After UN Staffer Deletes Call for Repression inCameroon, Inconsistencies UNanswered

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 9 — How does the UN respond when its staff call for “harder repression” of their opponents, linking themselves with the UN? How should the UN respond? At a minimum, shouldn’t it be consistent across the UN system, and with regard to which group is targeted? It seems it is not consistent.

In the case of a Francophone Cameroonian UNHCR staffer who called for more of the crackdown already underway from the Paul Biya government in Anglophone Cameroon, deriding the Southern Cameroons movement as not a popular movement, the UN three times refused to answer Press questions. Then, as outrage grew, UNHCR told Inner City Press that the staff had deleted the Facebook post, having herself faced still unspecified death threats. UNHRC — and ex-chief now UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and his spokesman Stephane Dujarric appear to believe that initially refusing to answer, then merely deleting the post while essentially justifying it is enough. Would this be the approach at UNRWA? Even at UNHCR, would it be the approach if the group targeted by the staff member was, say, the Rohingyas in Myanmar, with the staffer making a broad-brush characterization as “terrorist” and not a popular movement and calling for harder repression? It seems not. So why does the UN system, including it seems UNHCR, treat this struggle differently? We’ll have more on this.

Inner City Press has asked five UNHCR spokespeople: “I’m still left wondering what UNHCR’s (and, if different, the UN’s) policy is, when staff members link themselves on social media with the UN. Is it still a ‘personal’ page if as here it lists the UN, four times ? Even if they are angry at a flier — which Inner City Press would like to see, if you can forward it — should a person self-identifying as with the UN call for harder repression? Is UNHRC’s response here consistent with what’s done at other UN-affiliated organization, and if not how are staff members to know what to do?” We are awaiting response. In New York at the September 6 UN noon briefing Inner City Press asked Secretary General Antonio Guterres’ lead spokesman Stephane Dujarric about something it first tried to ask UNHCR in writing: a self-described UNHCR “Community Protection Officer” Nadine Njoya born in Yaounde calling Anglophone protesters and urging a “harder repression.” Inner City Press then tweeted the photos, here.

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On #Cameroon, Inner City Press has asked UN system about self-described UNHCR staffer calling for crackdown on Anglophones

1:25 PM — Sep 6, 2017

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Dujarric said he would look into it. But when Inner City Press asked again on September 7, he passed the buck to UNHCR — and the UN transcript edited out Inner City Press saying it HAD asked, or tried to ask, UNHCR (by emailing the photos to Antonio Guterres former spokesperson and adviser Melissa Fleming). So Inner City Press emailed not only Ms. Fleming, the long time spokesperson for now-Secretary General Antonio Guterres, but also three other UNHCR spokespeople, and has just received the response below:

“Dear Matthew, The comments posted were not a UNHCR position and were done in staff member’s personal capacity. Please note that the staff member has since deleted the post, after realizing it was inappropriate and also receiving death threats. We are sharing with you below her response on the issue.

“…..I do confirm that I did a comment on Tuesday 05/09 on my personal Facebook account. That comment was to give my opinion on the content of some flyers carrying threatening messages that are currently dispatched by unknown people in my country (Cameroon). I have attached the flyers here to and as you will notice, parents are warned not to send their children to school and the unknown persons behind the flyers, clearly promise to kill the children that would be sent to school or anyone who will not comply with their “ghost town” instruction. Therefore, my comment was to condemn the authors of those 2 flyers, as I felt that the rights of the Cameroonian children to safety, life and education were violated and fear/terror among the population was disseminated! It’s unfortunate that my words were taken out of their context. I do take note of your advice and please be informed that I had to delete my Facebook account yesterday……” On the Burundian refugee returns from Tanzania: UNHCR stands ready to assist any refugee who expresses the desire to return to Burundi — as long as the decision is voluntary. In a recent meeting with UNHCR on August 1, Burundi and Tanzania reaffirmed their commitment to the principle of voluntary repatriation of refugees. The two countries also acknowledged that while some refugees may opt to return, others may still have well-founded reasons for not returning.” We’ll let it speak for itself, except for asking, When did UNHCR know about this? Why was the question never answered until Inner City Press asked four UNHCR spokespeople? Is this how, for example, UNRWA or even other UN agencies operate? Finally, for our readers to comment on online on Twitter and elsewhere, is UNHRC’s and UN’s response appropriate? Watch this site.