UN, Arms Treaty Promoted, Ugandan Disarmament Panned, Eye on Kabul
Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN
UNITED NATIONS, April
23 -- At a UN event on Monday promoting "New Steps Toward an Arms Trade Treaty,"
one inconvenient aspect of the issue was raised. Kenya's UN Ambassador Zachary
Muburi-Muita referred to "pastoralists" in his country and the region, who used
to fight with spears but now have automatic weapons.
sound byte is used in neighboring Uganda to justify violent "cordon and search"
operations against villages in Karamoja, which UN High Commissioner for Human
Rights Louise Arbour last week
"during the period 16 November 2006 to 31
March 2007, the indiscriminate and excessive use of force of the Ugandan
Peoples' Defense Forces (UPDF) resulted in the killing of at least 69 civilians,
including women and children, 10 cases of torture, inhuman and degrading
treatment or punishment and the killing of over 400 cattle and numbers of
traditional homesteads (manyattas) destroyed in Karamoja."
City Press asked the panel, including UK Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry, about this
aspect of disarmament, which in Uganda had unseemly and covered-up
involvement of the UN Development Program,
for that. It was Kenyan Amb. Muburi-Muita who answered, quite thoughtfully, that
many pastoralists, in Uganda, Kenya, Sudan and elsewhere took up arms to protect
themselves in light of a "void" in government protection. Video
from Minute 38:50.
we tried unilateral" disarmament in the past, he said. "It didn't work." Tribes
were left as "sitting ducks." (In Uganda, disarmed Karimojong have been
victimized not only by other tribes, but also by the army.) "Force has no
place," Amb. Muburi-Muita. VPresident Museveni in Uganda does not agree: he
continues to defend
forced return of Karimojong "beggars" from
the streets of Kampala.
Klein in Uganda, 2006
in the program, Dame Helen Mirren appeared by video, also speaking of Uganda:
that although the country does not manufacture weapons, they have flooded in.
The proposed Arms Trade Treaty, the first resolution on which was opposed by the
United States and abstained from by more than twenty other countries, including
Russia, China, India and Pakistan, would seek to regulate not ban the trade in
arms. A correspondent from the Middle East used the magic word "occupation," and
Amb. Jones Parry said that only applied one place on earth. (He also joked, of
Dame Helen, that "the Queen has said it all.")
Monday, the UN's Children and Armed Conflict Radhika Coomaraswamy, briefed
reported about her recent trip to the Middle East, during which among other
things she asked Israel for computer files of where the cluster bombs were
directed last summer. Inner City Press asked her about the Karimojong and she
recognized the issue, saying "that's Northeast Uganda, not the Lord's Resistance
Army. We are looking into it." She referred to "raiders," to the "nature of
firearms and how they're used." But is it in her Office's mandate? Yes. Video
from Minute 46:29.
Afterwards -- there was also a Q&A regarding Peter Karim in the Congo, the
response to which will be reported in detail in the future -- Inner City Press
asked if her Office views Afghanistan within its mandate. "We aim to have
experts on the ground, with NATO and the UN, by summer." She was asked about
Chechnya and could speak only of lack of information. It's a strange but
UN Office: S-453A,
UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439
(and weekends): 718-716-3540
In Somalia, Understaffed Government Demands to
Inspect All UN Aid, At "Anti-Terror" Checkpoints
Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at
UNITED NATIONS, April 20 -- The UN-supported
Transitional Federal Government in Somalia is now hindering the UN's attempts to
deliver humanitarian aid. Beyond the shelling of civilian areas, the TFG has
blocked UN agencies and the private groups they work with from using air strips,
and has demanded to inspect all food and medicine that comes into the country,
even though the TFG has nowhere near the manpower for this. This results in a
slow-down or stoppage of aid to Somalis.
In a sample April 9 letter
sent to the UN World Food Program, of which Inner City Press has obtained a
view, TFG Minister for Interior Mohamed Mohamoud Guled
decision that there will be no food distribution can take place anywhere in
Somalia without being inspected and approved by the government. Hence UN
agencies and any other organization that is planning to bring any relief to
Somalia should submit the documents for the goods before shipment for checkup."
Given the resources and focus of the TFG,
this threatens to slow or cut off the flow of humanitarian aid to Somalis. Inner
City Press is informed that the UN's Eric Laroche, who previously said that the
UN should cast its lot with the TFG as the only game in town, has now written to
Mr. Guled that the TFG lacks the
physical and human capacity to carry out the inspections and that this directive
may jeopardize the UN's capacity to deliver assistance. Intimidation, including
death threats, that have become routine at TFG militia checkpoints directed at
UN and partners particularly from a military group based at the Afgoye junction
calling itself the "Anti-Terror Unit."
has now denied access to the K50 airstrip and has re-designated Mogadishu
airport as the entry point for Benadir, and Middle and Lower Shabelle. Also
slowing and stopping humanitarian aid, it has proved impossible for the UN to
fly a company that will fly to Mogadishu International Airport.
has also issued a directive that all implementation and data-gathering be
carried out exclusively through the National Refugee Commission (NRC), which
will further put into question the independence and impartiality of humanitarian
response. That is an issue that Inner City Press raised to Mr. Laroche when he
was in New York, click
that story. Mr. Laroche said the time had come to gamble on the TFG, and to
judge him if it went wrong. Has that time arrived? And what is the response of
belatedly present WFP executive director Josette Sheeran Shiner to the letter
from Mohamed Mohamoud Guled hindering food
distribution in Somalia?
staffers have said they will meet with the TFG on April 23. The UN Security
Council will meet April 24 to discuss Somalia. As the UN's postponed and
Rwanda genocide exhibition is slated to go
on display, the UN's as well as
other parties' roles in what's occurring in Somalia will need to be closely
Somali Defense Official Speaks of Extermination, UN and U.S. Dodge War Crimes
Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
UNITED NATIONS, April
11 -- As civilian neighborhoods in Somalia are bombed by the Transitional
Federal Government, TFG-supporters from the United States to the UN increasingly
decline to comment on what's wrought in Mogadishu. Wednesday at UN Headquarters,
Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's Deputy Spokesperson Marie Okabe to confirm
over one thousand deaths and to respond to a quote from TFG defense official
Salad Ali Jeele about "exterminating" a rival clan. [Video
from Minute 6:50 through 8:56, and see below.]
declined comment on the extermination threat, and said that "death toll
statistics are provided by the local authorities." But what if it is the
local authorities who are doing much of the killing?
officials in Europe have expressed concerns about their possible
complicity in war crimes in
Mogadishu. These concerns must be sharpened by the following remarks by the EU-supported
TFG's Salad Ali Jeele:
"We have succeed in
winning the political aspect, what remains now is the force implication... Very
soon people will flee from this town , but I wonder where they will flee to.
Whether it is here to the north side or to Galgaduud. Since people cannot
reconcile and come to terms with each other it is best to forcefully expel
[them] from the city... We are now in the final stages. You have seen what
happened in the last four days' onslaught, without doubt who ever has survived
that onslaught will be exterminated in the one to follow soon."
of the UN system's continuing engagement, only earlier this week, the UN World
Food Program issued a press release calling on the TFG to, at least with
pirates, become tougher. The UN's humanitarian chief for Somalia, Eric Laroche,
was last heard to
urge unequivocal support for the TFG. Now the planned reconciliation
conference has been delayed for at least a full month. Much can happen in thirty
days. Salad Ali Jeele was
previously quoted, by a UN-affiliated
service, as denying the UN's
own experts' report that the TFG was violating the arms embargo then in place.
'07 -- shades of RTML?
at the UN, Inner City Press got a chance to ask U.S. Ambassador Wolff a question
about the weapons in Somalia, video
from Minute 6:49:
Inner City Press: On
this report, that the U.S. allowed Ethiopia to buy weapons from North Korea in
January '07, I think your predecessor has said if it's true, this -- you know,
he disfavored that, that it would have violated previous sanctions. Do you have
any views on whether that took place? And if so, why it would not violate the
Well, I've seen the reports on this. I don't have any additional information to
offer. We believe that the resolution should be adhered to. And from my
reading of the accounts, it's the responsibility of the Ethiopian government to
adhere by that resolution.
underlying reporting indicates that the U.S. was aware of the ship heading to
Ethiopia, in violation of the U.S.-sponsored sanctions on North Korea's arms
sales, and that the U.S. did nothing. State Department spokesman Scott
McCormack on Monday
"I'm not going to have any particular comment on the details of that story."
Earlier on Monday, he had
that "my objective here isn't to criticize the Transitional Federal Government."
Maybe it should be...
Bombing of Civilians Justified by UN-Supported Somali
President, War Crimes Questions Raised
Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at
UNITED NATIONS, April 9 -- When are war crimes
accepted, and who gets to decide? In Mogadishu last week, hundreds of civilians
were killed when Ethiopian troops and the Transitional Federal Government fired
into built-up sections of the city. In seeming violation of the laws of war, TFG
president Abdullahi Yusuf has said "any place from which a bullet is fired (at
us) we will bombard it regardless of whoever is there."
Monday at UN Headquarters, Inner City
Press asked the spokesman for Ban Ki-moon to respond to the quote, and to the
bombing by the TFG and others of civilian areas in Mogadishu. The spokesman,
Farhan Haq, pointed out that "a number of bodies, including the Security
Council, have recognized the TFG."
In response to Inner City Press' follow-up
question, Mr. Haq said that "the UN is against bombing of civilian areas...
across the board." What have the UN's Francois Lonseny Fall, or perhaps more
pertinently, Political Affairs chief Lynn Pascoe, said on the topic? "I can
check," Mr. Haq said. Video
from Minute 20:53. Also needing update is the UN's humanitarian chief on Somalia
Eric Laroche's statement that the TFG is
"the only way to go."
The inquiry takes place in the
on a European Union expert's April 2 e-mail warning to Eric van der Linden, the
chief EU official for Kenya and Somalia, that:
strong grounds to believe that the Ethiopian government and the transitional
federal government of Somalia and the African Union (peacekeeping) Force
Commander, possibly also including the African Union Head of Mission and other
African Union officials have through commission or omission violated the Rome
Statute of the International Criminal Court."
While the UN has yet to send
its own blue helmeted peacekeepers to support or replace the African Union
force, the UN has supported the TFG even as its
compliance with the Transitional Federal
Charter has come into question, concerning the exclusion (and now bombing) of
certain clans and sub-clans.
Even following the EU warning, the UN continues to call on the TFG to take more
Responding by press release to
the freeing of two ships and their crews, UN World Food Program Somalia Country
Director Peter Goossens called, blithely some say, for a more aggressive stance
by the Transitional Federal Government. On WFP's web site, Mr. Goossens is
"the threat of piracy however is still very much alive in Somali waters and WFP
urges the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia and the Puntland
authorities to curb this menace."
tsunami or TFG?
Others are making excuses for the intentional bombing
of civilians areas.
Voice of America found an expert, former
US ambassador to Ethiopia David Shinn, to
ďI think that in this part of the world
war tends to be particularly brutal. And I think itís going to be extremely
difficult to prove that there were war crimes taking place as such. I think this
tends to be more the way things are done." Particularly on the 13th
anniversary of the beginning of the
genocide in Rwanda, this type
of relativism is troubling.
Compliance with Security
Council resolutions, even by their sponsors, has become relative as well. The
emerges, allowed Ethiopia to buy weapons
and tank parts from North Korea months after the U.S.-sponsored sanctions on
North Korea. Asked for Ban Ki-moon's
reaction, spokesman Farhan Haq declined to comment, saying that since these are
Security Council sanctions, the Council members should be asked. When it was
pointed out that Mr. Ban has chosen to comment on compliance with the Security
Council resolution barring arms imports into Lebanon, Mr. Haq shrugged. It is
apparently a matter of discretion.
Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs
was in Baidoa over the weekend. She met with Abdullayi Yusuf and was quoted by
Reuters that "'I think that everybody used excessive force when you hear
the number killed,' Frazer said, but blamed insurgents for starting the fight
with mortar attacks from populated areas."
News analysis: the
allowance for war crimes and other bending and breaking of laws in Somalia
appears based on the equation of the Union of Islamic Court with the Taliban, or
more explosively, Al Qaeda. In late December when Ethiopian troops crossed the
border and drove on Mogadishu,
the Security Council did nothing.
When in January the U.S. fired missiles at supposed Al Qaeda hide-outs in
southern Somalia, little was said. Now the UN-supposed Transitional Federal
Government, through its president, says openly they will fire into civilians
areas if the residents don't themselves expel the Courts or insurgents.
UN counts and decries those fleeing
Mogadishu. The World Food
Program, in one of its first communications under new executive director Josette
Sheeran Shiner, fresh in from the U.S. State Department, blithely issues a
press release calling on the TFG to crack
down on pirates, click
to view. What if the pirates move into residential neighborhoods? Bombs away,
TFG President Yusuf Q&A, March 21, 2007, see esp. Q&A 5 and 6
1. Q. It is
been reported that the government instigated the current fighting.
A. The man who
made that accusation who claims he is speaking on behalf of a clan and that his
house was attacked is well known and he works directly with the Islamic Courts.
Since he collaborates with the courts and the courts are the ones who are
killing the people and conducting terrorism amongst the people and who are
destructive, it does not matter how educated he is, it doesn't matter how famous
he is, it does not matter from what clan he is: Society should be protected from
that kind of man (arrested/eliminated?) because he will not contribute anything
to the community except trouble and destruction.
2. Q. But Mr.
President he is saying we were a clan that was meeting just like the other clans
A: Son, he is
lying! We know the names of the guys he was meeting with at that time. They are
one family (sub-clan). They cannot even speak on behalf of a sub-clan. They
are individuals and we know the one he is having the meeting with. The name
Hawiye is being used as a cover but it does not exist. I believe you have asked
the Prime Minister about this ( i.e. Hawiye) and you know from which clan the
Prime Minister comes from (i.e. he is Hawiye).
3. Q: One can
ask, can the president draw people closer to each other now that there is on
going fighting everywhere and the people are fleeing, many are wounded so how
will they come (to Mogadishu for the peace conference)?
A: The facts
are well known. It is the guys I have named who are causing the instability and
we are working to ensure they can never again cause instability (threat?). This
city should be secure when the conference (reconciliation conference scheduled
for April 16 in Mogadishu) is to be held. That is the transitional government's
4. Q: So have
you been overpowered? Reports say that it is the government troops and the
peacekeepers that are being dragged. Were you overpowered?
A: First of all
have you ever fought in a war?
5. Q: Then who
is fighting? Isn't it reported that two sides are fighting?
A: First, I
have asked you a question. If there is a battle there will be casualties
(deaths), It is possible that every now and then one or the other side looses
ground, but we have not been defeated, we will not be defeated God willing and
we will eliminate these guys.
6. Q: The
government is using artillery to shell civilian areas according to reports,
therefore why are you using these artillery?
shouldn't we use it? They are within the civilian areas. The public should make
them (rebels) leave the civilian areas. When those guys leave the civilian areas
no harm will come to the civilians. We want the civilians to remove them
(rebels) telling them to go away from our midst. It is you (rebels) that are
causing us all these troubles. It is the rebels who are the cause of all the
troubles and not the government because any place from which a bullet is fired
(at us) we will bombard it regardless of whoever is there.
7. Q: Even if
civilians are there you are going to bombard it?
A: Yes we will
bombard it! Because the civilians should not be used as Human shields. The
civilians should get out of there and we have warned the civilians. We said
there is fighting going on in those neighborhoods get out of there while the
fighting is going on because one of the sides will be made to give up. The
civilians have that warning.
8. Q: Mr.
President since you have announced that yours is a government of peace, and that
you will save the public, if you now say we are going to burn everyone (who
opposes us) what do you think of that?
A: It is one
side that is initiating the fighting. The instigators will be confronted with
fighting. If they hide amongst the civilians there will be collateral damage to
the civilians. You need to ask them (rebels) those kinds of questions like why
don't you leave the civilian areas and fight the government somewhere else? It
is they that you should ask such questions and goodbye!
But the questions are proliferating.
As Somali Mortars Fly, Ban Ki-moon Waits for April 16
Summit, While Some Clans Are Excluded
Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at
UNITED NATIONS, April 2 -- As mortars fly
in Somalia, now with the
involvement of mercenaries,
the UN continues to point toward an April 16 summit which most predict will not
be inclusive. Alongside the fighting in and flight from Mogadishu, doubts have
increased about the Transitional Federal Government's commitment to involvement
any of its perceived opponents, or now-disfavored clans.
at UN headquarters, Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon about Somalia:
Press: On Somalia, it was
reported that Egyptian Foreign Minister has written to the UN, AU and Arab
League, asking for immediate intervention to stop the conflict in Mogadishu. I
wanted to know if you have received that, what your thinking is?
Ban Ki-moon: On Somalia, during the
Riyadh Summit meeting, we had a mini-summit to discuss this issue, which was
convened by the Saudi Foreign Minister. It was very useful. We hope that the
Somali government will be able to convene the national reconciliation congress,
which is scheduled for April 16th. The international community should continue
to encourage the Transitional Federal Governmentís efforts. (Click
While sidestepping the request for
response to today's fighting in Somalia, it is also unclear what efforts by the
TFG are being supported. For more than a month, the UN has been asked, what is
being done to encourage the TFG to reach out to its opponents?
Ki-moon on April 2, hoping Mogadishu can hold for a fortnight
On March 7, Inner City Press
submitted questions, including a request for response to a detail critique of
the TFG's inclusiveness, to the spokesman of the UN Political Office on Somalia,
Ian Steele, and to the address OCHA Online provides for its Somalia coordinator,
The latter bounced back, and Mr. Steele has yet to respond. The
web site, at least its front
page, has not been updated since January.
In the midst of all this is the affable
Francois Lonseny Fall. He at least took questions from the rostrum, at the UN on
March 14. He said, "4.5 is very important," but only defined it out in the hall.
Posts in the Transitional Federal Institutions should be given out equally to
the four main clans in Somalia, with an additional "point five" to the
remaining, smaller minorities.
But Inner City Press has received, and
provided to UNPOS and then DPA for comment, the following message and list of
appointments, which is decidedly top-heavy with one particular clan:
creates a dictator in Somalia while condemning others elsewhere
withheld in this format]
11:32:04 PM Eastern Standard Time
reports on Somalia and the incompetent role of the UN. A good question to ask
the UN is if they have monitored the basis of the TFG charter i.e. 4.5 power
sharing. This power sharing is the result of the UN sponsored meeting that
culminated in the formation of the TFG. The TFG's claim to legitimacy is derived
solely from the UN's endorsement of that agreement. Did the UN compare the
diversity in clans of the current president's staff, appointments to the
military, police, secret service, ambassadorships etc. and that of his immediate
predecessor Abdiqasim Salad Hassan. The government forces are over 90% Puntland
militia members. An op-ed article on one of the Somali websites noted that the
appointments to high military, police, security positions etc are almost all
from the President's clan. Below is an excerpt from the article...
Police Appointments: Position, Name, Clan Affiliation
1. Chief of
Staff of Military Axmed Mahdi Cabdisalaan Ogaadeen- Darood
2. Chief of
Police Ali Madoobe - Mareehaan - Darood
3. Chief of
Staff of Military Abdullaahi Ali Omar (Ina libaaxsankataabte) Majeerteen / Carab
Saalax - Darood
4. Head of
National Security Service Col Maxamed Darwiish Majeerteen- Darood
6. Head of
First Division Abdirisaaq Afguduud - Majeerteen - Darood
7. Head of
Second Division Abdullaahi Fartaag Mareehaan
8. Head of
Third Division Hiif Ali Taar Majeerteen- Darood
9. Head of
Fourth Division Col Abdullaahi Arays Majeerteen- Darood
10. Head of Sea
Port and Airport Mogadishu Joocaar - Majeerteen -Darood
On March 14, Inner City Press re-posed
these questions and demographics to the spokesman for the UN's Department of
Political Affairs. Five days later, this response arrived:
Subj: Qs, & the
follow-up on Jan Egeland, thanks
Spokesman at] un.org
11:35:03 AM Eastern Standard Time
regarding your question as to the UN's position regarding a statement issued on
6 March by a group in Somalia, I've consulted with UNPOS and can give you the
"We have no
specific reaction to the statement you refer to, which was dated several weeks
ago, but SRSG Fall and other members of the international community have
repeatedly expressed the view that an all-inclusive dialogue is essential to
peace and stability in Somalia. They continue to encourage the TFG to include
all national stakeholders who have renounced violence in the National
Reconciliation Congress planned for 16 April in Mogadishu."
Maybe, just maybe, the April
16 Congress will cure all previous missteps. Meanwhile, the UN has stood by
while Ethiopian troops took over, at least temporarily, Mogadishu, while the
U.S. bombed in the south and now sends
and while even the UN-annointed Transitional Federal Government excludes major
clans contrary to the "4.5" system that the UN calls important, without really
defining. It means that the four major clans each were supposed to get equal
numbers of government posts, with the remaining minorities in Somalia getting a
"point five" share. It has fallen out of whack, as now helicopters are shot out
of the sky. Questions will continue to be asked.
UN's Man in Somalia Says To Embrace and Not Question
the Baidoa Government
Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at
UNITED NATIONS, March 2 -- Jump in and take a side.
That was the message of Eric Laroche, UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Somalia,
speaking to reporters on March 1. Mr. Laroche chided most "international NGOs"
for not being where the humanitarian problems are. He urged the media to stop
referring to the Transitional Federal Institutions, restored to power by the
Ethiopian Army, as a weak government. "Call it the to-be-strong government," he
said, adding that "today there is no other alternative to chaos than to support
Inner City Press asked about a
letter from French NGO Action Contre La Faim which decried the UN's blurring of
humanitarian needs and "other political agendas." Video
from Minute 52:24 to 55:20.
"Are you the one who asked the
Secretary-General?" Yes. "I am happy to answer to you." Mr. Laroche said that
humanitarianism and politics are very difficult to separate.
"If I want to have more
victims today, I just drop the [Transitional Federal] Institutions and we go
back to chaos," he said. He added that even the 8,000 peacekeepers called for in
the Security Council resolution would be barely enough. The four thousand
actually slated to deploy will not be enough, he said. "Forget about it. It is
not enough." Video
food or gunship?
Mr. Laroche told the media to "stop
saying that the government is weak, because I don't think that it helps."
Several reporters pointed out that they aim, or should aim, to report how things
are, not how they might be in the future. Mr. Laroche countered that "as weak at
the Institutions may appear to the Somali people or to you, there is no other
He acknowledged that this government
remains based in Baidoa, and that Somalis are fleeing Mogadishu as it has
re-descended into chaos. He spoke of a TFI-sponsored conference in April and
said that elements of the Islamic Courts Union might or might not attend. Mr.
Laroche appeared to take no position on whether the ICU should be included. One
wondered, if the UN so unequivocally embraces the Transitional Federal
Government, why should it speak to its perceived enemies?
Even Francois Lonseny Fall, the UN's other
man in, or about, Somalia, says that there should be a process including the
moderate elements of the Islamic Courts. Ban Ki-moon has given the same answer.
And so while freelancing Indiana Joneses are always appreciated, this may be a
sidebar version of Jan Egeland meeting with the Lord's Resistance Army. And it
may be a one-off.
Laroche doubles as the UN's humanitarian coordinator and, it is said, UNDP's
resident representative in Somalia. He long worked with, and reportedly remains
connected to, UNICEF. He is the UN in Somalia, and he is taking sides.
This is described as the desired future of the UN "on the ground" -- a single
decision maker who fuses (and perhaps misuses) all humanitarian and development
programs of the UN.
To some, Mr. Laroche appears to have
conflated a location -- Mogadishu -- with a casting of political lots with a
Transitional Federal Government which has still not reached out to important
segments of Somali society, and which still has to gain trust and credibility,
given that it is only in Mogadishu due to the Ethiopian Army. It is one thing
for Mr. Laroche to urge international NGOs to come back to Mogadishu. But why
should they accept his admonition to not speak ill of the government?
Rift Over UN's Call to Train Police for Somali
Government Is Downplayed by UN Headquarters
Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at
the UN: News Analysis
UNITED NATIONS, February 7 -- Should the UN in
Somalia now help train the police force of a government carried from Baidoa to
Mogadishu behind a phalanx of Ethiopian troops?
The question is raised by a recent exchange of
letters between the UN's Eric Laroche and the Paris-based NGO Action Contre la
Faim, ACF, obtained Wednesday by Inner City Press. ACF states that it currently
has "a team of 90 Somali employees and five to seven expatriates
permanently based in the field... implementing humanitarian projects in Wajid
supporting more than 20,000 people [and] 2000 other Somali employees running
health and nutrition activities in Mogadishu for more than 5,000 people per
month, with the support of expatriates who visit them as regularly as possible."
trigger for ACF's January 21 letter was Laroche's exhortation, as now
stated on the Internet, that "there is now a window of opportunity in
Somalia to establish some degree of governance, law and order."
Xavier Dubos put it in the letter,
"the press release states a range of
various activities prioritized by the UN which mix for example the 'training of
police', 'the demobilization and reintegration of militias' and the 'provision
of urgently needed basic social services.' ACF is fully aware of a general trend
by governments and the United Nations to develop integrated, coherent policy
approaches to international conflict and instability, combining political (and
sometimes military) and aid instruments. But we wish to alert OCHA about the
real risks created in the field by mixing the need for humanitarian aid and
other political priorities. Besides inherent challenges, in this complex
context, quick intervention in inadequate conditions or misperception by local
actors of the impartiality and political independence of humanitarian workers
may simply put the latter in danger and hamper humanitarian access and
assistance to the populations in the short term and in a durable manner.
These precautions are even more
relevant given the current tense security context in Mogadishu. Humanitarian aid
must be solely based on the needs of the population and strictly guided by
humanitarian principles, especially impartiality and independence. One could
expect that, given its specific mandate, OCHA and the Humanitarian Coordinator
could strengthen the necessary distinction between humanitarian activities and
any political agenda."
February 5, having heard about this letter but not yet having a copy of it,
Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's spokesman, as
by the UN:
Inner City Press: Thanks, and also,
referring to a letter by the NGO "Action Contre la Faim" to Eric Laroche, the
Somali representative of the UN, basically criticizing Mr. Laroche for siding
too clearly with the Ethiopian incursion and sort of taking almost a US side. I
want to know if thereís any response to that analysis and if it can be confirmed
that the letter was received, and what response is being sent?
Spokesperson: I cannot confirm this at
this point. I donít have any information on that.
Inner City Press: Can you get
confirmation on that?
The following morning, the Spokesman's
Office told Inner City Press that
"Yes, there was
a letter from Action Contre la Faim to the Humanitarian Coordinator in Somalia
(Eric Laroche). ACF was discussing its views on priorities for humanitarian
action in Somalia and their take on the current security situation. There was
nothing in the letter that remotely suggested Eric was 'siding with the
Ethiopians.' Eric has now responded, reaffirming the UN position that there now
exists a window of opportunity to reengage in Somalia on a humanitarian level."
The UN did not provide a copy of Mr.
Laroche's letter, much less of ACF's. But on February 7, Inner City Press
obtained both. The ACF letter does, at least "remotely," suggest that by
"training the police" in Somalia -- which has in the past two months faced an
incursion by Ethiopian troops with American support, and American gunship
attacks on southern Somalia -- the UN is "mixing the need for
humanitarian aid and other political priorities" raising questions about
"impartiality and political independence." The ACF letter cannot legitimately be
characterized as a discussion of "priorities for humanitarian action," because
it characterizes some of the UN's stated priorities as not only not a
priority, but as inconsistent with humanitarian action. It's a debate that needs
to be had, but one that the UN appears to want to prevent or to sweep under the
Laroche's response does not fully address the issue. Laroche argues that
training the forces of the Transitional Federal Government might increase
security and humanitarian access. Time alone will tell if this argument is true.
But it is an argument, being made by the UN in the field. After Wednesday's
noon briefing, Inner City Press sought an answer to these questions from the
Office of the Spokesman staff who had written that
"there was nothing in the [ACF] letter that remotely suggested Eric was 'siding
with the Ethiopians.'" This staffer said, "I can't give you the letters," and
then seeing that Inner City Press had them, added "I've said all that I can
While it may not be necessary to say, this spokesman is otherwise helpful and
civil and more, even on Wednesday, for example, on a question about Abkazhia.
Mr. Laroche's previous work, in Congo-Brazzaville and elsewhere, has been widely
praised. But why would UN
headquarters want to muffle its field workers' arguments and the debates with
civil society of which they are a part? Developing.
Other Inner City Press
reports are available in the ProQuest service and some are archived on
Copyright 2006 Inner City Press, Inc. To request
reprint or other permission, e-contact Editorial [at] innercitypress.com - phone: (718) 716-3540