Dodges on Darfur Replacements and UNRWA Strike, Murky Sri Lankan
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, September 15 -- Monday was Labor Day, so the questioning
began on Tuesday,
September 8, with the UN's refusal to renew the
contract of Rodolphe Adada in Darfur:
City Press: On Sudan, the Government there has said that Rodolphe
Adada resigned when the UN refused to renew his contract. I’d also
heard from the Ambassador of Sudan that the UN was also unhappy and
wanted to change for someone that would be harsher at the request of
the US and Western Powers. Did the UN offer to renew Mr. Adada’s
contract? Why wasn’t it renewed?
Spokesperson Farhan Haq: Well, as you know, renewal is a process
that takes place not just with the United Nations, but between the
United Nations and the African Union on this particular appointment.
Beyond that, the only thing I have to say is, as we pointed out last
week, the terms of his secondment had actually ended, and that’s
why he is moving on. And we certainly wish him the best of luck in
his future endeavors.
City Press: Would you have renewed him?
Spokesperson Haq: I wouldn’t want to speculate on that.
through UN Headquarters later in the week, no effort was made to make
him available to the media. On Wednesday,
September 9, Inner City
about the strike, and the UN put a rare "sic" into
City Press: It’s reported that workers of UNRWA [the UN Relief and
Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East] went on a
strike and also they are saying that the health and education to 1.9
[sic] UNRWA beneficiaries in Jordan have been cut. Can you either
confirm the strike or describe these cuts in services?
Spokesperson Haq: I can’t, I’ll have to check with UNRWA on
that. But I’ll follow up with them.
six days later,
no answer has been provided.
Adada at UN, with bow tie: look Ma, no contract!
September 10, the focus
turned back to Darfur, where General Agwai's time as force commander
came to an end (we'll have more, for now just the transcript)
City Press: First I wanted to ask you on the General that replaced
Mr. Agwai in Darfur, Nyamvumba from Rwanda. There are people saying
that the post had been promised to Rwanda as a country even prior to
the interview process. Can you say, how was the selection made? Was
it an open process in which, based on the interviews the most
qualified candidate was selected?
Spokesperson Marie Okabe: Absolutely. The process is -- it’s I
know, a competitive process that the United Nations and the African
Union worked on it together.
City Press: Were there no relation to Mr. Karenzi of Rwanda that was
previously removed from…?
Spokesperson Okabe: I have nothing beyond the criteria that…
September 11, the old misdirection play:
City Press: Marie, the Sydney Morning Herald has said that James
Elder of UNICEF, whose visa is being revoked, is now receiving death
threats by phone in Sri Lanka. Is that something that the UN is
aware of, and will that issue and the issue of the two staff members
that were allegedly tortured be raised by the Secretary-General to
the new ambassador, Mr. [Palitha] Kohona, that he’s meeting today
for the presentation of credentials?
Spokesperson Okabe: I am not aware of that report and, as you know,
the presentation of credentials is not a meeting. He’s meeting a
number of them -- I don’t have the whole list -- so it’s not an
opportunity for him to sit down and have a meeting with them.
14, a Ban adviser told Inner City Press that Ban had met with Kohona.
We'd like to know more -- the new Ambassador has invited the Press to
his apartment, on "Wednesday September 17," the only
problem being that the 17th is a Thursday. That looked to be the more
likely day. And now it's been
confirmed. Watch this site.
* * *
Dodges on Burma's Border Through UNICEF Sanctions Banking to Umoja
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, September 8, updated -- With the UN's Spokesperson's Office
back on a
daily schedule, more questions could be asked last week although
still too few were answered. In cast, to start the week on August
Deputy Spokesperson Marie Okabe openly surveyed the room and asked if
anyone - ANYone -- other than Inner City Press had a question. Then
September 1, her associate Farhan Haq fielded a question
about a major UN program and scandal:
City Press: May I ask about, there is this draft report
on the ERP,
or Umoja project, has emerged, in which it seems to say that it’s a
nearly $300 million UN program that is both over budget and behind
schedule. Is that your understanding of where it stands?
Spokesperson Haq: What is the ERP Umoja project?
City Press: It’s the computer overhaul, the attempt to integrate
400 separate UN computer systems. It’s been bouncing around for
almost 15 years, the Fifth Committee has voted a lot of money for it,
but this report has emerged saying that there’s nothing
Spokesperson: Let me check and see whether there is anything to
e-mailed Inner City Press called it "a very early draft of the
report; since then, the text and numbers have changed significantly.
The Secretariat is currently in the process of finalizing the report.
In due time, we will be able to provide more information on the ERP
report to the press."
But given the
dollar size and history of
the project, and the re-branding as Umoja, it is telling that the UN's
Associate Spokesman asked,
"What is the ERP Umoja
September 2, Inner City Press turned to the Chinese-Burmese border,
and to Sri Lanka:
City Press: There are these reports of flows of refugees from
Myanmar into China’s Yunnan province. I’m wondering whether
either UNHCR or any UN agency is following that. There has been an
upsurge in fighting in Myanmar and people are fleeing across the
border. Are those people refugees, and if not, why not?
Spokesperson: Well, in terms of that, we had some information about
this at the end of last week. I think UNHCR did provide some
information about displacement from Myanmar, and so I’ll just refer
you to what they said and to UNHCR. [*- see update below]
City Press: Also I wanted to ask you, there is a report on something
that’s come up here, and Michèle has answered, that the nephew
Sri Lankan President [Mahinda] Rajapaksa that was an employee of the
International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda, that the authorities there
have arrested three people in connection with his death or perhaps
murder. First she’d said he’d been murdered and then she said he
wasn’t murdered. Is the UN tracking this, and what can you say
Spokesperson: We continue to get information. Obviously, this is a
person who worked for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda,
and so the Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda is receiving information on
this, and we’ve been consulting with them as new information comes
out. The reason she mentioned that foul play had been ruled out last
week, that was following autopsy results. If we get further
information, we’ll reflect that once we hear from our colleagues on
the Rwanda Tribunal.
City Press: And just one more on that. There is in this schedule for
the General Assembly debate, it’s listed that Sri Lanka will be
represented at the level of Head of Government, which is the Prime
Minister. There is only one problem: that the Prime Minister is not
the Head of Government, even according to the Sri Lankan Constitution
-- he’s further down. The President is both Head of State and Head
of Government. Since the schedule of who speaks is based on this, if
a Government either misrepresents who somebody is or errors are made,
what’s done on this?
Spokesperson: As far as that goes, the Protocol Office deals with
all the respective Governments on who will be representing and what
their placement is, and they get the information about this. It
would be up to the Sri Lankan Government to provide accurate
information on who is coming. I don’t know at this stage who the
individual is who is going to show up.
Spokesperson's Office is still, as of September 8, giving out a
speakers' list dated August 14, it is unclear if this has been fixed.
Marie Okabe, at right, with UN Police: are there any OTHER
City Press also asked about the "Cuba Five" --
City Press: In the Cuban press it says that Ban Ki-moon has received
a letter from Cuba protesting the US’s denial of a visa to the wife
of one of the so-called Cuban five, Adriana Perez. Can you confirm
that Ban has received this letter? And does he believe that the host
country has a duty to allow in the wife of what Cuba calls an
incorrectly imprisoned person?
Spokesperson: First let me check whether we’ve received it, and
I’ll check and see whether that’s the case.
Associate Spokesperson later said that the letter has been received
and was circulated as a document.]
September 3, Inner City Press asked Deputy Spokesperson Marie Okabe
about a UN system scandal:
City Press: Marie, it’s been reported, and can it be confirmed that
UNICEF is soliciting donations through a bank that’s on the
Security Council sanction list, Bank Mali and Bank Cedera in Iran? So
the question, I guess, arises when the UN system, whether the
Secretariat believes that the UN system is not subject to the
sanctions and the directives of the Security Council. What does the
Secretary-General think of a UN agency soliciting funds through a
bank that’s also on… it’s also subject to US and EU sanctions?
Spokesperson Okabe: I have not got any updates from either UNICEF or
the Sanctions Committee on this subject, so you’d have to follow up
with them first.
City Press: It’s been some time since UNICEF and Ann Veneman or
whoever has done some kind of briefing here. Is there some way to
get, not just on this topic, but on…?
Spokesperson: We can certainly ask.
Associate Spokesperson Haq said that going forward, there will be
more briefings by senior UN officials, after Ban spoke with them.
Will this include Ms. Veneman? Another swing and a miss:
City Press: Okay. And also I just wanted to ask this, it’s just
back… In the eastern Congo, in Kisangani, there are these two
Norwegian, the Government describes them as mercenaries, on trial for
the death of a driver and they face the death penalty. Is it
something that MONUC is aware of? It’s by military court.
Spokesperson: I have not received anything from MONUC on that today.
September 8, the
two were in fact sentenced to death, and the UN has still said
nothing. On Friday
September 4, the questioning turned to the
Holocaust and if and how it's taught in UNRWA schools:
City Press: I have questions on Myanmar and Sri Lanka, but I wanted
to follow up... In what you just read out, does UNWRA teach the
Holocaust course or not? Somebody in the office said that to us that
UNRWA follows whatever the curriculum is of the host country.
Spokesperson Okabe: That is correct.
City Press: Is it possible to give just a yes or no answer. Do they
teach… what do they teach about the Holocaust?
Spokesperson: [We] read that statement to you the first day, when
you asked about Hamas’ accusations about the UNWRA programme, and
[we] did mention that the Holocaust is not taught. That was in
accordance with what you just mentioned about the e-mail that you
just received. This is in response to another criticism. So now I
am telling you that UNRWA does have a statement and that UNWRA
implements human rights, conflict resolution and tolerance programmes
in its schools and that there is no truth to the fact that they are
denying the Holocaust, which is the latest accusation that the Agency
is faced with.
City Press: Just to be clear, they don’t teach it, but if somebody
then they teach it. I want to understand what the distinction is.
Spokesperson: I think I already answered your questions.
no. Then a
return to Burma:
Inner City Press: On Myanmar, there are reports that in this Kokang
region, not in
China but in Myanmar itself, that there were UN agency staff from WFP
and other agencies that were not allowed to reach the region and now
are leaving the region and suspending operations there. Is that
something that the UN can confirm? It is also said that they were
kept there so as not to report what was going on. Can you comment on
Spokesperson: I have not received anything from WFP, but I am sure
that if you ask them, they will be able to provide you with an update
on their situation there
none has been
provided, four days later. And so it goes at the UN.
Update -- on
September 10, Ms. Okabe read this out:
been asked about the movement of World Food Programme staff at the
Myanmar-China border, and I have the following update from WFP which
they wanted me to share with you. WFP did suspend operations in the
area on 25 August, in view of the growing insecurity in the region,
and brought staff back from deep field positions to Laukkai
temporarily. After fighting escalated in the vicinity of the town of
Laukkai, WFP requested safe passage out for its staff to another
location. This was not possible for a period of four days, because
of fighting in and around the three roads in and out of Laukkai.
is not correct to suggest they were kept there so as not to report on
what was going on; in fact, WFP had continual updates on developments
from the team throughout the fighting. WFP now has a new team on the
ground and are in the process of re-starting its activities along
with its NGO partners. The situation remains stable and normal
economic activity is returning to that town.
war zone =
stable and normal, including on economic activity, per UN and WFP....
* * *
UN, From Sex Abuse in Africa to Welfare Fraud in
Paris and a Somali Warlord, Another Three Day Week
Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, August 30 --
Even with only
three UN noon briefings last week, ostensibly for the last time,
issues arose about three UN system
abusers, from child
sexual exploitation by a UN staff member in
Liberia and, it seems, Sierra Leone to welfare fraud by a French UN
official to questions unanswered since
August 24 about reported
contacts been the UN's Somali envoy and a notorious war lord,
26, Inner City Press asked
Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson Michele Montas about a
UN staff member in Liberia whom even the UN acknowledged was under
investigation for child sexual abuse:
City Press: they’re reporting that the individual who passed away had
previously accused of sexual misconduct while serving the UN in
Sierra Leone. Can you say whether the UN has been aware of previous
charges against him, and if so, why they moved him to Liberia?
Montas: They have not been aware.
City Press: They have not been aware?
No. Actually, they acted on complaints that they received in Liberia,
from Liberians, and they acted quite swiftly, and I have to say that
the Liberian National Police has taken that in hand and they are
handling that really in a very serious way.
But in Monrovia, the
New Democrat reported
Sierra Leone, in charge of the UN Mission in Sierra Leone or
UNAMSIL's general supply. There, there are allegations he was tied to
the same circle-sex with under age children recruited by women he
hired as "girlfriends". But when Dale Fosnight decided to
dump his Liberian 'girlfriend' for his Sierra Leone one, the lid was
removed on his alleged activities deep in video-taped orgies with
little girls, neighbors say and insiders say. His Liberian
'girlfriend,' in an apparent show of vendetta as a response to being
abandoned, blew her whistle."
And so on August
28, Inner City Press
the UNMIL employee in Liberia, Mr. Fosnight: there are now reports
there saying that he didn’t, that it wasn’t natural causes, that
he stabbed himself, and again, reiterating that he had engaged in
similar abuse in Sierra Leone, and the UN knew about it. You’d
said that the UN knew nothing and, I guess, that he died of natural
Montas: I can check for you exactly what we have on that.
Also, I’ll show you, there is a pretty detailed article that’s
come out in Liberia saying how he was found, you know, the whole
thing. I’m just wondering, because I know that the UN tried to get
out in front of it with a statement of the press release you read
know that he was put under house arrest, and what I said the other
Afterwards, the UN added
to the transcript
something that hadn't in fact been said: " [The Spokesperson
later added that the United Nations knew nothing about any past
activities of the deceased staff member. The cause of his death is
still being investigated with an autopsy to be conducted in the next
It's a big statement,
that "the United
Nations" knew nothing of complaints against Fosnight in Sierra
Leone. We'll try to see if it is true.
We question the UN's
claimed zero tolerance
policies at all levels because, as simply one more example last week,
the French UN employee exposed
for welfare fraud is still, sources
tell Inner City Press, in line for a new two year contract.
UN in Liberia, abusers not shown
28, Inner City Press asked
There is a pretty detailed
report out about a UN employee, Bruno
Bastet and that he was receiving welfare housing payments in France
while living in New York in a condominium and he was also receiving
rental subsidy from the UN. I wanted to just ask two things about
it. I wanted to ask first, why does the UN or what is the
Secretariat’s thinking on paying rental subsidy to people that
actually own, you know extremely expensive apartments? They don’t
get rental subsidy if they live in the apartment they own. But, if
they rent it out to others and rent another apartment, then they
receive rental subsidy. Does this seem reasonable to the Secretariat
Montas: Well, this is a matter, you know, as concerned that matter, you
the matter of the staff member’s rental subsidy, in the case of Mr.
Bastet, that could be reviewed through the UN internal process to
determine the accuracy and completeness of any statement and claims
submitted by Mr. Basted. So, that’s what I can say. In terms of
the actual, I can get some additional information for you on rental
subsidies, but usually rental subsidies are given for a certain
number of years to staff members coming into the system, and they are
done according to the statements made by the staff member. [The
rental subsidy declines gradually over a seven-year period, so that
eventually the staff member must adjust fully to the local market.] And
you can get, of course, full information on this. I think you
can find this on our website, about the policy on subsidies.
What I mean, because I think Marie was asked about it yesterday,
because she is quoted in this report and she says it’s entirely
legal for a UN official to own property, but nonetheless apply for
rental subsidy to live elsewhere. And I guess I am just asking, you
know, whatever the specifics of Mr. Bastet is, does that policy make
sense that… Is the purpose of the rental subsidy to give it to
somebody that can own, that only lives in rental housing? Or does
this create an incentive to actually, as they say, build a real
estate empire? Like somebody could own three buildings and still be
getting a rental subsidy from the UN. Is that…?
Montas: I’ll try to forward that question for you to the people in
On what ever timeline
that takes place, Inner
City Press is aware that its questions, above, have been submitted to
the head of OIOS Ms. Inga Britt Ahlenius -- who has yet to rule on
in the Office of the President of the General
Assembly or by DPKO's
Alan Doss, among many other pending or buried
items -- and to Ethics Office chief Robert Benson. This last is known
to be in New York, last seen strolling through Grand Central. His
action on UNDP whistleblower(s) remains murky.
Welfare fraud and
nepotism are trumped,
however, by war crimes. While the UN's Political Office on Somalia
has in the past declined to answer basic questions about its funding
and activities, such as approaching Norway to
pay for Somalia's Law
of the Sea filing made, in fact, by Kenya, then voted down by the
Somali parliament, now Inner City Press' Somali sources say that
UNPOS boss Ahmedou Ould Abdallah has sunk to recruiting war lords,
such as Mohamed Ali Samantar, who is still being sued by his victims.
24, Inner City Press asked
some are saying that Ould-Abdallah has personally invited the
participation in the process in Somalia of Muhammad Ali Semanta, who
was a warlord during the 80s Black Hawk Down era. And he actually
has a human rights case against him. Is there some way to know
that’s what many people in Somalia are saying. But it seems to be
difficult to know what Ould is doing.
Montas: Well, you just have to ask him.
City Press: I
know, but there has been some difficulty. Even on that issue of the
Law of the Sea treaty it took like three weeks and finally
[inaudible] that one. So I wanted to ask you, just a simple yes or
no whether he’s invited Mr. Semanta, and if so…
I cannot answer yes or no if I don’t know, right?
in this specific case, I have to ask Mr. Ould-Abdallah.
Five days later, there's
still no answer.
Watch this site.
* * *