted, took me aside and said, “I thought you'd run out of steam, or go crazy - but you're beating them at their own game.” But was I? A guy from West Africa who worked for the UN told me, “You're sure to win, because you have more energy than they do.” But where had it gotten me?

   This day it got me to the UN food bazaar facing the river, sponsored by Ambassadors' wives and presided over by the First Wife herself, Mrs. Ban Ki-moon, who'd taken photoswith the Ng Lap Seng bribery team. I stood and Periscoped the speeches, then visited the booths. A guy from Eastern Europe tried to copeople into buying four dollar cookies. I got from the China booth two steamed buns,jowdzuh, for a dollar, and joked with China's new Ambassador about it. It brought back memories.

  I saw the guards eyeing me, as if now they thought I'd make a run at Ban Ki-moon. Had I ever done anything, other than write articles? But someone had put the word out. I was targeted, and something was sure to happen. I chewed my steamed bun and chanted softly: Ban Ki Moon. Is corrupt. Ban Ki-moon. He is corrupt. It had become my mantra.

Up at the stakeout, on the second floor, things hit a new low. I got a Media Accreditation minder to take me to in front of the ECOSOC chamber, a meeting about Security Council reform. The same Caribbean guard came over, asked why I was there with my pass, why I was so special. I told him I had a minder but he wouldn't let up.  Finally they told me, you shouldn't approach or speak to diplomats. What? “They have to come to one,” it was added, as if that made it better. UNCA scribes floated by, mostly just on their way for coffee or something stronger, who knew, some running after Western ambassadors like the UK's Rycroft, New Zealand's von Bohemen. This was a total double standard.

  All I could do was write it, tweet the headline, wait for disbelief. Minders in the UN? Look but do not touch? 

When UNSG Guterres Met Takijistan Team, Like DRC, No Women On Either Side, ICP Asks


By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 22 – When UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and his team met with the foreign minister of Tajikistan Sirodjidin Aslov and his team on March 22, it was an all-male affair just like the previous day with the the Democratic Republic of the Congo's Vice Prime Minister Léonard She Okitundu. Tweeted DRC photo herevideo here. After the unisex DRC meeting, and Guterres' speech at a "Gender Champions" event right after that, Inner City Press on March 22 asked Guterres' holdover deputy spokesman Farhan Haq, UN transcript here: 
Inner City Press:  there was a meeting yesterday afternoon between the… the… I guess first Prime Minister of the DRC and the Secretary-General and his team.  And I have to say, because there was this event called “Gender Champions” afterwards, I did notice, not just on the DRC side but on the Secretary-General's side, it was six men.  And I just wanted to know, is there some… I heard him say at the Gender Champions that there's an end to all-male panels and a lot of things about gender parity.  Was this some kind of an oversight?  Is it something… did someone who was supposed to attend not attend or what's your… how would you characterize the makeup of that meeting?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, the Secretary-General has made it very clear he wants to see an end to panels which are just… only male.  If there are any problems getting the right mix, people are encouraged to do what they can to get the right mix of panellists.  Sometimes, inevitably, whether it's through absences or whatever, it doesn't work out that way.  But we're trying to make sure that, as a general practice, that all panels will have some gender balance to them.  
   This two days in a row, no women, stands at odds with that the UN Staff Unions say are Guterres' plans for gender parity at levels of the UN below Under Secretary General (at which, at least for UN Peacekeeping, a man Jean-Pierre Lacroix was chosen over a female candidate, Sylvie Bermann. At the March 20 UN noon briefing, Inner City Press asked Guterres' holdover deputy spokesman Farhan Haq about the still murky plans, after asking about the recent lack of read-outs of Guterres' meetings. From the UN transcript:
Inner City Press:  the staff unions are saying they’ve become aware of a proposal within the Secretariat, a gender equity proposal, in which all external recruitment will be restricted to female candidates and which all lateral moves will be restricted to female candidates and promotions restricted to women at both the P and D level.  So they’re getting responses from staff.  Some are in favor.  Others are saying they should be looking at things like parental leave, maternity cover, child care.  But is this true?  Is this where the Secretariat is moving?  And, if so, why didn’t this apply, for example, to DPKO (Department of Peacekeeping Operations), where I know at least one of the three candidates was a woman and was… Mr. [Jean-Pierre] Lacroix was selected.  What would be the rationale for applying this to P and D but not to the higher levels of the UN system?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, this is not something that is policy at this point.  Whether this is something that becomes developed later on is something that will have to be developed as a result of discussions, including discussions with staff and with management.  So I don’t have anything to confirm as a policy change at this point.

Question:  I know that there’s some election coming up and there’s some controversy around it.  Would it await the results of an election of a New York staff union, or what would be the mechanism to consult with staff about this?

Deputy Spokesman:  We consult with many of the different staff unions with whoever is there to represent them.  If there is a resolution to the situation in New York and there’s a staff union here in New York, that would also be a welcome part of the process. 

  Less welcome, apparently, is transparency about Guterres' meetings on the 38th floor, and even who is working there. On March 17, Inner City Press asked Haq and lead spokesman Stephane Dujarric written questions including "for a read-out of the SG's meeting with Polisario and as also previously requested with the FMs of Bahrain and Armenia. This is a request to know where the Secretary General is. This is a Press request for a list of who is working in the Executive Office of the Secretary General; within that, who is paid by the UN general budget, who is paid by or through any other UN-affiliated fund."  Not only did Dujarric and Haq not answer, they and UN official Cristina Gallach had Inner City Press evicted from the UN without any hearing and no appeal; it remains restricted to minders, a scam Egyptian state media in its office. We'll have more on this.

UN Won't Tell Press Who's on 38th Floor, How Paid, As ICP Digs Into Murky UN Trust Funds


By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive Series

UNITED NATIONS, March 21 – How transparent, or opaque, is today's UN? Inner City Press had asked UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres' top two spokesmen simple factual questions: who works on the 38th floor? Who pays them? But the two, both holdovers from the Ban Ki-moon administration, refused to answer, so on March 20 Inner City Press published its scoop about the murky use of trust funds to pay people on the UN's 38th floor. Even on March 21 when Inner City Press asked Guterres' deputy spokesman Farhan Haq who pays whom, he refused to answer. Video here; from the UN transcript: 
Inner City Press: I'd asked in writing but, having gotten no answer, I want to ask you in person, which is, on the 38th Floor, is it possible to get a list of who is now… now that it's 80-some… 80 days, I guess, into this Administration, who's working up there?  And I wanted to know in particular a breakdown of who's paid by the UN, who's paid by countries, and if — just a yes-or-no question.  If there is a… any type of fund — some have called it a Lusophone fund; some have called it… said it's run out of UNOPS [United Nations Office for Project Services] — that, is in fact, paying individuals that work on the 38th Floor.  And, if so, are they UN staffers?  Is it something else?  Can you… I mean, I asked you on Friday in… like, is there a list, and is it possible to get this breakdown simply to understand how it's being run up there?

Deputy Spokesman:  I don't believe that there's a list by payment.  Obviously, we don't go into the contract details of individual staff members.  We could try to get you a list of the people who are part of the Executive Office.
Inner City Press:  But it's not… I guess… I want to put it in this context.  It's not a matter of the personal details of the individual.  It's a matter of saying it is… it would be important for the public to know if somebody working on the 38th Floor is, in fact, paid by a country as opposed from the regular budget.

Deputy Spokesman:  The financial details of how the Executive Office works, all that is shared with the relevant budgetary committees of the General Assembly, and so they have that information.
Inner City Press:  So has… has the… has the Executive Office of the Secretary-General shared information about a Lusophone fund or any fund run by UNOPS that pays individuals on the 38th Floor?

Deputy Spokesman:  I'm not aware of any such thing as you're terming it.  As you know, at different times, if people are seconded by Governments or otherwise governments defray arrangements, that information, whether for this Secretary-General or for previous Secretaries-General, is shared with the relevant budgetary committees.
Inner City Press:   Right, but would it be… this is my final thing.  Would it be paid directly from a country to its own national or through a fund run by some UN system fund?  And, if so, I'm asking for details about that because…

Deputy Spokesman:  Again, that is information that gets shared with the budgetary committees.  They will have that.  
  Haq and his boss Stephane Dujarric refused for four days to answer this: "This is a Press request for a list of who is working in the Executive Office of the Secretary General; within that, who is paid by the UN general budget, who is paid by or through any other UN-affiliated fund including but not limited to UNOPS and who funds that, and who is paid by / seconded from a country." The question about UNOPS grows from a number of sources having exclusively told Inner City Press that Secretary General Antonio Guterres, a former prime minister of Portugal, has been using a "Lusophone fund" in the UN Office of Project Services, UNOPS, to pay several of those working for him on the 38th floor. Why not just answer?

  On March 20, as Inner City Press pointed out the seeming hypocrisy not only of the UN preaching media freedom while having evicted and still restricting Inner City Press but also of an all-male UN team meeting with the DR Congo, it was told Yes, UNOPS is involved, citing to General Assembly documents saying that some working in the UN do not have to be categories, or disclosed, as staff. But isn't this opacity simply inviting budget cuts? We'll have more on this. 

On Cameroon Internet Cut-Off, ICP Asked UNAbout Summons of Akéré Muna, More Stonewalling

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 21 – On Cameroon, where the Internet has been cut off by the government in the Northwest and Southwest (Anglophone) regions for more than 60 days and counting, Inner City Press has asked UN spokespeople for the UN position and what the UN has done for two weeks now. On March 21, Inner City Press asked the UN's deputy spokesman Farhan Haq,  UN Transcript here: 
Inner City Press: in Cameroon, a guy called Akéré Muna, who was at one time the vice-chair of Transparency International, has been summoned by the police since the statement that was read here on Friday about how this dialogue is going.  So, given that Mr. Muna, in particular, is representing some of those who've already been detained by the Government, given that you've made a statement saying that there's a dialogue that Mr. [Francois] Loncény Fall was involved, if there have been many arrests since then and, in fact, the main lawyer for that community is now being arrested, what's your comment?
Deputy Spokesman: in Cameroon, we would be concerned about any efforts to hinder the work of human rights defenders.  Human rights defenders, wherever they are, need to be able to go about their work without hindrance and without fear of arrest.
But what is the UN doing? Back on March 17, lead UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric had returned with an answer: "in response to the situation in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon, the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the UN Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA), Mr. François Louncény Fall, carried out a number of visits to the country to discuss with the concerned parties the situation on the ground.  His office has also carried out a number of working-level visits.  Mr. Fall will continue efforts to engage with all relevant parties and to monitor the situation in close cooperation with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).We firmly believe that the grievances expressed by the Anglophone regions can only be addressed through an inclusive dialogue.  In that regard, we note that, on 15 March, the President of Cameroon appointed the president and 13 representatives to the National Commission for the promotion of Bilingualism and Multiculturalism, the body tasked to engage in dialogue with the Anglophone community of Cameroon."
  But "all relevant parties" does not appear to include France, whose UN Ambassador Francois Delattre told Inner City Press earlier on March 17 he was unaware of the issue. Inner City Press asked Dujarric, straight up, if the UN thinks the Internet should be brought back. Video here. UN transcript here
Inner City Press: thanks for the statement.  Inevitably, there's at least one follow-up.  You said that Mr. Loncény Fall had spoken to all relevant parties.  And I wanted to know if this included France.  And I say it… I ask it just because the Permanent Representative just now on camera said that he'd never heard of the issue of the internet being cut off for 60 days.

Spokesman:  Well, I can’t answer that…
Inner City Press:  Because I don't get answers from DPA or Mr. Loncény Fall's office can you ask whether they spoke to [inaudible]…? [that was FRANCE]

Spokesman:  Yeah, I don’t… the way I read it is that he spoke to people in Cameroon.  So, if I can find out more, I…

Inner City Press:  Did he call for the internet to be, in fact, turned back on?

Spokesman:  I think it's obviously important that people have access to the internet.  
  In front of the UN Security Council on March 17 Inner City Press asked France's Ambassador to the UN Francois Delattre about his counterpart in Yaounde, Gilles Thibault, earlier this month congratulating 32-year President Paul Biya for how he's dealing with the areas. Delattre replied that he was unaware but would look into it. Video here.
  Back on March 14 Inner City Press asked the US State Department: "Back on November 28, 2016, the Department issued a statement of 'concern[] over recent Cameroonian government actions to restrict free expression.' Since then, the government has cut off the Internet in the two regions, also known as the Anglophone areas, has arrested journalists and most schools remain closed. Is the US State Department concerned about these developments and if so, what if anything has it done about them?"
  On March 15, a US State Department official answered Inner City Press: "We have discussed this issue with the Government of Cameroon both before and after our statement of concern.  We don’t go into the details of our diplomatic conversations, but we engage regularly with the government on this and other issues as part of our normal bilateral relations." We hope to have more on this.
  On March 9, Inner City Press asked both the International Monetary Fund and the UN Security Council's president about the crisis in Cameroon's Anglophone areas 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. From the UK transcript:
Inner City Press: In Cameroon there’s an issue that has been existing since November in Anglophone areas which have no internet for 52 days, there’s been teachers arrested, no schools. So I’m wondering as one Council member said, it did somehow come up in meetings, but was the issue raised at all, and what response was given by the government to this ongoing cut off of internet and abuse in this area?

Amb Rycroft: It came up informally in our contacts with members of the Government of Cameron but as far as I recall it did not come up in any formal meeting, and I think that makes sense because we were going there to look at the threat to international peace and security, and Boko Haram, and related issues, but in private, informal discussions with ministers in the Government of Cameroon it came up and they gave us the benefit of their perspective on the issue.

Inner City Press: Is there any Security Council role that can be played in trying to preventively deal with this issue?

Amb Rycroft: I don’t think it’s an issue on our agenda per se, we keep our eye on our radar across the world, but we have to make a judgement about whether something is a threat to international peace and security, and at the moment, I think our judgement would be that issue is an issue that is confined within Cameroon without international aspects.
  But the UN Resident Coordinator does nothing about it, says nothing, blocks the Press. Inner City Press asked the UN's holdover deputy spokesman Farhan Haq, UN transcript here: 
Inner City Press: the answer you sent about Mr. [Francois] Louncény Fall saying that he would raise issues to the authorities.  Can you say whether the issue of the internet being off in two provinces for 52 days has been raised?  And, secondarily, I wanted to ask you this.  You announced from this podium that Najat Rochdi is going to Central African Republic as Resident Coordinator.  What's the process to appoint a new Resident Coordinator for the UN system in Cameroon?  And is it… is it… is it… can it be public in any way?  It seems many people have complained that, while she was there, she never raised the Anglophone issue.  And, in fact, I found that she blocks Inner City Press on Twitter, so I'm unable to ask her why this issue has not been raised.  But what's the process to replace… and you can smirk, but should a UN official in their official account…?

Spokesman:  That's an unrelated thing.  I mean, obviously, all people… all individuals, not even just all UN officials, are free to block whoever they want on Twitter.  That's within their rights.

Inner City Press:  Including missions?  So you think a peacekeeping mission should pick and choose which media can follow it?

Spokesman:  Organizations will respond… are supposed to respond to press requests.  Individuals can do whatever they like with their Twitter accounts.

Inner City Press:  What's the process of replacing the Resident Coordinator in Cameroon?

Spokesman:  It's the same as in any other place.  There's a process that goes… that you go through, and the Resident Coordinator's selection process is supervised by the UN Development Programme (UNDP). 
  This is at odds with the UN's claims to be transparent in its use of public money, and to be open to the press and impacted public, and will be pursued at Rochdi's next assignment at the UN in Central African Republic. But it raises the question: how are UN Resident Coordinators selected? Inner City Press reported on Ban Ki-moon's son in law Siddharth Chatterjee getting multiple promotion under Ban, including being named UN Resident Coordinator in Kenya by Ban himself. (Inner City Press was evicted by Ban's UN, and remains restricted under Ban's successor). But shouldn't Anglophone Cameroonians have some input into the UN's next Resident Coordinator in their country? This is a project for the Free UN Coalition for Access@FUNCA_info. Watch these sites and feeds.
"There is a question of Cameroon, from Matthew Lee, "After the Mission 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? And also known as the Anglophone areas, and their impact?"

So, the background here is, I think important the context. So, the Fund's engagement here in the CEMAC Region, CEMAC is the six Central African Economic nations that comprise the Central African Economic and monetary community. They met in Yaoundé on December 23rd. The Managing Director was there. And in that meeting, heads of state discussed the economic situation, the severe shocks that have hit that CEMAC region in recent years, including the sharp decline in oil prices, and decided to act collectively and in a concerted manner. And the heads of state requested the assistance of the IMF to design economic reforms needed to reestablish macroeconomic stability in each country and in the region as a whole.

So, again, context: I can tell you that the funders already sent missions to Gabon, Republic of Congo. And a reminder to you, that we already have programs with Central African Republic and Chad. Okay?

Now, we also have sent a mission to Cameroon, which is the question. And we did issue a press statement, which the question referred to, just on Tuesday. That was the Corrine Delechat reference.

So, the specific question, to turn to that. We are indeed aware of the events in the so-called Anglophone regions of Cameroon. The macroeconomic impact of any event that could affect production and/or consumption, is typically felt with a certain lag. So, these events started in November last year, and thus are likely to have not had a significant impact on production in 2016.

For 2017, the risks to our growth outlook include a combination of external and domestic factors, including continuation of the sociopolitical events in the northwest and southwest regions of Cameroon. And as our press release the other day indicated, our view is that the medium-term outlook for the Cameroonian economy remains positive, subject to the implementation of appropriate policies."

We'll have more on this. Watch this site.

Cyprus' Anastasiades to Meet Guterres, Whose Spokesman Refuses to Confirm, UNFICYP Stonewall


By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive then video

UNITED NATIONS, March 21 – After Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades arrived in New York and said he would meet with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on March 22, Inner City Press on March 21 asked Guterres holdover deputy spokesman Farhan Haq about the meeting -and he refused to confirm it. From the UN transcript:
Inner City Press: is it the case that the Secretary-General will be meeting with the President of Cyprus tomorrow?  And, if so, when's his plan to meet with the head of the Turkish Cypriot community?

Deputy Spokesman:  There's nothing scheduled at this point to announce.  If that changes, we'll let you know.

Question:  Upon arriving in the United States, he said he's meeting with the Secretary-General tomorrow, Mr. [Nicos] Anastasiades.

Deputy Spokesman:  I don't have anything to announce at this stage. 
  Haq never sent any update to Inner City Press, which got confirmation of the meeting from the schedule of UNTV. Perhaps Haq "squawked" the answer to Inner City Press' questions to the in-house audio system that works only for those with office, from which Haq, his boss Stephane Dujarric and Cristina Gallach got Inner City Press evicted for seeking to cover the corruption of Ban Ki-moon, Ng Lap Sang and his fundees. This is today's UN.
Amid delay of the UN's Cyprus talks, Inner City Press on February 21 asked about the delay and the case of the "Chief Financial Officer of UNFICYP [United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus who] has been recently granted citizenship of Cyprus.... is there any policy on host countries of peacekeeping missions giving citizenship to internationals that are based there?"

   UN Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq replied, "I'm not aware of someone from UNFICYP taking Cypriot nationality, but I'll check on that." There is more, below. And on February 28, about another incident, Inner City Press asked the UN, transcript here and below. A week later, having been provided no update on the UN's "investigation" of clear video of its personnel stealing watches, Inner City Press asked again. From the UN's March 7 transcript:
Inner City Press; on Cyprus, you’ve said that there are two things… you or Stéphane [Dujarric] had said there are two things being investigated by the UN system, one being the chief financial officer having become a citizen of Cyprus in contravention, some say, of the Status of Forces Agreement and also the stealing of watches, the films… apparent stealing of watches by UNFICYP (United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus) peacekeepers.  So I wanted to know, since it… apparently, the only way to get it is to ask again, what is the status of those two investigations, particularly the filming of peacekeepers taking watches out of a watch store?  Has anything actually occurred since then?

Deputy Spokesman:  No.  I mean, the mission’s investigating the veracity of the allegations, and it will take prompt and appropriate action if UNFICYP personnel have been found to have committed any wrongdoing.  But that is… that investigation is proceeding.  Regarding the other case, the competent UN offices are reviewing it to confirm its compatibility with applicable UN rules.
Inner City Press: another question on Cyprus.  I know that you'd said that the [Husein Moussa] thing is somehow being reviewed.  There's now a story and a video of UNFICYP [United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus] peacekeepers stealing a watch on the Turkish Cypriot side.  And they named the individuals and that the article says that there is a legal proceeding, which I assume has to be a UN… since they are UN peacekeepers.  Are you aware of this incident?

Spokesman:  Yeah, no, the Mission is very much aware of the report.  They've launched an investigation to look at the veracity of the allegations.  And, obviously, should this be found to be true, they will take prompt action against any personnel to have found [to have committed] wrongdoing.  We would expect UN personnel, whether it's Headquarters or in the field, to act with the highest level of standards and conduct.

Inner City Press. There seems to be a spate of allegations currently about the Mission.  Do you think the Mission is either worse run than other missions or… Why is this all happening now?

Spokesman:  No. We have no… I have no doubt about the excellent administration of the mission.  As to whether or not it's an orchestrated campaign or why it's happening now, that's really not for me to analyze.  
  Really. On Febuary 26, five days after UN lead spokesman Stephane Dujarric on February 24 ran out of the UN Press Briefing Room as Inner City Press asked about UN Peacekeeping (and the lack of UN due process for journalists) and declined written questions after that, we have this exclusive report.
  The CFO of UNFICYP is named Husein Moussa. Complaints about his have been lodged against him since at latest May 2016 in e-mails and attachments UN Under Secretary Generals Atul Khare, Jeffrey Feltman and Herve Ladsous, among others. Inner City Press is exclusively publishing the contents of a May 6, 2016 email leaked to it, here, and a series of attachments about Husein's Moussa's lack of academic verification, here, including in Annex 3 a 2014 "follow on the academic verification for Mr. Moussa... not yet cleared." 
  Beyond violating the Status of Forces Agreement between the UN and Cyprus by obtaining Cypriot citizenship, Moussa is charged in the May 2016 email with using UN vehicles after-hours and a variety of other irregularities: "Husein Moussa, the Chief Finance and Budget Officer, continuously and freely used the UN owned vehicle throughout his assignment to UNFICYP, i.e., since 2002." (So much for Ban Ki-moon's supposed mobility policy.) 
  Also that "Husein Moussa had mentioned to a friend of his that the information about his university degree he had provided in his PHP was not true... If the brushing of this case under the carpets continues, I will refer the details to the international media for another UN scandal they will publish with great pleasure."
  Now that this has happened, and the UN's two holdover spokesmen have refused to provide basic answers and even run out of the briefing room and ignore written questions, it has become an issue in the Cyprus talks, one of the few possibly fruitful UN diplomatic efforts in the past decade. Corruption and scapegoating makes today's UN even less able to be fit for purpose.
On February 27, Inner City Press again asked the UN, video hereUN transcript here: 
Inner City Press: on 21 February, I asked your deputy about this case that's reported in both Turkish Cypriot and Cypriot side of the Chief Financial Officer of UNFICYP (United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus) becoming a Cypriot citizen.  So I wanted to know, since I've heard nothing back, do you have an answer?   And, two, I've obtained or been… a memorandum that, in fact, these issues around Mr. Hussein Mousa were raised to Mr. [Atul] Khare and a variety of Under-Secretaries-General as far back as May 2016, including an educational problem.  And so I'm wondering, since this is now supposedly a problem in the talks, the Turkish Cypriot side has raised it, what is the answer on it?

Spokesman:  I don't know the individual involved, but I know that UNFICYP is aware of the case and the competent UN offices are reviewing it, also to confirm its compatibility with applicable UN rules.  Once the review is taken, then we'll take a look at the situation.
Inner City Press: I wanted to ask you on Cyprus a general question and then something very specific.  One is, where does it stand on the talks?  As of at least the last reporting, it may not restart because of the request by the Turkish Cypriots that the Cyprus President denounce this new law or get it repealed.  So, want just an update on that.  And the other one has to do with it's a very specific story in the press there that the Chief Financial Officer of UNFICYP [United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus] has been recently granted citizenship of Cyprus.  And so the Turkish Cypriot side finds that strange and says, I guess he's an international civil servant but what explains, is there any policy on… on host countries of peacekeeping missions giving citizenship to internationals that are based there?  Thanks.

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, I'd have to check about that.  I'm not aware of someone taking… from UNFICYP taking Cypriot nationality, but I'll check on that.  Regarding your initial question, our envoy, Espen Barth Eide, did meet with the parties late last week to continue discussions in terms of finding a way to bring them back together for talks.  We don't have any new date for talks between the leaders to announce at this point.

   Then no answers, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric running out of the briefing room amid Inner City Press questions and refusing its written questions since, while continuing the restrictions on Inner City Press' journalistic access at the UN imposed in early 2016. UNfailing.

At UN, Pulled ESCWA Report Triggers 2 Guterres Meetings on March 22, OIC at 5 PM


By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 21 - UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, whose spokesman Stephane Dujarric played up his laying down the law to UN regional commission director Rima Khalaj, will on March 22 hold two meetings with the bureaux on the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People at 3 pm, then with that of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation at 5 pm. If the recent past is any guide, he will not issue any read-out. When Inner City Press asked UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq on March 21 to confirm the meetings, he refused. So much for transparency. The UN's longtime Spokesman Stephane Dujarric told Inner City Press at noon on March 17 that it would no longer find online the report "Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid:  Palestine and the Israeli Occupation, Issue no.1 | ESCWA (2017)." This remained false, even as of 9 pm that day. While the Internet link sent out by the UN's Department of Public Information on March 16 for the report  no longer led there, nine hours after Dujarric's briefing, Inner City Press still found the report on ESCWA's website. In the briefing, Inner City Press asked Dujarric to confirm that before the controversy about the report, Khalaf like all other Regional Economic Commissioner heads except Alicia Barcena was set to leave by March 31. UN Transcript here:
Inner City Press: Earlier, there had been a job notice published for all of the heads of the regional commissions, except Ms. [Alicia] Bárcena in Latin America.  So, I wanted to know, what's the status of that?  Has… has… what would have been Rima Khalaf's final day…?

Spokesman:  31 March.
Inner City Press:Okay.  Number two, I notice it's no longer on the website.  Does this mean that, in fact, the applications are closed?  What's the process?  Do you think you'll have a new head of ESCWA before 31 March?

Spokesman:  I don't know if we'll have one before 31 March.  There's a Deputy Executive Director who is currently in charge.
Inner City Press: Are the issues being discussed here, do you think they'll be a part of the selection process or just process?

Spokesman:  Do I what?
Inner City Press: Do you think the issues that the… the substance of the report, the issues reflected in the substance of the report, are they going to be part of the selection process or just a pledge of allegiance to…?

Spokesman:  It's not about a pledge of allegiance.  It's about people working in an organization.  It's about people following a process of coordination and consultation.  That's what it is.  It is not, don't… you know, frame… I mean…  It's not about a pledge of allegiance.  The job interview will be a competency-based interview, and we will get a great candidate.
Inner City Press:  So two things.  On this report, was it shown to DPA [Department of Political Affairs]?

Spokesman:  No, it was not.  It was not… no one at Headquarters was consulted or coordinated.

Inner City Press:  And does Headquarters have a veto right over reports of the regional commissions?  If it had been shown, what would happen…?

Spokesman:  It's not about veto.  It's about coordination and consultation.  
   Then this: "Ambassador Nikki Haley on the Resignation of UN Under-Secretary-General Rima Khalaf: 'When someone issues a false and defamatory report in the name of the UN, it is appropriate that the person resign. UN agencies must do a better job of eliminating false and biased work, and I applaud the Secretary-General’s decision to distance his good office from it.'” We'll have more on this.
  When the UN Security Council debated "Trafficking in persons in conflict situations, forced labor, slavery and other similar practices" on March 15, US Ambassador Nikki Haley cited people forced to make bricks in Peru, to fix fishing nets in Ghana, on fishing boats off Thailand and as domestic workers in the Persian Gulf. Inner City Press previously asked the UN about the flow of such workers, underage, from Burundi - still without answer. This should change. Haley also cited a proposal by US Senator Bob Corker, including to raise private funds to combat trafficking. Corker has called for reforms at the UN, few of which are yet to be implemented. This too should change.
  On US inauguration day on January 20 at the US Mission to the UN the photos of Obama, Biden, Kerry and Samantha Power came down. As of February 17 they have not been replaced.

  But as elsewhere an "Alt USUN" Twitter account continues in a parallel online universe the views of Power, recently calling out Nikki Haley for only attending three of 13 UN Security Council meetings, on Ukraine, ISIS and Israel - Palestine.
  Fair enough. But how many meetings did Samantha Power attend? And after the Israel - Palestine meeting Nikki Haley took questionsat the Security Council stakeout, not pre-screened by Power's spokesman Kurtis Cooper.
  Now the account is opposing any US budget cuts to the UN, and retweeting critiques of Rex Tillerson hand picking media to accompany his trip to Asia. Did they say anything when UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon took no press, or when Antonio Guterres handpicked Al Jazeera to accompany him to Somalia?
  In fact, Isobel Coleman who did nothing when the DC-based whistleblower protection group Government Accountability Project wrote to her about the UN's eviction of the investigative Press, here, still as of February 17 lists herself as the US representative on UN reform. Is it true?
   In the UN itself, Obama and Hillary Clinton nominee Jeffrey Feltman has gotten his UN contract extended. Inner City Press first reported, from multiple sources, that Feltman sought this so that his UN pension would hit the five year vesting dateline. The UN's holdover spokesman Stephane Dujarric called Inner City Press' question, and by implication Inner City Press, "despicable." Or is that, deplorable?
  Meanwhile Voice of America, which was shown under the US Freedom of Information Act to have asked the UN to throw out the investigative Press, has now asked about Jared Kushner (video via here) and asked the UK about Nikki Haley's inexperience. Like we said, an alternative universe.

  Other former State Department officials like Bathsheba Crocker wring their hands about changes in foreign policy. But what did they do, when the UN killed 10,000 plus people in Haiti with cholera? They had their time to try to improve the UN, and largely failed. It's time to #MoveOn.

On DRC, ICP Asks France About 2 Panel Members, 4 Congolese Missing, Too Early to Say


By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 21 – After two members of the UN's Democratic Republic of the Congo sanctions Panel of Experts "went missing" along with four Congolese in Kasai, Inner City Press on March 21 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.