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CONGO - VN ONDER VUUR

Unpublished

De VN-vredesmacht (MONUC) wordt in Afrika onder vuur genomen door een muzikaal gezelschap dakloze gehandicapte poliopatiënten. Staff Benda Bilili is een groep straatmuzikanten uit Kinshasa. Eén van hun lekkerste tunes, een rumbanummer getiteld "Let's Go and Vote", werd geschreven om mensen te mobiliseren voor de recente verkiezingen. De VN kreeg de groep in de studio en nam een videoclip op. In de aanloop werd het nummer grijsgedraaid op radio en TV en uiteindelijk heeft het de opkomst serieus beïnvloed. Maar Staff Benda Bilili werd nooit betaald. Ondanks hun grote bijdrage aan de Congolese democratie bleven ze in de kou staan. De groep vraagt om compensatie maar MONUC weigert erop in te gaan, zoals je kunt lezen in dit interview…

Vice: So, did you screw Staff Benda Bilili over?
UN Press officer, Kemal Saiki: OK, listen to me. I'm gonna tell you the story and set the record straight. When the elections were held in Congo, it was completely executed by the independent electoral commission. This commission wanted to sensitize the public by providing civic education through several means, among them a song, because music is very important in Congo. So the commission found the band and made an agreement with them.

But didn't the United Nations mission in the Congo (MONUC) make the video?
The problem with the independent electoral commission is that they do not have any technical means. In MONUC we do have an audiovisual unit with professional video makers. So the commission approached us and said, "Look, we have an agreement with this band and we want to make a video, but we need your help since we are not video producers." We agreed to do that. So our role was to get the video producers, get the band, film them and do the editing. Once the tape was ready, we just gave it to the commission and they did with it whatever they needed to do.

The UN and the independent electoral commission had a budget of $500 million for the elections. Couldn't you have slipped them a little something for helping to boost democracy in the Congo?
We made no contract or commitment to them and have absolutely no responsibility in that matter. What kind of agreement they have with the band, what kind of promises, what kind royalties, I don't know. If the band feels that it has been slighted or not properly paid, that's a problem the commission has to face.

What do you think of the song? Do you like it?
It's great. But I have read remarks by the BBC that it contributed to 60 percent of the votes, which I highly doubt. If you knew the percentage of the population in Congo that has access to television, the numbers don't really make sense. We're talking about a country, where 80 percent of the people don't have access to electricity.

Well, thanks for clearing that up.
You're very welcome.