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At the UN, Congo To Get One Month, Abkhazia Six, Clinton on Uganda, Kosovo Trip Firms Up

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News / Muse

UNITED NATIONS, April 12 -- The UN Security Council met past 6 p.m. on Thursday, emerging from consultations for Council president Emyr Jones Parry to read a Presidential Statement condemning terrorism and specifically the previous day's bombing in Algeria. Why no statement about the bombings in Iraq? Amb. Jones Parry off-camera said there was initially proposed, on Iraq, a mere press statement, but that since Algeria got a presidential statement, so will Iraq, on Friday. They call it parallelism. Who knew?

            Inner City Press asked Amb. Jones Parry if during the Council's consultations on Somalia, anyone had brought up the European official's email concerning war crimes by the Transitional Federal Government. "I'm not aware of that," he said.

            On Sudan, Amb. Jones Parry praised UN Peacekeeping's Africa hand Titov, but said the problem surrounds six attack helicopters. On the planned Council trip to Kosovo and Belgrade, Amb. Jones Parry said it will be headed up by Belgium and will take place, as he put it, "the week after next." So that would be the last full week in April, right? He said it will begin in Belgium, then "move into the region by the end of the week" after next. So that would be April 25-27, right?

            Inner City Press asked Amb. Jones Parry about Friday's votes on extending the UN missions in Georgia (Abkhazia) and the DR Congo. The latter had, a month ago, been predicted to be a one-year extension. But given recent violence in Kinshasa, including main Kabila opponent Jean-Pierre Bemba holing up in the South African embassy, the roll-over will now only be for a month. And what will happen next month?

            The resolution on Abkhazia will be presented to the press at 10:10 a.m. on Friday, according to the Georgian mission. The extension, Amb. Jones Parry said Thursday, will be for six months.  But what will the resolution say? We will cover this tomorrow. For now we note that late Thursday a spokesman for a Permanent Five member whose nation linked Abkhazia to a so-called Geneva style meeting has promised to explain this term of art in connection with Friday's Council proceedings.

            Ban Ki-moon, following his town hall meeting with staff and press stakeout -- click here for Inner City Press' story on that -- met Thursday afternoon with Bill Clinton. That climate change was on the agenda, as it was in Wednesday's Ban-Bloomberg meeting, is no surprise. But a post-meeting read-out included Uganda as an issue they discussed. Karamoja? (Unlikely, despite reported killing of 66 children by the U.S.-supported Uganda People's Defense Force.) The Lord's Resistance Army? If LRA, one wonders if Mr. Clinton is among those who favor burying the International Criminal Court's indictments for war crimes of LRA chieftains Joseph Kony, Vincent Otti, et al., in a search for peace-through-impunity. More reading-out is needed.

April 12's money shot -- LRA in the mix?

            As a handful of reporters waited past six for the Ambassadors to emerge from the Council chamber, it was announced that one Ambassador in particular would not be speaking, under any circumstances. This was French Ambassador de la Sabliere, because he had hosted some in the UN press corps for a luncheon earlier in the day -- off the record, of course. So he precluded any on the record session by holding an off the record luncheon. Apres lui, le deluge.

            While the 15 missions on the Security Council met and talked of these important things, other excluded nations met, through the Group of 77, to decide to send a letter of protest to the Council. Their objection is to the Council's planned discussion on April 17 of climate change. The intrepid Thalif Deen, who covers the G-77 like no other, spoke Thursday to G-77 chair, Pakistan's Ambassador Munir Akram.  "The concept of the Security Council, as I read the U.N. Charter, is that the Council comes into action when there are actual threats to peace, and breaches of the peace," Amb. Akram said. "Law-making powers, according my interpretation of the charter, are clearly assigned to the General Assembly, not to the Security Council."

    Can you say, turf war about global warming? To be continued.

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As Somali Defense Official Speaks of Extermination, UN and U.S. Dodge War Crimes Questions

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, April 11 -- As civilian neighborhoods in Somalia are bombed by the Transitional Federal Government, TFG-supporters from the United States to the UN increasingly decline to comment on what's wrought in Mogadishu. Wednesday at UN Headquarters, Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's Deputy Spokesperson Marie Okabe to confirm over one thousand deaths and to respond to a quote from TFG defense official Salad Ali Jeele about "exterminating" a rival clan. [Video here, from Minute 6:50 through 8:56, and see below.]

            Ms. Okabe declined comment on the extermination threat, and said that "death toll statistics are provided by the local authorities." But what if it is the local authorities who are doing much of the killing?

            Already officials in Europe have expressed concerns about their possible complicity in war crimes in Mogadishu. These concerns must be sharpened by the following remarks by the EU-supported TFG's Salad Ali Jeele:

"We have succeed in winning the political aspect, what remains now is the force implication... Very soon people will flee from this town , but I wonder where they will flee to. Whether it is here to the north side or to Galgaduud. Since people cannot reconcile and come to terms with each other it is best to forcefully expel [them] from the city... We are now in the final stages. You have seen what happened in the last four days' onslaught, without doubt who ever has survived that onslaught will be exterminated in the one to follow soon."

            In terms of the UN system's continuing engagement, only earlier this week, the UN World Food Program issued a press release calling on the TFG to, at least with pirates, become tougher. The UN's humanitarian chief for Somalia, Eric Laroche, was last heard to urge unequivocal support for the TFG. Now the planned reconciliation conference has been delayed for at least a full month. Much can happen in thirty days. Salad Ali Jeele was previously quoted, by a UN-affiliated service, as denying the UN's own experts' report that the TFG was violating the arms embargo then in place.

Somalia '07 -- shades of RTML?

            Tuesday at the UN, Inner City Press got a chance to ask U.S. Ambassador Wolff a question about the weapons in Somalia, video here, from Minute 6:49:

Inner City Press: On this report, that the U.S. allowed Ethiopia to buy weapons from North Korea in January '07, I think your predecessor has said if it's true, this -- you know, he disfavored that, that it would have violated previous sanctions.  Do you have any views on whether that took place?  And if so, why it would not violate the sanctions?

Ambassador Wolff:  Well, I've seen the reports on this.  I don't have any additional information to offer.  We believe that the resolution should be adhered to.  And from my reading of the accounts, it's the responsibility of the Ethiopian government to adhere by that resolution.

            But the underlying reporting indicates that the U.S. was aware of the ship heading to Ethiopia, in violation of the U.S.-sponsored sanctions on North Korea's arms sales, and that the U.S. did nothing.  State Department spokesman Scott McCormack on Monday answered similarly, "I'm not going to have any particular comment on the details of that story." Earlier on Monday, he had said that "my objective here isn't to criticize the Transitional Federal Government." Maybe it should be...

Bombing of Civilians Justified by UN-Supported Somali President, War Crimes Questions Raised

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN

UNITED NATIONS, April 9 -- When are war crimes accepted, and who gets to decide?  In Mogadishu last week, hundreds of civilians were killed when Ethiopian troops and the Transitional Federal Government fired into built-up sections of the city. In seeming violation of the laws of war, TFG president Abdullahi Yusuf has said "any place from which a bullet is fired (at us) we will bombard it regardless of whoever is there."

            Monday at UN Headquarters, Inner City Press asked the spokesman for Ban Ki-moon to respond to the quote, and to the bombing by the TFG and others of civilian areas in Mogadishu. The spokesman, Farhan Haq, pointed out that "a number of bodies, including the Security Council, have recognized the TFG."

   In response to Inner City Press' follow-up question, Mr. Haq said that "the UN is against bombing of civilian areas... across the board." What have the UN's Francois Lonseny Fall, or perhaps more pertinently, Political Affairs chief Lynn Pascoe, said on the topic? "I can check," Mr. Haq said. Video here, from Minute 20:53. Also needing update is the UN's humanitarian chief on Somalia Eric Laroche's statement that the TFG is "the only way to go."

            The inquiry takes place in the wake of reporting on a European Union expert's April 2 e-mail warning to Eric van der Linden, the chief EU official for Kenya and Somalia, that:

"there are strong grounds to believe that the Ethiopian government and the transitional federal government of Somalia and the African Union (peacekeeping) Force Commander, possibly also including the African Union Head of Mission and other African Union officials have through commission or omission violated the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court."

            While the UN has yet to send its own blue helmeted peacekeepers to support or replace the African Union force, the UN has supported the TFG even as its compliance with the Transitional Federal Charter has come into question, concerning the exclusion (and now bombing) of certain clans and sub-clans. Even following the EU warning, the UN continues to call on the TFG to take more aggressive action.

            Responding by press release to the freeing of two ships and their crews, UN World Food Program Somalia Country Director Peter Goossens called, blithely some say, for a more aggressive stance by the Transitional Federal Government. On WFP's web site, Mr. Goossens is quoted that "the threat of piracy however is still very much alive in Somali waters and WFP urges the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia and the Puntland authorities to curb this menace."

Somalia: tsunami or TFG?

            Others are making excuses for the intentional bombing of civilians areas. Voice of America found an expert, former US ambassador to Ethiopia David Shinn, to say that " I think that in this part of the world war tends to be particularly brutal. And I think its going to be extremely difficult to prove that there were war crimes taking place as such. I think this tends to be more the way things are done." Particularly on the 13th anniversary of the beginning of the genocide in Rwanda, this type of relativism is troubling.

            Compliance with Security Council resolutions, even by their sponsors, has become relative as well.  The U.S., it emerges, allowed Ethiopia to buy weapons and tank parts from North Korea months after the U.S.-sponsored sanctions on North Korea. Asked for Ban Ki-moon's reaction, spokesman Farhan Haq declined to comment, saying that since these are Security Council sanctions, the Council members should be asked. When it was pointed out that Mr. Ban has chosen to comment on compliance with the Security Council resolution barring arms imports into Lebanon, Mr. Haq shrugged. It is apparently a matter of discretion.

            U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer was in Baidoa over the weekend. She met with Abdullayi Yusuf and was quoted by Reuters that "'I think that everybody used excessive force when you hear the number killed,' Frazer said, but blamed insurgents for starting the fight with mortar attacks from populated areas."

 News analysis: the allowance for war crimes and other bending and breaking of laws in Somalia appears based on the equation of the Union of Islamic Court with the Taliban, or more explosively, Al Qaeda. In late December when Ethiopian troops crossed the border and drove on Mogadishu, the Security Council did nothing. When in January the U.S. fired missiles at supposed Al Qaeda hide-outs in southern Somalia, little was said. Now the UN-supposed Transitional Federal Government, through its president, says openly they will fire into civilians areas if the residents don't themselves expel the Courts or insurgents.

   Meanwhile the UN counts and decries those fleeing Mogadishu. The World Food Program, in one of its first communications under new executive director Josette Sheeran Shiner, fresh in from the U.S. State Department, blithely issues a press release calling on the TFG to crack down on pirates, click here to view. What if the pirates move into residential neighborhoods? Bombs away, apparently...

Transcript of TFG President Yusuf Q&A, March 21, 2007, see esp. Q&A 5 and 6

1. Q.  It is been reported that the government instigated the current fighting.

A. The man who made that accusation who claims he is speaking on behalf of a clan and that his house was attacked is well known and he works directly with the Islamic Courts. Since he collaborates with the courts and the courts are the ones who are killing the people and conducting terrorism amongst the people and who are destructive, it does not matter how educated he is, it doesn't matter how famous he is, it does not matter from what clan he is: Society should be protected from that kind of man (arrested/eliminated?) because he will not contribute anything to the community except  trouble and destruction. 

2. Q. But Mr. President he is saying we were a clan that was meeting just like the other clans meet?

A: Son, he is lying! We know the names of the guys he was meeting with at that time. They are one family (sub-clan).   They cannot even speak on behalf of a sub-clan. They are individuals and we know the one he is having the meeting with. The name Hawiye is being used as a cover but it does not exist. I believe you have asked the Prime Minister about this ( i.e. Hawiye) and you know from which clan the Prime Minister comes from (i.e. he is Hawiye).

3.  Q: One can ask, can the president draw people closer to each other now that there is on going fighting everywhere and the people are fleeing, many are wounded so how will they come (to Mogadishu for the peace conference)?

  A: The facts are well known. It is the guys I have named who are causing the instability and we are working to ensure they can never again cause instability (threat?). This city should be secure when the conference (reconciliation conference scheduled for April 16 in Mogadishu) is to be held. That is the transitional government's responsibility.

4. Q: So have you been overpowered? Reports say that it is the government troops and the peacekeepers that are being dragged. Were you overpowered?

A: First of all have you ever fought in a war?

5. Q: Then who is fighting? Isn't it reported that two sides are fighting?

A: First, I have asked you a question. If there is a battle there will be casualties (deaths), It is possible that every now and then one or the other side looses ground, but we have not been defeated, we will not be defeated God willing and we will eliminate these guys.

6. Q: The government is using artillery to shell civilian areas according to reports, therefore why are you using these artillery?

A: Why shouldn't we use it? They are within the civilian areas. The public should make them (rebels) leave the civilian areas. When those guys leave the civilian areas no harm will come to the civilians. We want the civilians to remove them (rebels) telling them to go away from our midst. It is you (rebels) that are causing us all these troubles. It is the rebels who are the cause of all the troubles and not the government because any place from which a bullet is fired (at us) we will bombard it regardless of whoever is there.

7. Q: Even if civilians are there you are going to bombard it?

A: Yes we will bombard it! Because the civilians should not be used as Human shields. The civilians should get out of there and we have warned the civilians. We said there is fighting going on in those neighborhoods get out of there while the fighting is going on because one of the sides will be made to give up. The civilians have that warning.

8. Q: Mr. President since you have announced that yours is a government of peace, and that you will save the public, if you now say we are going to burn everyone (who opposes us) what do you think of that?

A: It is one side that is initiating the fighting. The instigators will be confronted with fighting. If they hide amongst the civilians there will be collateral damage to the civilians. You need to ask them (rebels) those kinds of questions like why don't you leave the civilian areas and fight the government somewhere else? It is they that you should ask such questions and goodbye!

            But the questions are proliferating. Developing...

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