UN Chief’s Reprehensible Bankrolling of Violence in Burundi

Thousands of people fleeing fear of violence in Burundi have arrived in Mahama Refugee Camp, Rwanda. Credit: UNHCR/Kate Holt

By Paula Donovan
NEW YORK, May 6 2019 – Last week the Washington Post published a scathing critique by the executive director of Human Rights Watch, titled “Why the U.N. Chief’s Silence on Human Rights is Deeply Troubling.” Kenneth Roth argued that Secretary-General António Guterres “is becoming defined by his silence on human rights—even as serious rights abuses proliferate.”

That must have made things difficult for the UN spokespeople who form a human shield around António Guterres. It’s impossible to explain away the litany of recent atrocities—by Saudi Arabia, Russia, China, Syria, Congo, Myanmar, Trump—that have provoked neither comment nor condemnation from the Secretary-General.

Mr. Roth, who knows a great deal about the power of words, is absolutely right. Silence can be strategic, but sometimes it’s just spineless. Or worse: Sometimes silence means consent. Take the case of Burundi.

One is loath to believe that Mr. Guterres’ wordlessness on Burundi could possibly signal an endorsement of President Pierre Nkurunziza and the horrendous crimes he’s suspected of orchestrating against his political opponents.

But with no rationale coming from the Secretary-General to explain why he’s in business with an autocratic regime while it’s being investigated by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity, we can only rely on documented facts. They speak for themselves.

The UN pays Burundi for the use of its soldiers as UN peacekeepers—some US $13 million annually, or almost a quarter of the poverty-stricken country’s entire defense budget—and currently deploys 740 of them to its mission known as MINUSCA to “protect” the war-racked Central African Republic (CAR).

The Security Council has authorized the Secretary-General to send military peacekeepers home “when there is credible evidence of widespread or systemic sexual exploitation and abuse.” It’s left to the Secretary-General to decide how much sexual violence is too much.

Burundians account for one-fifth of all the UN peacekeeping soldiers since 2015 who have been formally accused by CAR women and children of rape and other sexual “misconduct,” although fewer than seven percent of MINUSCA’s current complement of 11,158 peacekeeping soldiers are contributed by Burundi.

Burundi’s behavior in CAR should surprise no one. Back at home, the Burundian army’s chain of command looks something like this: President Nkurunziza is under divine orders—heard only by him—to rule for life, and his army is under instruction to eliminate Burundian citizens who dare to challenge that order.

When the president announced four years ago that he would seek a third term, voters demonstrated in the streets, and the massacres began. Since 2016, bone-chilling official reports from independent UN investigators and commissioners have described rape, sexual torture, dismemberment, and mass murder carried out by government soldiers, police, and militia.

Experts believe that the gruesome campaign is ongoing. Keeping an army loyal enough to sustain brutal levels of rape and murder against its own people, year after year, is costly. On whom can Nkurunziza depend for steady income? The answer: Secretary-General Guterres.

Even compared with the world’s most notorious campaigns of state terror and mayhem, Burundi stands out. International Criminal Court investigations are rare, but alleged past and ongoing attacks by the Nkurunziza government against its own citizens have been grotesque enough to warrant one, based on credible evidence of the worst of all offenses: crimes against humanity.

If there is any reasonable explanation for allowing Burundi to keep contributing peacekeepers, Nkurunziza’s victims deserve to hear it from the UN Secretary-General.

Why is he bankrolling their oppressor? And the women and children of CAR deserve to hear why, when their government asked the international community for peacekeepers, Mr. Guterres sent them an army notorious for raping and murdering instead.

Nkurunziza has no problem making his views heard. He angrily withdrew his country from the International Criminal Court when it announced the probe into alleged crimes against humanity (though by international law, the withdrawal was not enough to stop the ICC’s investigation.)

He had already forced the UN to withdraw its expert investigators and commissioners. And most recently, he expelled the UN human rights office from the country.

The withdrawals, expulsions, and denunciations have gone in just one direction. António Guterres has maintained his silence, punctured only by the sound of a pen scratching on a checkbook: Pay to the order of Pierre Nkurunziza, US $13 million. The world is owed an explanation.

Deira Mall in Dubai Gets the Largest Retractable Roof in the World

OAKVILLE, Ontario, May 06, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — OpenAire, the industry leader in large span retractable roofs, has been appointed to design and install a state–of–the–art retractable skylight for the newest mall in Deira, Dubai, which will be home to more than 1,000 shops, cafes, restaurants and entertainment outlets, and feature a multi–storey car park with 8,400 parking bays.

When opened, the mall will be home to the largest volume of leasable space in the United Arab Emirates, with a total retail space of over 1.6 million square meters (17 million square feet) with the star attraction being the state–of–the–art retractable skylight, which will bring natural light into the complex and allow for the feeling and experience of open–air shopping year round.

Deira Mall will be the centerpiece of the current Dh16–billion ($4.4 billion USD) expansion project of a mixed–use community in the heart of Deira Islands. It will be the latest project of the master developer Nakheel Properties. This developer is a major contributor to the realization of the vision of creating a world–class destination for living, business, and tourism in 21st century Dubai, and has an iconic portfolio of landmark projects in Dubai across all sectors.

"Dubai is known for being on the cutting edge of innovation, fashion, technology, and shopping. It is therefore fitting that the new Deira Mall has been fitted with the largest motorized and fully automated retractable roof in the world, that will bring the outdoors into the mall providing guests with a unique new, world class shopping experience," says Mark Albertine, the President and CEO of the retractable roof, designer and installer, OpenAire.

For this noteworthy project the developer has also chosen to collaborate with United Engineering Construction, which is one of the leading construction companies in the United Arab Emirates and the Gulf region, with over 35 years of construction excellence.

Working on Large Scale Projects

OpenAire has been designing and manufacturing beautiful, high quality, retractable roof structures and skylights for 30 years, and is no stranger to design and construction for large–scale facilities. The retractable roof at Deira Mall will be approximately 77 m x 418 m, (252 ft. x 1,372 ft.) with a fixed glass half dome at each end projecting about 47 m (154 ft.) from each end of the skylight, resulting in an overall length of about 512 m (1680 ft.).

"The OpenAire team had to develop a design that reflects the client's vision of having a fully open sky view, which meant moving the massive skylight steel structure hundreds of meters along both sides of the skylight. We conducted months of detailed analysis and worked closely with the Contractor (United Engineering Construction (UNEC)), Architect (RSP Architects Planners & Engineers), and Engineering team (Ted Jacob Engineering Group) to achieve a design that reduces the overall weight of the skylight structure and minimizes the impact of the skylight loads on the base building structural systems. We also developed a proprietary sealing system to ensure a fully sealed and weather tight, thermally broken skylight when the retractable roof is closed," explains Albertine.

Thanks to innovative and future–focused mechanical and electrical engineering by the OpenAire structural and mechanical engineering teams, the skylight will travel from the fully closed position to fully opened (and vice versa) in 25 minutes, and by working closely with the facilities' management team, they will be able to integrate the skylight control system with the mall's building management system, allowing for the efficient and convenient control of the skylight through the mall's main control room.

"Close collaboration with all stakeholders, open communication, and a commitment to bringing the client's vision to life led to a fantastic result that will enthrall the shoppers of Deira Mall," concludes Albertine.

About OpenAire

The company brings unique designs to life from concept to installation, transforming buildings into sunlit spaces that customers have come to appreciate and love. With their head office located in Oakville Ontario, OpenAire has been at the forefront of nearly 1,000 projects throughout North America, Europe, and the Middle East over the past 30 years.

OpenAire has worked across multiple industry sectors, ranging from shopping malls, to retail stores, restaurants, waterparks, health and sports clubs, to retirement facilities and more. Some projects include the Rooftop Bar at the Refinery Hotel in New York, NY (which achieved the #1 ranking in the 10 Best Readers' Choice Award for Best Hotel Rooftop Bar 2015); Restoration Hardware's "RH Gallery" courtyard in Chicago, IL; Drake's first Pick 6ix restaurant in Toronto, the new Sharjah Shopping Mall in UAE; Ball Park Village: Fox Sports Midwest LIVE! In St. Louis, MI; 5 Quantum Series cruise ships with Royal Caribbean and the new Luzhniki Aquapark Aquatic Complex in Moscow, Russia

Their latest landmark project Epic Waters in Grand Prairie, Texas is the single largest retractable roof water park in the US, and in its first year of opening is already ranked top 5 in Texas and top 8 in the USA and won the World Waterpark Associations Leading Edge award in 2018.

To learn more about OpenAire Inc., visit http://www.openaire.com and follow us on Twitter. For more details on this project, please e–mail: sales@openaire.com.

For more information contact:
OpenAire Inc.
T: 905–901–8535 TF: 1–800–267–4877
E: sales@openaire.com

Photos accompanying this announcement are available at