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UN Confirms Gambari Spent $614,000 on Darfur House for Him & 4 Guards

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, May 24 -- Months ago UN whistleblowers told Inner City Press that Darfur envoy Ibrahim Gambari had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars from the UNAMID budget building himself a mansion or "Hard-shell on the Hill" in the peacekeeping base in El Fasher. Inner City Press inquired and published it, complete with photographs.

  Earlier this week, after further inquiries, Inner City Press put a dollar figure on how much Gambari had spent on this house -- $620,000 -- and quoted attendees of this month's UN envoy retreat at the Greentree Estate in New York City's suburbs that Gambari had flown to New York but attended only the photo op and concluding ceremony, and was not long for his job.

  After publishing that follow up story, at the UN's May 21 noon briefing Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's associate spokesman Farhan Haq to confirm or deny:

Question: I wanted to ask you about Mr. [Ibrahim] Gambari, the United Nations-African Union Hybrid Operation in Darfur chief. Previously there was some controversy about a house that was built apparently only for him within the El-Fashar compound, and I have now learned the cost of it: $620,000 and I wonder: where did the money come from? Was this part of UNAMID’s budget? Was this in fact meant for the housing of other staff members and devoted to that? So, I wanted to know, one, I don’t assume that you’d have a note with you, but is there some way to know where that funds come from and also whether Mr. Gambari’s status as the head of UNAMID is in the process of changing in any way around the SRSG [Special Representatives of the Secretary-General] retreat that was held in Greentree; I have heard that there was notification of a change of status and I’d like to get you to confirm or deny that.

Associate Spokesperson Haq: Well, we don’t have any appointments to make regarding UNAMID; so, he is the Head of that mission at this point. Regarding a budget, we will check with our colleagues. As you know, all of the Special Representatives and indeed all staff have accommodations in their duty stations. So he will have his accommodation provided. But if there is any detail on the budgetary information, sure, I will try and get those for you.

The next day Haq's office provided the following:

Subject: Your question on Ibrahim Gambari's housing
From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply [at]
Date: Tue, May 22, 2012
To: Matthew.Lee [at]

Regarding the question you asked at noon about the housing in El Fasher for Ibrahim Gambari, we have the following information from the UN-African Union Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID):

The funds for the residence came from the UNAMID budget. The building serves as the Joint Special Representative's residence, office and representational facility. It also houses four close protection officers.

The total cost of construction was $613,614 for the five residents, with $65,000 for furnishings procured by UNAMID on the local market.

This information was presented to the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions in April.

   Inner City Press obtained and checked ACABQ's most recent (April 27, 2012) report on UNAMID. While this lists on page 35 the "construction of a hard-wall (masonry) warehouse... in El Fasher," no house for Gambari is listed. New construction is listed at $21.85 million: $17 million for "engineering projects" and $4.85 million for "environmental projects." Which is this hard shell on the hill mansion for Gambari and his four guards or protection? And what will happen to the mansion when Gambari leaves UNAMID? We will have more on this: watch this site.

Footnote: Inner City Press previously reported that Gambari had attended and taken photos with International Criminal Court indictee Omar al Bashir at a wedding reception for Chad's Idriss Deby and the daughter of janjaweed militia founder Musa Hillal. To prove the point, Inner City Press searched for and found the wedding reception photos online, with no apparent copyright.

   During a later dispute, Reuters or simply its UN correspondent Louis Charbonneau made a claim of copyright to the photographs -- the impunity significance of which Reuters had not written about -- and Inner City Press in an abundance of caution removed these and all photos from its story. But who was served? Who was protected, by whom?

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Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

Click here for Sept 26, 2011 New Yorker on Inner City Press at UN

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