By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, August 11 — Despite the UN having offices in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, it had nothing to say about the crackdown on the protests this month. Inner City Press asked UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s spokesman Farhan Haq about the protests on August 8, Vine here; Banning the Press film below.
Haq said the UN would “have to check;” he went on to say the UN, with its large offices in Addis Ababa, had nothing to say about restrictions on the Internet. UN transcript here and below. This is Ban Ki-moon’s UN.
Inner City Press: I wanted to ask you, on Ethiopia, you’d come back with this statement of concern by the Secretary-General, and now the Minister of Information of Ethiopia has dismissed and rejected any of the requests for any UN access to these areas where people have been killed. Again, you seem to say it doesn’t matter that the UN has an office there, but given that it’s a host country and you have a lot of operations there, what is the response to the host country denying access to these areas?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, regarding that, this is… the need for access is something that has been called for, particularly by our human rights colleagues. The Human Rights Office and the High Commissioner for Human Rights urged the Ethiopian Government to allow access for international observers into the affected regions to be able to establish what exactly transpired. The Government must ensure that any use of excessive force by law enforcement officers is promptly and transparently investigated and those found responsible for human rights violations are brought to justice. All those detained for exercising the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly should be promptly released.
ICP Question: Has the Secretariat reached out… whether the Secretary-General or the… the elusive Mr. Feltman or anyone else, reached out to Ethiopia, given the relations between the two countries, to try to get such access?
Deputy Spokesman: The UN remains in touch with its Ethiopian counterparts, but I’ve told what you the High Commissioner has just said on this. Have a good afternoon, everyone.
Inner City Press: I was kind of expecting some statement by the UN about the protests and killings in Ethiopia over the weekend. There was a large-scale protest in… in the rest of the country but even in the capital, where the UN has a big office. How… what is the UN’s response to how many people does it think was killed? Does the UN have any role in trying to… to resolve this tension on the Oromo protests?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, as you know, we have concerns to make sure that all peaceful protests are allowed to proceed, and we would have concerns about any problems regarding that. Regarding this specific protest, we’ll need further details, but… so we’re following up with our offices there.
ICP Question: But what steps has the UN taken… I mean, given that, you know, it has these offices in Addis and there… by all… many accounts peaceful protesters shot and… you know, shot and killed in Ethiopia over the weekend. What steps is the UN taking?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, we’ll check about our response to this particular thing. Like I said, we encourage peaceful protests to proceed everywhere in the world and would have concerns anywhere. As you know, we have offices in many, many countries around the world. That’s not a particular point of concern. We are concerned, whether we have an office in a place or not.
Earlier this year the UN likewise had nothing to say about the crackdowns that has led to the killing, reportedly, of over 140 Oromo people, when Inner City Press on January 11 asked UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’ spokesman Stephane Dujarric. Video here.
…in Ethiopia 400 people have been killed and tens of thousands detained during protests since November?
Spokesman: No, I’ll be honest with you, I have not seen that report. But, I’ll see if we can get some language on that.
Inner City Press: Is it fair to say that the Secretary-General, when he met with the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, did not raise this issue of the Oromo protests? There had been big… it’s been raised to the UN a number of times…
Spokesman: I will refer you to the readout, which will stand as the record of the meeting.
On January 29, Inner City Press was thrown out of the UN Press Briefing Room on Dujarric’s orders; on February 19, Inner City Press was physically ousted from the UN compound, audio here, petition here.
On March 8, back in with a much restricted pass, Inner City Press asked the UN’s spokesman Dujarric, video here, UN transcript here (the UN didn’t even look up the name of the tribe, Suri – UNreal) Vine here.
Inner City Press: I’ve asked before about the Oromo protest, but I’m asking now, there are photos and it may or may not be, you know, somehow doctored. But, there’s a pretty troubling evidence, pictures, circulating about in Ethiopia these tribesmen, [inaudible] tribesmen, also being part of this displacement, basically chained up, in a chain gang situation. Given that the UN has a big office in Ethiopia and given some outcry about the actions of the Government of late, is the UN aware of this? And what follow-up has been done since… since the Secretary-General went through there on trying to either defuse tensions or make sure that people are not chained up…
Spokesman Dujarric: I think the Secretary-General had expressed his wish to see people being able to express themselves and demonstrate peacefully in a respectful manner, respect to their rights. I will… on the particular case you mentioned, I haven’t seen it… No, I haven’t seen it.
Inner City Press: I can’t remember if it was you or Farhan [Haq], because I didn’t get an answer from either, having to do with Ethiopia. And there was a widely circulated photograph, not of the Oromo protest, but actually of the Surma tribesmen locked up as a… in a chain gang fashion. And their land is being taken. It’s a pretty disturbing photo. Farhan, I think, said he would look into it. I wanted to know, has your office looked into it, and what does the UN…?
Spokesman: I haven’t seen anything, but I will try to get something.
When Ban was in Ethiopia for the African Union Summit, he gave a number of speeches but said NOTHING about the Oromo protests. On February 1 Inner City Press asked Dujarric about this silence, transcript here:
Inner City Press: When he was in Addis Ababa, I combed over the statements that the Secretary-General made, but I wanted to know whether he said, did anything or had any meetings about these Oromo protests in which more than 140 people have been killed as… you know, you’ve answered sort of within… with some statements here in the briefing room, but while he was there, did the issue come up? Did he do anything on it?
Spokesman: I would refer you to the readouts we’ve put out.
Inner City Press: on Friday I’d asked Stéphane [Dujarric] about this protest outside by Oromo people. And he’d said… he had something, I guess, he read, saying the UN hopes for dialogue. But, in hearing more about it, it seems… there were 140 people killed, according to Human Rights Watch, and there are many people still detained from those protests, and there’s been an attempt to close down communications from some of the areas that were subject to the protests. Since the UN has this office in Addis, is there anything… do you have anything beyond asking for dialogue, is there any request that those detained be released, that there be an investigation of the deaths or a stopping of what people call censorship there?
Deputy Spokesman Haq: Well, what I have to say is simply that the Secretary-General calls on the Government of Ethiopia and protesters to engage in a constructive dialogue to address the issues at hand, and the Secretary-General continues to stress the importance of respect for peaceful protest and freedom of assembly. Have a good afternoon, everyone.
On January 15, there was a large Oromo demonstration across First Avenue from the UN. Inner City Press broadcast it live on Periscope, with interviews, putting it on YouTube, here.
Then Inner City Press went in and asked UN Spokesman Dujarric,video here, transcript here:
Inner City Press: it seems inevitable to ask you. There’s a big protest in front of the building by Oromo people saying that more than 140 of them have been killed by Ethiopia. So I’d asked you about it on Monday. You said you don’t have anything but you’d check. What does the UN know given that it has an office in Addis about these killings?
Spokesman Dujarric: On the protests, we’re obviously very much aware of the protests not only going on outside but in Ethiopia itself. I think the Secretary-General would call on the Government and the groups concerned to hold a constructive and peaceful dialogue and also to ensure that all those who want to protest are able to express themselves freely and free of harassment as it is their right.
Inner City Press: You just announced an Ethiopian general heading UNISFA-
Spokesman Dujarric: soldiers from any nationality, as you know, for serving in DPKO, in peacekeeping missions, they go through a screening policy to ensure that the individuals and the units themselves are free of any human rights violations.
We’ll have more on this. For now, note that the UNSC’s upcoming trip, from which Inner City Press was Banned, goes through Addis Ababa. Will anything be said about Oromo?
The UN report on rapes in the Central African Republic, released on December 17, found that UN Peacekeeping’s Under Secretary General Herve Ladsous “illustrate[s] the UN’s failure to respond to allegations of serious human rights violations in the meaningful way.”
Ladsous has yet to take any questions about the report. Now the Office of the UN Spokesperson refuses Press questions on reports that “peacekeepers” from Burundi, France, Gabon and Morocco paid fifty cents for sex with children in CAR. On the morning of January 12, Inner City Press asked three separate UN spokespeople, in writing:
“In light of the Jan 11-12 Washington Post report that “ in interviews, U.N. officials said the peacekeepers were from Gabon, Morocco, Burundi and France. The prostitution ring they allegedly used was run by boys and young men who offered up girls ‘for anywhere from 50 cents to three dollars,’ according to one official,” please state the current status of these ‘peacekeepers’ from Morocco, Gabon, France and Burundi – and the status of the waiver USG Ladsous gave to the Burundian contingent.
By the morning of January 15, no answer, nothing…