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Amid Somali Famine, Former FM Boosts Idd Beddel, Mogadishu in Manhattan II

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 27 -- As famine wracks Somalia and aid groups scramble to know if they can or cannot work in the country, a new controversy has erupted at Somali Mission to the UN in New York: another iteration of Mogadishu in Manhattan.

  With Permanent Representative Elmi Ahmed Duale on leave in Tanzania, the now deposed Somali foreign minister Mohamed Abdullahi Omar signed a letter raising Idd Beddel Mohamed from the level of Minister Counselor to “Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary... Alternative Permanent Representative.” Click here for letters, which Inner City Press has obtained.

  Idd Beddel Mohamed then left New York, such that on July 27 during business hours no one answered the phone at the Somali Mission to the UN on 61st Street in Manhattan.

  Inner City Press called Elmi Ahmed Duale, reaching him in Dar Es Salaam. Elmi Ahmed Duale told Inner City Press that “Idd Beddel Mohamed was now named by the former foreign minister, who is not the foreign minister now, as alternative Ambassador. This after I left -- the foreign minister took the opportunity, I don't know for what reason, to name Idd Beddel Mohamed to be alternative Ambassador.”

  Elmi Ahmed Duale said he would be traveling to Somalia tomorrow, or Friday. Inner City Press asked him, “does the letter still stand?”

Elmi Ahmed Duale, does the letter stand?

   This I will know when I go to Mogadishu tomorrow, I will know if it stands or not stands.”

  This comes at a time not only when the UN has declared famine in Somalia, and efforts are being made at the UN in New York to increase sanctions on Eritrea for allegedly supporting Al Shabaab. Watch this site.

* * *

On Somalia, as UNSC Issues Statement, Legal Blocks to Aid Not Discussed

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 25 -- Amid conflicting reports of whether the Al-Shabaab rebels will allow humanitarian access to southern Somalia, the UN Security Council issued a press statement midday on Monday, read out by July's Council president Peter Wittig of Germany.

Inner City Press asked Wittig if there had been a discussion of what would be done if access were blocked to people starving to death. There was a discussion of access, Wittig said.

Following reports that US law prohibits funding that might “materially benefit” listed groups like Al Shabaab, Inner City Press asked if there had been any discussion in the Council of lifting such legal impediments. No, Wittig said, there had only been discussion of access.

In the run up to the briefing after which the Press Statement was issued, Security Council sources told Inner City Press of a worry that the Council could “raise expectations” unrealistically by holding a public briefing.

The briefer, it turned out, was deputy OCHA chief Catherine Bragg and not John Ging, previously of UNRWA. Other than Wittig, no one spoke at the media stakeout. Danger averted: expectations not raised.

On Friday July 22, Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Martin Nesirky:

Inner City Press: on Somalia and the UN’s response, now that Al-Shabaab’s spokesman is saying that in fact it’s not true that they’re granting access, that they continue to block groups that they have banned. It seems from what Mr. Bowden said, that there was access or that there was some acknowledgment by Al-Shabaab that there was a problem and food was getting in. What should we make of this Al-Shabaab statement about blocking groups?

Spokesperson Nesirky: Well, I think it’s clear that different parts of the UN system are operating in Somalia in different ways, in different places. Our only interest in Somalia at this moment is to save lives. And we welcomed the previous statement from Al-Shabaab welcoming humanitarian agencies to resume operations in areas under their control. And we reiterate now, today, the need to increase assistance to populations in acute distress wherever they are. So, you will also have seen that for example, the World Food Programme, UNICEF, are speaking on their own behalf, if you like, on the ground, and I think that I would refer you to what they have also been saying...

There's a lot of talking...

Ban shakes w/ Eritrea FM, OCHA's Bragg at right, famine action not shown (c) MRLee

Footnote: later on Monday, OCHA's Catherine Bragg showed up for Ban Ki-moon's meeting for Eritrea's foreign minister Osman Saleh Mohammed, Permanent Representative Desta & Presidential adviser Yemane Ghebreab -- who on July 21 in an interview with Inner City Press chided Ethiopia for buying 200 tanks while asking for food aid. Click here for video. Presumably Bragg's presence concerned the impact of the drought on hunger in Eritrea. But will the UN say anything? Watch this site.

* * *

At UN, Eritrea's Yemane Interviewed on Sanctions, Somalia & Human Rights

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 21 -- After the Eritrea meeting of the UN Security Council on July 19, which Inner City Press was one of only two media outlets to go to cover, and of the two the only one to write about it, Eritrea's Mission to the UN reached out to offer an interview with Yemane Ghebreab, special political adviser to President Isaias Afwerki.

  Afwerki had met with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on July 8 in Juba, the day before South Sudan's independence. In the UN read-out afterward, and in response to questions from Inner City Press, the UN insisted that the topic of Somalia was not discussed, that “the read out speaks for itself.”

  But Yemane Ghebreab on July 21 told Inner City Press that Somalia was in fact discussed with Ban. Video here.

  As sources in the Security Council's closed door July 19 meeting said happened there, Yemane Ghebreab denied that Eritrea has supported the Al Shabaab rebels in Somalia. For this proposition, he argued that Eritrea is a secular country, half Christian, and would not support Islamists.

  Yemane Ghebreab said that in the close door meeting the US, represented by Ambassador Susan Rice, had urged further sanctions on Eritrea, including some that would bar the diaspora from sending money home for development projects, and block investment in mining, including by American firms.

  Inner City Press asked Yemane Ghebreab to contrast the positions of the US under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Yemane Ghebreab replied that “we knew Susan Rice when she was with the Clinton administration,” but now things were very hostile, that the US alone wanted more sanctions. (Other Security Council sources later disagreed with this assessment, while identifying the US as “the most anti-Eritrea.”)

  Yemane Ghebreab said that the US will support Ethiopia whatever it does, including “violating international law” by holding on to Eritrean territory including Badme, and buying 200 tanks while asking for aid money. Inner City Press asked if he thought that Ethiopia being tapped as provider of troops for Abyei in Sudan further isolated Eritrea. We do not begrudge them their peacekeeping role, Yemane Ghebreab in essence replied.

  Inner City Press asked Yemane Ghebreab about the recent defections by Eritrean athletes; he replied that was merely “migration."

 Inner City Press asked if military aged males are not allowed passports. There is “national service,” he said, like the draft the US had in the Vietnam War era.

  Inner City Press asked if the family of people who defect are punished. “Only if they are complicit,” Yemane Ghebreab said. He said his country became independent as the Cold War ended and things have not worked out in the Horn of Africa as they had hoped. He said there is hope. We'll see.

Click for July 7, 11 re Sudan, Libya, Syria, flotilla

Click for Mar 1, '11 re Libya, Sri Lanka, UN Corruption

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

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

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

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

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

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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