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UN Gives AIDS Post to Uganda Official Probed for Embezzling, Bans Questions

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 3 -- Sometimes the UN announces top jobs given out by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and no one thinks much about it; sometimes the UN bans follow up questions without explanation at its briefings.

On August 1, Ban's spokesperson Martin Nesirky announced that "the Secretary-General has appointed Speciosa Wandira-Kasibwe of Uganda as his Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa... Ms. Wandira-Kazibwe will help advance the AIDS response in Africa by advocating for the active engagement and involvement of all sectors of society. In this role, she will replace Asha-Rose Migiro of Tanzania."

  This was dutifully transcribed and reported; at that day's noon briefing, Inner City Press was denied any follow up questions, which others were allowed.

Even a simple Internet search finds a report from Uganda dated July 10, a mere three weeks before, that

"Former ministers Speciosa Wandira Kazibwe, Syda Bbumba and current Fisheries minister Ruth Nankabirwa were yesterday implicated in the loss of more than Shs10 billion through a presidential project to support small businesses. There were also accusations that the suspected perpetrators who have been summoned to appear before Parliamentís Public Accounts Committee (PAC) passed off the project as a vote-winning scheme ahead of the 2011 election."

  Did this and other things show up in the UN's "due diligence" before giving Speciosa Wandira Kazibwe the position? Or are the legal problems the REASON the UN post was given?

  Jump cut to August 1, when Ban was giving her the post, and Nesirky was refusing any follow up questioons from the Press. Now the Ugandan media reported on questioning elsewhere:

"Former Ministers Speciosa Wandira Kazibwe, Syda Bbumba and current Fisheries minister Ruth Nankabirwa were yesterday questioned by the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee on allegations that they aided embezzlement of public funds used by the ruling party to finance its campaign in 2011 general elections. The President had directed that the money should not be released during election time."

  The questioning took place on July 31 - the day BEFORE Ban gave Speciosa Wandira Kazibwe the UN position. Did the UN check into the results of the questioning?

  Inner City Press and the new Free UN Coalition for Access have been opposing limits on questioning, including a mere three minute briefing that was not re-opened on the record, at least not on camera, the refusal of follow up questions, and the refusal by at least one Under Secretary General, Herve Ladsous, to answer critical Press questions (video here).

This is how Press questioning ended, at the UN in New York, according to the UN's own transcript:

Spokesperson Nesirky: Yes, last question to Mr. Abbadi?

[Inner City Press, and/for FUNCA: How can that be the last question?]

Spokesperson Nesirky: Why canít it be the last question, Matthew?

Inner City Press: I have a lot of questions for you.

Spokesperson: Well, tomorrow is another day.

Inner City Press: Well, you did this yesterday, as well.

   Notably, on Inner City Press' July 31 question of the identity of the company UN Peacekeeping's Herve Ladsous signed a contract with for drones, Nesirky withheld the answer until the August 1 noon briefing, read it out to all at once then took no follow ups.

  Inner City Press got and reported some other answers on August 2; its questions submitted early on August 4 have yet to be answered as of this writing. But we will report all answers and communications. Watch this site.


 

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