Eric Shawn, the Fox News correspondent and author of (brace yourself) The U.N. Exposed: How the United Nations Sabotages America’s Security and Fails the World, writes a shockingly even-handed dispatch from Kinshasa, where he traveled with the Secretary General this weekend.
From Shawn’s report: “The level of poverty is overwhelming and heartbreaking. The average life expectancy here is just 51 years old. The median personal income is $700, which is why the waitress says, God bless you, when you throw her a buck. Thrown into this mix are 18,000 U.N. peacekeepers, the largest deployment in the world, who Ban honored for their dedication and commitment. Eighty have been killed in the line of duty so far, and as we were flying into Kinshasa there came word of another fatality in the blue helmet ranks. An Indian peacekeeper was shot in the head in Southern Sudan as he was leading a team of U.N. de-mining experts that was suddenly ambushed. All they were trying to do was remove some of the millions of remaining landmines so a little girl or boy wouldn’t be blown to bits.
“But this is also the place where the U.N. peacekeeper sex scandal scared the U.N. effort, with the allegations of the protectors preying on children, by trading bananas, coins or candy for sex with victims as young as 12 year old. There was little mention of that, as the nation looks to the future after holding its first democratic elections in 40 years.
“Ban praised the courage of the Congolese people, and in an address in the cavernous legislative building called the Peoples’ Palace, he was interrupted by their version of applause, which requires one to loudly use the palm of your hands to bang on the desk in appreciation. The imposing building dates from the1970s era when the nation was under Soviet influence, and in this former socialist enclave Ban warned that a healthy and thriving democracy needs a political opposition where everyone can express himself or herself freely without fear of intimidation. He also met with the opposition leaders, a not so subtle reminder to newly inaugurated President Joseph Kabila, and his followers, to not get any untoward ideas.
Ban’s schedule was punishing. He operated on four hours sleep and I am told, does not require much. If this first overseas jaunt is an indication of what’s to come, he will be an activist leader who could defy expectations He approaches his task with sincere enthusiasm, a syndrome perhaps of holding a new big job that will likely fade in time.” (emphasis mine).
In light of his trip to Kinshasa, I’m curious to know if Shawn still believes the United Nations ‘fails the world.’ Regardless, this kind of reporting from Fox News is rather welcoming.