Wednesday, January 27, 2016



These items are based on written recommendations developed with my MDP coach after the MDP IN 2011. I submitted most of them to former Director PID George Ola-Davies, and they were all ignored. However, I am convinced that they all remain viable and relevant.




While most pundits and media experts recognize we live in a Digital Age, and are in the midst of a Digital Revolution which is changing our lives in more ways than we can be aware of, the United Nations remains mired in the Age of Print, almost a century behind the modern world.

Since the UN is, as noted elsewhere, a political organization, this emphasis on print and words is understandable. After all, nations have gone to war over differing interpretations of words in treaties. However, this focus on words makes the UN often blind to the power of images, and keeps the UN way behind the curve when it comes to contemporary multimedia communications. In DPKO missions I am familiar with , the Spokesperson sometimes doubles as Director. P.I.D. and this  has resulted in a PID stunted by a regressive emphasis on what I call the UN damage-control school of Public Information. The main tenet of the damage-control school is that all criticisms , no matter how inane, must be rebutted,; corollary #2 is that  the worst thing one can do is to make a mistake, and that, therefore, all texts need to be thoroughly vetted and revised, as  often as needed.

In terms of video, this means the safest way to deal with any subject is to: a) Have a thoroughly vetted narration; or b): to show a VIP soundbite, since the VIP can then take the blame if something goes wrong – and he or she will be happy to be seen on camera, which is money in the bank for the Director, P.I.D.

However, regardless of political leanings, successful professional practitioners of propaganda and mass marketing from Josef Goebbels to Gene Lakoff are in complete agreement that images are far more powerful than words, and the billions upon billions of dollars spent on corporate branding  and political campaigns are tangible proof: a picture is worth a thousand words, and that therefore images, not words, are the way to people’s hearts, and that, above all, one should never be boring.

In direct contrast, the deadly secret of the UN damage -control school of Public Information is that being boring is not necessarily such a bad thing, just so long as the boss is happy. Indeed, if the program is boring, fewer people will watch it and there is less of a chance something can go wrong.  And, as I experienced first hand working with SG Kurt Waldheim, who is going to tell the  boss he is boring? \

People who understand communications are first and foremost good listeners and good managers, ready to understand their intended audience and to seek ways to touch their hearts.
Directors of P.I.D, first and foremost, need to be acquainted with modern communications theory.
It also helps if they have some knowledge of media production management, as well as experience in managing the creative talent actually doing the work on the ground.

 Since good spokespersons are primarily performers who can deftly articulate the party Line, they are rarely also good listeners or innovative managers. Accordingly, the Spokesperson and the Director PID should be different people, if at all possible, since there are very few individuals possessing both the ability to be a good performer and a good listener.


Personally, as a film and video producer with several decades of international experience both inside and outside the United Nations system, I found my experience as Chief, Video Unit to be both rewarding and fulfilling. To be sure, there were challenges, but this is normal in every professional situation. What was most meaningful to me was that I was given the opportunity to do some quality work – work that I am proud of, and that should be useful to my colleagues in future peacekeeping missions.

In this regard, the genesis of our signature program, MONUC REALITES, is a good example. When we created MONUC REALITES in 2008, we were under intense indirect pressure from Kevin Kennedy to create something modern and up-to-date that would promote the mission mandate to the Congolese population. We knew that we had to produce something radically different from LA SEMAINE EN BREF, but we had to navigate our way through a series of false starts before we got it right.

For example, SRSG Doss was in love with speed, and wanted everything to be as real-time as possible.
He was oblivious to the fact that we were in a country where everything ran late, and where the technical infrastructure was a few decades behind the Western world. For example, shortly after he arrived, he demanded a live telecast of his first Town Hall meeting broadcast to all the sectors – an order so far-fetched that we could only shake our heads in amazement. Eventually, CITS , afraid to tell him that what he was asking was completely impossible, foolishly tried to compromise with a live audio transmission to the sectors that was a complete disaster . The feedback from the speakers was so loud that every word was unintelligible across the country, the sole exception being our Video audio feed coming from our
ace sound engineer Georges Dominique’s lapel microphone.

So, when it came to our new program, SRSG Doss initially wanted a daily video response to some item in the DRC news that had irked him, and, incredibly enough, he wanted that response embedded in the local DRC news shows. This proved to be a non-starter when the Congolese TV stations simply refused to allow it. This was a blessing, because we longed to do a real program, rather knee-jerk reactions. It was also my feeling that many of the wild accusations about us in the DRC media were best ignored, and the dignifying them with a response would give them more credibility than they deserved

Both my senior video producer Carlo Ontal and I agreed that a pro-active approach showing Congolese inter-acting with MONUC staff in the field would be far more interesting television, and far more effective.
Fortunately, Kevin Kennedy had the same mind-set, though he also wanted a news segment with up-to-date MONUC news from the weekly press conference and other sources.

After several demos, we managed to create a video magazine format that combined both a news segment and a feature story – with the news story the lead, but a vignette intro at the top as a tease for the feature story. The thinking behind this was simple. We expected the audience to be intrigued by the feature story, but we also wanted them to watch the news items, so they had to see the news before they could see the feature story.

I first learned this trick years ago when I was in India studying the Indian film industry. The Films Divison of the Indian government was the world’s largest producer of informational films at the time, and they forced all commercial movie theatres to show  (and pay for!) their films as shorts prior to the main feature.
The Indian Institute of Mass Communications did studies on the Films Division products, and, much to their dismay, they found that it was difficult indeed to get people to watch the films unless they were sandwiched between popular commercial features.

We then had to find a way to generate feature stories on a regular basis so we would never run dry.
The newly created Video Unit Region East ,led by producer Carlo Ontal, and editor Titus Nyukuri, was given the task of shooting feature stories around the East, while Kinshasa-based director Alan Brain would shoot material around the West. Every month, Carlo would come up with story ideas that we would fine  tune in conference calls with Kevin Kennedy, and then he would go on the road with Titus and our reporter Horeb Bulambo and shoot 3 or 4 stories per trip. Titus would do a rough cut in the field, and then send the stories to Kinshasa by hand, as described previously.

Meanwhile, our national staff cameraman Serge Kasanga and Daniel Wangisha would cover news stories in the field and in Goma and Kinshasa as needed. Back in Kinshasa, every Monday, head writer Ado Abdou would finish a script and send it to me. I would do a rewrite, and send to the Director for approval, and then send it to the Presenter on Tuesday night. We would then shoot the presentation on Wednesday, and editors Meriton Ahmeti and Kevin Jordan would finish the program on Thursday afternoon so I could then submit it for final approval by the Director, so we could distribute to the TV stations by the weekend.

With this workflow, we were able to produce over 120 programs between 2008- 2010, barely ever missing a week, and maintaining a consistency of quality. In this regard, special credit must go to our brilliant graphic designer Meriton Ahmeti, who gave the show a production value that was unlike anything the Congolese had ever seen, and therefore aroused great visual interest.  The Congolese TV stations paid us the supreme compliment of showing the program in prime time without charging an extra fee, and we received direct accolades from both Information Minister Lambert Mende and First Lady Olive Lembe Kabila, and we never had a complaint of any kind from our target audience, the Congolese .

Our only detractors consisted of the Spokesperson and his cronies, for reasons known only to them.

As far as I am concerned, MONUC REALITES was a mission well accomplished, and I am very proud to have been part of this team effort. It is my sincere hope that this program serves as a point of departure for future video programs by other DPKO missions.  For the immediate future, I shall be writing a doctoral thesis on digital documentary for Sweden’s University of Lund, and my old school, Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, has offered a position in 2013 in their newly created Film Department as a Professor of Documentary Film.

I feel indeed fortunate to have been given the opportunity to work on Peacekeeping missions, and I am open to the possibility of a consultancy in the future., though preferably not with MONUSCO, for  reasons which will become evident in Part IV,  Come what may, I shall always be more than happy to share my experiences and whatever I have learned with DPKO colleagues in the future.  For me, this has been both an honor and a privilege.

Friday, January 22, 2016



The primary challenge of any Public Information Division is to create support for the Mission Mandate among both the population being served and the external world. The primary challenge for the Video Unit in this context should be to produce quality Video Product which helps achieve these goals. These were our goals when Mario Zamorano and Kevin Kennedy were our directors.
However, after the departure of Kevin Kennedy, our primary challenge became to produce quality video product in spite of incompetent and even sometimes destructive supervision – supervision which had no interest in hearing our professional opinions on any matter, creative or professional.
Under these conditions, protecting the integrity ot the Video Unit became my top priority.

 During this period, I used every means available to avoid personal confrontations, even under extreme provocation.  Over the years, I have learned that such confrontations seldom produce desired outcomes, and often makes things worse.

Aside from a few decades of professional production experience around the world, what enabled me to survive in MONUC was my training as a yudansha in aikido, also known the art of peace, which I have been practicing for 20 years now. In Kinshasa, I helped the Chief of Staff of the Japanese Embassy, Fujita-San, to create a dojo with Congolese students, and this free time activity helped me understand the Congolese people better than any official UN program. Furthermore, I am not aware of any UN training program which helps staff deal with some of the  complex internal politics of the organization, which can be a serious distraction. Therefore, I would encourage anyone of any age seriously interested in becoming a real peacekeeper to explore aikido. Peace begins in our own hearts and minds, and is reflected in the way we treat others. If we peacekeepers cannot work together, we can hardly expect the populations we serve to do so.

When I felt the climate in the division was becoming truly unbearable, I also turned to the Ombudsman for advice and support. For most of my tenure, the Ombudsman was Gang Li, and he taught me a great deal about the UN system while advising me on how to best defuse combustible situations. I felt I could be perfectly frank with him: it was like having the luxury of a good lawyer for guidance and counsel. My previous mission, UNTAET, had no Ombudsman, and the difference was remarkable. I feel the office of the Ombudsman is an invaluable addition to Peacekeeping Missions, with the caveat that the Ombudsman must be completely independent from the mission, and that all communication with the Ombudsman must be kept confidential.

Other major challenges involved our dependence on other divisions.

For example, on a technical level, Video Unit had a challenging relationship with CITS.  We were completely dependent upon CITS for all internet services, and, despite the efforts of every PID Director, we rarely ever received the support we needed to do our jobs properly.

The sole exception was UNIFEED, Thanks to the program File Catalyst, combined with the hard work and dedication of our Video IT experts Titus Nyukuri and Kevin Jordan, we were usually able to send short video clips to UNIFEED, the UN website on a regular basis,

FTP has been the industry standard for electronic transmission of video material for several years now, but we were never able to get it functional in MONUC or MONUSCO, in spite of many a conference and many an unkept promise. We recommended a privately paid, dedicated line for
FTP transmission from Goma to Kinshasa on several occasions, only to be told it was against
UN rules. Frankly, had we adhered to all UN rules, we never would have been able to do anything.

 As a result, we were forced to send tapes by hand from Goma to Kinshasa several times a week, putting us in violation of MOVCON rules. I authorized this practice – with the tacit understanding of the Chief of Transport, once he understood our predicament.

Likewise, the CITS ban on YouTube made it impossible for UN staff to see our weekly programs on our YouTube channel. As a result, we had to send our programs by Intranet to our colleagues, and there were always problems. Many in the sectors could not open the files, so naturally they directed their complaints to me, and I, in turn, attempted to direct them to the CITS Helpdesk. I felt it was important that our colleagues had some contact with what was going on in the rest of the mission, so this was definitely a worthwhile effort.

Our YouTube and Facebook channels remained essential to the effort to get our message out to the external world, and we turned to CITS for assistance to make it possible to upload our programs from our offices. However, we never could find a time-efficient way to upload programs on our UN computers, so we did all of the uploading at home on our private servers, at our own expense. It was worth every penny.

However, a  dedicated line for some $300. a month with a private server was a option that would have solved both the FTP problem and the uploading of material, but that was one that was never approved, due to so-called “ UN rules” that I never really saw or understood.

Indeed, this solution would have been far more cost effective than the expensive BGAN option proposed by CITS, which would have cost at least $3000 or more per week, depending upon the number of transmissions. Just for the record, BGAN is based on sat phones, and only makes sense in a remote location when no other options are available and time is of the essence.

The final challenge I will deal with here was the baffling decision by Finance in 2011 to make it impossible for to hire freelance Congolese presenters, even though we had plenty of money in our budget to pay freelance Congolese talent, and we had been doing so for three years without any problems at all. Budget failed to understand that articulate, attractive and hard working presenters do not grow on trees, and we had searched for a long time before finding our star Horeb Bulambo, who became the Congolese face and voice of the mission for many Congolese. And since he was educated, attractive and charismatic, he did an excellent job as our front man promoting the MONUSCO mandate from remote locations around the country. Anyone with any knowledge of television will understand when I was say that he had been very hard to find. Yet our friends from Budget, doubtless with some encouragement from some of our PID colleagues who were jealous of our success, turned a deaf ear to our pleas, effectively killing the program  at a critical time just before the elections.

This was particularly aggravating to me because I had just been in meetings in New York with Caroline Petit and Stephane Dujarric of DPI, who liked MONUSCO REALITES, and were trying to set up a free distribution deal for the program with Belgian RTBF, which wanted to broadcast the program for free in Europe, thereby reaching the Congolese diaspora and others .  Astonishingly enough, then PID Director George Ola-Davies gave us no support either with Budget or RTBF, and a very promising opportunity withered on the vine, along with MONUSCO REALITES. No explanations were offered. In the world of communications, such professional negligence is a serious matter, and would be grounds for dismissal in any professional organization I am familiar with.  Backdoor communications with the Administration had never been my style – nor did COS or the SRSG ,much to their credit , encourage them - so there was little I could do at the time.

A related challenge was our relationship with Radio Okapi. As far as I am concerned, Radio Okapi is the jewel in the crown of MONUC PID, and is the greatest accomplishment I know of in any DPKO Information operation. Radio Okapi is a real radio station that has become the most popular and
trusted voice on the DRC airwaves, thanks to a joint effort by MONUC and the Swiss Fondation Hirondelle. The relationship between PID and Hirondelle has been stormy, however. Hirondelle
representatives often feel that PID was in the propaganda business, while Okapi should be doing objective news. By the time I arrived in 2007, there was clearly a lot of bad blood in the air, and to this day there are many at Radio Okapi who still do not understand they work for the UN.

Thanks to Radio Okapi chief Jean Jacques Simon (who was professional enough to work with me  in spite of past differences,) I was able to obtain the services of two Okapi presenters who wanted to expand into television presenting. We began to use them for MONUC REALITES, and they  gave our program an intimacy and warmth that had been missing. When it came to paying them, however, I was told UN rules prohibited them getting any compensation. Since I needed the presenters to know their lines and be punctual, I made a private arrangement with the presenters, and my solution worked perfectly.  The  female presenters were excellent and we made them look even more beautiful.

Soon, other reporters from Okapi wanted to work with us . I was very interested, since I had been seeking an alternative to Horeb for some time. The Okapi reporters were educated professionals who could travel and work in the field, unlike anyone else available. Some collaboration seemed natural, since it would have promoted Okapi capacity building for the future, and would have eliminated our  dependence on freelancers.  What I had in mind was having some reporters for a week or two every month.

However, when I proposed the possibility of some collaboration with Okapi to then Director George Ola-Davies, his response was to try to create a conflict between myself  and Radio Okapi Chef d’Antenne, Amadou Ba. Fortunately, both Amadou and I could see what he was trying to do; and neither of us had any reason for dispute, so we dodged the bullet. However, that meant curtains for what should have been an obvious option of maximizing talent at hand for the benefit of all, especially our Congolese partners.

Episodes such as this, along with others, made me wonder what on earth was going on in PID. In the case of George Ola-Davies, it seemed that at times we were not working for the same organization. More on this in Part IV.

Sunday, January 17, 2016


21 January, 2012- Present:  Unfortunately, for reasons that were never made clear to, the new director never arrived, and we once again found ourselves  under the rule of OIC/Spokesperson Madnodge Mounoubai. Although I was de facto his deputy, and had been recommended for a 6 month extension by COS as “irreplaceable,” I was summarily cut out of the loop on all matters, including replacement of video personnel. Told to submit my own recommendations in my Mission End Report, I retired from MONUSCO without further ado on 30 June.



Here I would like to focus on some fundamental communications issues universal to all missions.

I have been working with film and video for the United Nations since 1976, though hardly exclusively.
During these years, I have noticed a fundamental dilemma afflicting most UN information efforts - namely, do UN Information agencies produce news or strategic communications?

This distinction is critical, since it affects the production process from  concept through to consumption.
For reasons both personal and professional. many UN information officers prefer to think they are doing news rather than strategic  communications. This is a fundamental mistake. For both political and professional reasons, the UN cannot do news. News requires freedom from political control as well as a high speed production capacity the UN lacks.

Acceptance of  this reality need not be a handicap. Quite to the contrary. To begin with, the United Nations is a political organization with political goals. To help achieve these goals, the UN must develop communications strategies that help convince large segments of the population that these political goals are in their interest, and are therefore worth supporting.

In a DPKO Mission like MONUSCO, the administration must determine with Director PID what key messages should be conveyed, and Director PID should enlist the creative skills of the entire
Division to determine how to most effectively convey these messages.

This is the way we worked when Kevin Kennedy was Director, P.I.D, and  his approach was very successful. He gave us the messages, and then challenged us to find the best ways to express it.
As a result, we all became involved in the task of promoting the mission, and our attention was focused on finding creative solutions.

We were fortunate in that Kevin was supportive as well as demanding, and that we felt we could trust both his judgement and his professionalism. If there was a disagreement, as is bound to happen in creative discussion, there could be a heated exchange, but it never became personal.
As a result, we felt we could be honest with Kevin, and take risks, knowing whatever we said would go no further. A noted, we had felt great pressure from SRSG Doss prior to Kevin’s arrival..
 And we knew that Mr. Doss took great interest in our work. However, thanks to Kevin, we never had any problems with Mr. Doss after his arrival, and I am eternally grateful to him for that. Other MONUSCO colleagues were far less fortunate when Mr. Doss was in charge.


Here I would like to single out the Video Unit team for the support they provided during my tenure.  They were all highly skilled video professionals from a variety of countries, and most of them were MONUC veterans who taught me a lot about MONUC and the DRC .I was very lucky to be able to work with them. and I am happy to say I think the feeling was mutual.

Dedicated professionals are the backbone of any UN Peacekeeping mission, and all of those responsible for the creation of this group deserve praise.  The only missing link when I arrived was organization and managerial vision, and, as an experienced film and television director and producer, I was able to provide both. It was a remarkably good fit.  I knew no one in P.I.D. prior to arrival, and went through the  standard recruitment process; special mention should be given to Hamanyoun Mubtakir, who was in charge of MONUC recruitment at that time. When I was interviewed for the job, I was very much the outside candidate. I managed to get the job anyway, through a unanimous panel decision. In this case, the system worked.

Another successful HR effort was the MDP, or the Management Development Program. I attended several training programs in the course of my 4 ½ years with the mission, and the MDP was by far the best. The trainers were external professionals, and they were true experts on managerial styles and techniques.

Among other things, they emphasized the 360 evaluation to give supervisors feedback from their staff. I was used to this approach from my work as a professor in New York, and I found it both educational and at times humbling.  Over the course of my 9 years, I was fortunate to have good rapport with most of my students.  Colleagues who received poor evaluations soon lost their jobs. In my view, 360 evaluations are an essential tool for any supervisor who wishes to improve his or her managerial skills.

Unfortunately, the United Nations system is currently behind the times in this area. At present, a supervisor need only please his or her supervisor to succeed, and treat his or her staff as they like. This does not encourage good management practices.

Saturday, January 16, 2016


March, 2010:  There were many rumors regarding Kevin’s successor, but most of us were surprised to see the late Olamide Adedeji become Acting Director in early 2010. Former HO in Bunia, Ms. Adedeji was a charming and very literate woman who told us she had been asked by Mr. Doss to run PID until a new director could be found. She freely admitted she had no background in communications, and would be reliant upon us as communications professionals. As weeks became months, this proved to be a very  difficult arrangement as Ms. Adedeji in reality had the Spokesperson, Madnodgje Mounoubai  giving us orders. When he began to attack MONUC REALITES in meetings, I objected, pointing out he was the same rank as I was, and was certainly not my supervisor.

We did do a special for The 50 th Anniversary of DRC Independence titled L’ONU ET LA RDC – 50 ANS DE PARTENARIAT, intended to introduce MONUSCO and the Country Team to the Congolese, and produced versions in 5 local languages, True to her word, Olamide let us in Video carry on the work we had started with Kevin Kennedy, but the stress of the job combined with her own poor health proved catastrophic. Olamide suddenly passed away in August of 2010, leaving behind an understandably traumatized but also a very divided PID.  I shall elaborate in a further section.

September, 2010- October, 2010: Deputy Director Madnodge Mounoubai, the Spokesperson, became OIC, and immediately asserted his authority, shouting down anyone who refused to toe the line in PID Meetings., such as when I  dared to ask if we might discuss PID strategy. Instead, he gave us a mysterious document written by an unknown Anglophone which presented a reactive, damage control approach completely at odds with the approach advocated by SRSG Roger Meece in his first meeting with us.  At that time, I seriously considered resigning. Life is too short to work with abusive idiots. However, a new director suddenly materialized.

 November, 2010 – 24 December, 2011 : When George Ola-Davies became Director PID in November of 2010, he met with Video Unit and made us many promises, saying, “ Give me 6 months!” and we gave him our full support. Unfortunately, by the time of his departure on Christmas Eve, 2011, he had broken most of them.

During his tenure, we had no communications strategy, no work plan, no editorial meetings, no internal communications, no transparency, and no respect for chain of command or previously established SOP. As journalist Fawaz Gerges said of Moammar Qaddaf:“ He destroyed all state institutions and replaced them with a cult of personality.” The same might be said of Mr. Ola-Davies, who signed his internal emails  “god” and who seemed to have such faith in his supreme judgement and ability that he never had to listen to mere mortal professionals like the rest of us.

 The ensuing chaos created a division run on his whim, and when he did not get his way, he turned mean and personal.  One of the casualties was our flagship MONUSCO REALITES, which died when Mr. Ola-Davies’ friends in Budget suddenly decided we could not hire freelance Congolese talent as reporters,. Over two years, we had done over 100 episodes, Now, suddenly without support for reporters, as well as without support for travel to cover MONUSCO activities on the frontlines, we were forced to create a new program on short notice. The result, ONU NEWS, was a glossy, Fox News- style program featuring our excellent cadre of presenters from Radio Okapi covering more or less the same VIP soundbites we had been covering with LA SEMAINE EN BREF.  In short, the same tired old steak with a new sauce.

The big event during this period was the disastrous Presidential election, described by a WASHINGTON POST editorial page as a “ political failure.’ PID’s contribution to these elections was to provide unconditional support to the CENI, a position I found both ethically dubious, and aesthetically appalling.

Rather than trying to set a positive example with quality product, Video Unit was ordered to serve as a production entity for scripts written entirely by the CENI without any input by us- with predictably lamentable results. However, Mr. Ola-Davies reign was inexplicably cut short in the weeks after the elections, and he mysteriously vanished on 24 December, 2011.

24 December, 2011- 21 January,2012 : As senior professional at the time of Mr. Ola-Davies’ exit, I was appointed OIC by COS Ola Almgren . The post electoral period proved particularly sensitive, as many Congolese accused us of helping the government run what had been an obviously rigged election. The challenge was  to explain that, while  nearly all international observer agreed that the elections had not been credible our mandate explicitly limited our role to one of logistical support .

The Congolese Governement  did us no favors by suggesting  that MONUSCO had actively participated in every aspect of the elections, thereby giivng them some credibility. Under these conditions, I arranged for a Radio Okapi interview with DSRSG Leila Zerrougui to explain the MONUSCO Mandate as it pertained to the elections, and Madame Zerrougui was superb, clearly explaining what our job was, and what it was not. I then had the interview translated into all the national languages and distributed around the country by our Outreach Unit.  Madame Zerrougui was well aware that we did not want to be in the position of defending the elections themselves, thereby defending the indefensible., which would have made matters even worse,All we could do was hope that the moment would pass, and that public attention would return to the bulwark of our mandate, which was Protection of Civilians.  As my tenure as OIC /PID was coming to an end, we were expecting the arrival of yet another new Director PID.