Friday, August 27, 2010

Amid Calls to Probe UN Inaction on Congo Rapes, UNSC to Meet Aug 26, NGO Goes Silent

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 25 -- Two days after the UN belatedly disclosed some of its knowledge of the mass rape of at least 154 women in Eastern Congo less than 20 miles from the UN MONUNSCO Peacekeepers' base, Roger Meece of MONUSCO took questions from the Press. Meanwhile, sources tell Inner City Press that the Security Council will hold emergency consultations on the rape on August 26.

While the UN on August 24 had denied that MONUSCO had been aware of the presence in the area of the FDLR rebels, Meece admitted that they became aware on July 31, before four days of mass rape. He said that MONUSCO's patrol on August 4 went away from the village of rape, and that the International Medical Corps only told the UN about the rape on August 12.

Inner City Press asked Meece to respond to a call by the foreign minister of Belgium, the former colonial power in the Congo, for an investigation including of MONUSCO failure to protect civilians. Meece said he was not aware of the call. Video here.

Inquiries with the International Medical Corps' 'California office found Margaret Aguirre saying that “We work closely with the UN agencies and we want to continue working with them.”

William Cragin, who has said the UN knew of the rebels' presence still at least July 31, is now traveling and unavailable. Inner City Press asked about this, and Meece said if the implication was retaliation or cover up, he rejects it. We'll see.

Inner City Press asked Meece about his Mission's failure to protect civilians from the Lord's Resistance Army, which the UN has blamed on the withdrawal of nine Indian helicopters. (India tells Inner City Press they gave the UN fore-notice, and still have other copters in the Congo.)

Meece referred to the loss of copters, and said that the remaining ones had many uses and weren't suited for patrolling “densely wooded” area.

How, Inner City Press asked for the second day in a row, is the UN going to communicate with the civilians it is charged with protecting?

Meece and UN's Ban, investigation of MONUSCO inaction not yet shown

Meece said there's cell phone service in only one of the villages. Here's a suggestion: with the UN spending a billion dollars on MONUSCO, maybe it could leave better communication in place? In the interim, flares or satellite phones?

The Security Council still has not issued any statement. Multiple Council sources, however, told Inner City Press that there will be consultations on August 26 at 10 am with an eye toward issue elements to the press. Later, after Number Two Peacekeeper Atul Khare and Sexual Violence and Conflict envoy Margot Wallstrom have assessed the situation, the Council may issue a more formal statement.

No comments: