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In Somalia, UN Manufactures Consent As AMISOM Shoots Camels as Insurgents

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 15 -- The UN, which nearly invariably uses as a defense against inaction on human rights abuses that only works in countries upon invitation, views Somalia through a different prism, it seems. How else to explain the dismissive response of the head of the UN's Department of Political Affairs, Lynn Pascoe, to questions that have arise about the work of UN envoy Ahmedou Ould Abdallah after his Norway-funded, Kenya-drafted Law of the Sea filing about rights to Somalia's continental shelf was roundly rejected by Somalia's parliament?

  Inner City Press asked about that, and other questions that have arisen about the legitimacy of the multinational naval presence off Somalia's coast under a UN Security Council resolution based on a letter signed right at, or past, then President Yusuf's last day in (appointed) power. Video here, from Minute 1:05.

  Pascoe replied breezily that Ould Abdallah is so "activist" that it is not surprising that some people don't like it. But if those people include the majority of Somali parliamentarians, isn't that a problem for the UN? Pascoe replied that the former President -- presumably Yussuf -- really wanted the UN in the country.

  To paraphrase Pascoe about surprise, it is not surprising that rulers who have never been directly elected by the people welcome outside forces which treat and support them as legitimate. Some Somalis were found, as a fig leaf, to invite in the Ethiopian forces in 2006. Recently, the AMISOM force which took over from the Ethiopians mistakenly shot and killed a group of camels just outside the barbed wire fence around Adan Ade airport in Mogadishu, mistaking them for "insurgents."

The camels shot by AMISOM as insurgents

  AMISON's spokesperson, Barigye Ba-hoku, told the press that "It was our new forces and they were not aware of the camels’ movements. They say they were attacked, and so opened fire," 

  Inner City Press has asked the UN what its role with AMISOM is, whether it provides ammunition and training, and what it thinks of the camel killing incident. Watch this site.

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At UN, Fowler Fall-Out Continues, Info "Got Out Somehow," But Answers Four Days Late and Counting

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 14 -- The UN's head of political affairs Lynn Pascoe on Monday defended his agency's "reticence to be explicit" about what Robert Fowler, the Canadian ostensibly serving as the UN's envoy to Niger, was doing in the country, traveling to a Canadian owned mine, when he was kidnapped in December. Pascoe said Fowler was working on relations between the government of Niger and the Taureg rebels, with "the full agreement of the government." Video here, from Minute 1:08.

But Fowler has said that the government of Niger "hated" his mandate, and that his located was leaked to the kidnappers neither by the government of Niger or by "supporters of Al Qaeda" within the UN in Niger or even within UN headquarters. Pascoe did not respond on camera to that, but in the hallways afterwards he told the Press that it was clear that someone told the kidnappers where Fowler would be, somehow the information got out.

Inner City Press asked Pascoe, if the supposed Niger mandate was so important, if anyone is still working on it, after Fowler's kidnapping and eventual release. Video here, from Minute 1:05:59. Pascoe did not answer this question, saying only that Fowler was "grabbed" before the work was "far along." Some question if the work might have had anything to do with mining, specifically of uranium.

"We were pounded by you," Pascoe said, referring to Inner City Press, "for not saying what he was doing in the first place." Pascoe was asked if it is appropriate for an envoy traveling to a country to work for the UN to go without explanation in a UN vehicle -- but no security -- to visit a mine owned by a company from his own country. "If I spent my day telling SRSGs where to be every day, I" couldn't work on anything else, Pascoe said.

He said that envoys or Special Representatives of the Secretary General have a duty to tell him and the UN when they go in or out of a country, or out of the region they are to work in. In Fowler's case, it's said the area the mine is in and where he was kidnapped has little to do with the Taureg rebels. So why didn't Fowler tell the UN where he was going? Ban Ki-moon's Associate Spokesman Farhan Haq said that the UN had to "reconstruct" what Fowler had been doing after he was kidnapped.

 Since then, Niger's ambassador to Canada, Nana Aïcha Foumakoye, has said that Fowler did not give her government his agenda for the day he was abducted and she suggested he was hiding the true nature of his work. "What did he have to hide?" said Ambassador Foumakoye. "Why didn't he let us know? I don't understand why he didn't."

Fowler, Guay, and Mali's President and Foreign Minister, answers not shown

  During his press conference, Pascoe repeatedly said that the UN and its Department of Political Affairs only gets involved when invited by the government. But Fowler calls Niger President Mamdou Tandja "offended, annoyed [and] embarrassed" by him showing up as UN envoy, and says Niger "hated" this mandate.

  Haq and Ban's Spokesperson's Office still has not answered the following questions, put to them in writing on September 10:

1. You said yesterday that Fowler is no longer a USG. What was his last date as a UN employee?

2. Did Fowler receive UN compensation for the dates that he was held in captivity? How much?

3. Yes or No? Did the United Nations issue the air ticket that Fowler used to fly from Canada to Niger in December 2008?

--The Fowler Party did not have ANY UN- or Host Country-provided close protection on its trip to the Canadian owned gold mine in Niger last December -- yes or no?

--Fowler and his associate, Louis Guay, did not have UN-issued travel orders prior to their excursion to Niger -- yes or no?

--The Department of Safety and Security was not informed by the Department of Political Affairs about the Fowler trip in advance, contrary to UN rules and regulations, and therefore did not provide security clearance in advance -- yes or no?

--The use of a UNDP driver and vehicle was not authorized by the appropriate UNDP security and administrative authorities, contrary to UN rules and regulations -- yes or no?

--The Niger Government was not aware of the Fowler Party's side trip to the gold mine, and was not informed that Fowler was undertaking any UN responsibilities in Niger during that trip besides representational duties related to Niger's national day celebration the Friday prior to his abduction -- yes or no?

   In response, Haq told Inner City Press that "These questions will need to go to our human resources office, and I very much doubt (from past experience) that I can ask them a question this afternoon and still have an answer for you later today. It'll take more time than that. But I'll pass your questions on."

  Four days later, we have not a single answer. Pascoe said that Fowler's release somehow proved the UN was right to have been "reticent to be explicit" during his detention about what Fowler had been doing. But now that he's released, why are these questions not being answered? Watch this site.

* * *

UN Says Fowler On Private Visit to Niger Mine, Of P-5 Plus One, Other Secret Envoys?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 9 -- After months of denying then refusing to comment on reports that its putative Niger envoy Robert Fowler was visiting a Canadian owned gold mine on the day of his abduction, the UN on September 9 admitted they didn't know where he was going that day, and later reconstructed that it was to a mine that had nothing to do with its supposed UN mandate. This reversed even the UN's September 8 statement that Fowler was on UN business at the time.

    Some cynics conclude that the UN covered up Fowler's activities until Fowler turned on the UN and said that perhaps UN supporters of Al Qaeda "sold" him. Then the UN admitted the truth about Fowler's foray, but only as revenge or retaliation. Others say tell Inner City Press that Fowler's mission to Niger was about uranium, and was in fact supported by four of the P-5 Plus One...

  Notably of his co-visitor to the mine, Louis Guay, Fowler has said "I have a moment, just a moment, and I said Louis, tell them the truth. No matter what happens, tell them the truth. You don't have anything that is so important to protect that it's worth your life." Some wonder, why was Fowler's partner trying to lie? Is it because of the mining visit ?

   Entirely disagreeing with the UN's statement Wednesday about its knowledge of his itinerary, Fowler has said

"The president of Niger, whose name is Tanja. It was clear from the first time I met him in August that he was offended, annoyed, embarrassed by the fact that the secretary general of the UN had seen fit to appoint a special envoy for his country. In fact, some of the stuff I've read since I got out, with Niger government spokespeople talking about my mission. They said I was there to see if I could get hold of illicit arms trafficking, which was not my mission. My mission was to get the government to make peace with the rebels. As long as there was no peace with the rebels, the enemy was at the gate, right? If al-Qaeda is taking people on the outskirts of the city, the enemy's really at the gate. And governance of national security makes sense, right? So I don't know who shopped me. I know somebody shopped me. Who could it be? It could be the government of Niger. Could be an al-Qaeda sympathizer in the UN office in Niger. In the UN office in West Africa. In the secretariat building in New York. All of them had my agenda, my itinerary."

At the September 9 noon briefing, UN Associate Spokesman Farhan Haq said that "we ourselves at the United Nations were not always fully apprised of his travels; and in fact the day he was abducted we had to try and to reconstruct what had happened on the day that he was kidnapped."

In Niger, a (uranium) mine, Fowler and UN mandate not shown

  Inner City Press followed up:

Inner City Press: I wanted to ask a follow-up on Mr. Fowler. In what you just said, you just said that the UN, I just want to be clear -- you’re saying that the UN didn’t know where he was going or what he was doing that day? I mean, I wanted to know, is it the protocol…[interrupted]?

Associate Spokesperson: We did not know at the time; we had to reconstruct that afterwards -- after the abduction.

Question: But what’s the protocol if an Under-Secretary-General is in the country of known -- I’m not sure what the security threat was -– isn’t he supposed to tell security, at lease DSS [the Department of Safety and Security] where he is going? Did he have security with him that day? I guess not.

Associate Spokesperson: As you’re well aware, he did not have security with him. There were Mr. Fowler, Mr. [Louis] Guay and their driver, Soumana Mounkaila, were travelling -- just the three of them.

Question: And does that violate UN procedures?

Associate Spokesperson: I don’t want to get into that particular question. As you know, Mr. Fowler kept people apprised sporadically. But, at the very moment that he was abducted, we did not know about his travels over those previous several hours.

Question: And just when you reconstructed it, can you now say where was he going? Because many people, many newspapers have reported that he was headed to a gold mine that’s owned by a Canadian firm. Is that true or not true?

Associate Spokesperson: He was headed back from a trip to that mine. He’d visited the mine, which was part of a private visit, but he was actually going back to the capital, to Niamey.

Question: You’d said yesterday that he was performing his official duties at the time it took place. Is it official duties to visit a mine?

Associate Spokesperson: He’d done a number of official duties that day and in fact he was going to a working meeting back in Niamey at the time that he was abducted.

Yet until September 9, the UN never admitted that Fowler had engaged in a "private visit" to a Canadian owned mine. The conflict of interest, and even violation of the UN charter, is obvious. But the UN apparently has or enforces no rules in this regard. Inner City Press asked a question left unanswered from the previous day's briefing:

Inner City Press: I’m just wondering; is he still a USG or not, or has his term expired?

Associate Spokesperson: He’s no longer working for the United Nations.

And then, for the record:

Inner City Press: Are there any other USGs that have been named, say, this year, that have not been announced in this room?

Associate Spokesperson Haq: If they have not been announced, I am not aware of them.

The answer seems spurious: there are many things the Office of the Spokesperson is aware of and does not announce. We'll see.

Footnote: Sources tell Inner City Press that Fowler's mission to Niger was about uranium, and was in fact supported by four of the P-5 Plus One...

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press Nov. 7 debate on the war in Congo

Watch this site, and this Oct. 2 debate, on UN, bailout, MDGs

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

* * *

These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

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

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