as UNSC Issues Statement, Legal Blocks to Aid Not Discussed
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Friday July 22,
Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman
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?
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
a lot of
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.
* * *
Grilled in Sanctions Committee, Somalia on Tap for
22 -- After UN Security Council members met behind
closed doors Friday afternoon about Somalia and Eritrea sanctions,
Inner City Press asked committee chairman Hardeep Singh Puri of India
if new sanctions on mining and funds from the Eritrean diaspora were
“We need a
meeting on that,” he said, adding that he had invited Permanent
Representative Desta and presidential
Yemane Ghebreab -- who
Inner City Press interviewed on July 22, click here for video -- to
the “outlines” of the forthcoming monitoring committee report.
“My goal is
compliance with Resolution 1907,” Hardeep Singh Puri said, “not
to box anybody in.”
take place as the Somalia's Al Shabaab, which Eritrea is accused of
supporting, vacillate about allowing humanitarian groups in to the
drought ravaged areas under their control.
told Inner City Press Friday morning that a briefing is being
July 25 at 11 am on Somlia -- “only on humanitarian issues.”
Previously, Indian peacekeepers in Asmara, Badme not shown
said that holding the briefing might “raise expectations” that
the UN could or would do something in the face of Al Shabaab's
humanitarian blockade. But later Friday it was confirmed: the briefing
Osman Saleh Mohammed is slated to meet with Secretary
General Ban Ki-moon on July 25 at 3:30. And later in the week,
sources say, the monitoring group's report should be made public. We'll
* * *
on Sanctions, Somalia &
After the Eritrea
of the UN Security
Council on July 19, which Inner City Press was one of only two
outlets to go to cover, and of the two the only one to write about it,
UN reached out to offer an interview with Yemane
Ghebreab, special political adviser to President Isaias Afwerki.
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
Ghebreab on July 21 told Inner City Press that Somalia was in fact
discussed with Ban. Video here.
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.
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
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
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
Ghebreab about the recent defections by Eritrean
athletes; he replied that was merely “migration."
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.
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.