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As UN Council Skips Somalia Child Soldiers, Skips Town for Kabul, Where Could Meet on Gaza But Not Cheonan

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 18 -- When outgoing UN envoy on Somalia Ahmedou Ould Abdallah spoke with the Security Council on June 18, many expected that that recent expose that twenty percent of the Transitional Federal Government's armed forces are children would be raised. Why had Ould Abdallah not seen this war crime, why had he said nothing about it?

But in fact, it was the Security Council members who said nothing. A well placed Council diplomat, after the closed door consultations with Ould Abdallah, told Inner City Press than no Council member had raised the issue.

Inner City Press stopped Ould Abdallah as he left the chamber and headed up the stairs. What about the child soldiers?

"I'm not convinced," Ould Abdallah replied. He said that such reports "only weaken the government."

But did you see the video that accompanied the story?

"I saw only one" child soldier, Ould Abdallah said. In denial to the end, one wag muttered afterward.

Ould Abdallah remains in the post until the end of the month, when he will be replaced by current Tanzanian Ambassador to the UN Augustine Mahiga. A diplomat who has attended numerous closed consultations with Ould Abdallah told Inner City Press his behavior had grown more and more erratic. Even his supporters say he perhaps hung on too long.

After Ould Abdallah left, not everyone left the chamber. North Korea's Ambassador arrived. Afterward the read out was, he reiterated that Pyongyong sees no need for Council action. So much so that a military response was threatened, leading Ban Ki-moon to call for "all sides" to respect the UN Charter.

Ould Abdallah, bemused Vitaly Churkin, who is headed to Kabul

   The Council is slated to leave for Afghanistan on Sunday. If there is a Gaza flotilla incident before then, the timing could change. If an incident happens while they are in Afghanistan, they could hold a Council meeting there. But would it be webcast?

  And on Afghanistan itself, will any Council member make any inquiries into what the government of Hamid Karzai has done to investigate the killing of UN staff member -- and US citizen -- Louis Maxwell? Questions, questions.

* * *

On Child Soldiers Supported by UN in Somalia, UNSC Will Respond After 3 Years

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 16, updated -- Days after the UN-supported Somali Transitional Federal Government's use of child soldiers was widely exposed, the UN Security Council's lack of seriousness on the issue was on display on Wednesday. Mexican foreign minister Patricia Espinosa presided over a day-long series of speeches about children and armed conflict. At noon, Inner City Press asked her what she and the Council would do about their support of the TFG, which uses children as young as nine and 12 to wield AK-47s in Mogadishu.

    This has not been raised to the Security Council, Secretary Espinosa replied, not even to the Working Group.  Video here.

  But minutes later, when Inner City Press asked the UN's envoy on the issue Radhika Coomaraswamy how the TFG's use of child soldiers could have been missed, she protected that the Council had in fact been told of the TFG's recruitment in three straight years' reports.

Later, at the end of the Council's debate after 7 p.m., a Mexican mission official confirmed that yes, the Somali TFG has been formally listed for the past three years. The most senior Mexican mission official shrugged* that the minister had been mis-informed. [See update below, on both the shrug and the information.]

  The expose of the TFG's use of child soldiers was on the front page of the New York Times days before the UN's day long "debate." The representative of a Permanent Five member of the Council told Inner City Press that the NYT story had triggered inquiries to the capital(s), and statements ready for the press. How could the month's Council presidency, with children and armed conflict as their chosen thematic issue, be so unprepared?

Update: It has been explained to Inner City Press that what Secretary Espinosa was referring to was an upcoming Working Group session in September. Our point remains the same: something is wrong with the Security Council when pressing issues, involving as this one does the Council's own integrity, get confined to slow bureaucratic processes.

  But that is hardly this month's Presidency's fault. And the senior -- senor -- diplomat, it's worth nothing, undertook a thankless trip to Eritrea and other hotspots, in the name of Somali sanctions. The shrug* was not disinterest but fatigue after a full day of speeches. We will continue to follow this issue.


UNICEF's Johnson, Ms. Coomaraswamy, UN action on TFG not shown

Inner City Press asked Secretary Espinosa if this didn't show that the Council is too bound in bureaucracy to deal with egregious behavior in the peacekeeping or political missions it creates, from Somalia to the Congo to Haiti. These are the mechanisms, she replied. Indeed.

  Ms. Johnson said that UN Envoy to Somalia Ould Abdallah had been told, UNDP had been told. Why did Ould Abdallah say or do nothing? Why did UNDP keep training? Watch this site.

* * *

Child Soldiers in Somalia Unaddressed in Security Council Speeches, Conflict of Interest

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 16 -- As the UN Security Council debates one of its favorite topics, Children and Armed Conflict, it has a conflict of interest. Since 2006 it has supported, some say propped up, the Transitional Federal Government in Somalia. Now what was long known has been more publicly exposed, that at least 20% of the TFG's soldiers are underage, some below ten years old.

  On June 15 Inner City Press asked Council President for June Claude Heller of Mexico what the Council would do about the report. There is a debate tomorrow, Heller said on camera. Later, emerging from consultations in the Council chamber with, among others, delegates of Ivory Coast and Georgia, Heller said that something would be said on the topic on Wednesday.

  Mexico's foreign minister Patricia Espinosa Cantellano is in New York for the debate, slated to speak to the Press at 11:30. But not on this topic, Inner City Press is told. What then could she be asked? If the underaged members of drug gangs like La Familia in Michoacan should be considered children in armed conflict?

UN's Ban and Sec't Espinosa, 2009, support for TFG and its child soldiers not shown

But here's from Secretary Espinosa's statement:

"Mexico call upon the Security Council, within the limits of its mandate, to continue being vigilant of the repercussions that armed conflicts have on children, and to promote concrete actions to fulfill the recommendations emanating from the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict. We defend the interests of children and consider that, as a community, we must enhance our efforts to give a wide and effective protection to children. Crimes against children cannot be stopped if perpetrators remain unpunished."

What about enablers in the recruitment of child soldiers, like the UN Political Office on Somalia, UNDP and... the UN Security Council? We will be asking. Sixty countries are coming to speechify. Watch this site.

Update of 10:38 a.m. -- After Susan Rice strode in at 10:11, the meeting and speeches started. Another P5 member's spokesperson said they're aware of the TFG Somalia expose, but "it hasn't come up, there's been no reason for it to come up." And in today's debate on children and armed conflict? "Let's see," the spokesperson says. Yeah, let's.

Update of 10:41 a.m. -- it emerges in the Security Council "quiet room" people, including Ambassadors, are watching the Spain - Switzerland game instead of listening to the speeches on children and armed conflict.

Update of 11:37 a.m. -- US Amb. Susan Rice briefly mentions Somalia, calling on "all parties" to stop recruiting child soldiers. What about the "party" the US is funding, the TFG? Not enough specifics. She also mentions DRCongo, the Lord's Resistance Army and the Central African Republic. Answers on Somalia, and on US safeguards, are needed. But here comes Sec't Espinosa.

  Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

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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