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Ethiopia's Incursion into Somalia Draws No UN Comment, Garowe Sideshow?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 31 -- Now that Ethiopia has driving further into central Somalia, taking over the town of Beledweyne, neither the UN's Secretary General Ban Ki-moon or the Security Council have had anything to say.

  Rather, Ban on December 30 offered fulsome praise to the so-called Garoowe Principles, which are subject to some detailed criticism by Somali patriots.

Back on November 25, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky about Ethiopia:

Inner City Press: given the past impact of Ethiopia entering Somalia, the reaction of the populace to it. Doesn’t the UN, with an envoy, have some view of whether this is a good thing or should it come to the Council? Is it a positive step for Somalia to have the military involvement of its close and contentious neighbor?

Spokesperson Nesirky: Well, it is not for me to say what should or should not be discussed by the Council; that’s for the Council to decide. As for the meeting that took place, the IGAD meeting that you are referring to, obviously we are aware of that and we are looking at that. I don’t have our readout of that yet.

Inner City Press: I just want to clarify. I am not asking you to say what they should discuss, I am saying, in upholding the UN Charter, should the entry militarily of one country into another… previous Secretary-Generals have spoken on that point, so I think it’s fair… I am just wondering if there is any statement by this Secretary-General on this incursion.

Spokesperson: Yes I do, I do, and I think as we have mentioned, with regard to Kenya, there was a clear understanding between the countries concerned.

But what about Ethiopia? There was never any response. When Ban traveled to Somalia, Inner City Press on December 8 asked if he would speak about Kenya bombing an IDP camp -- there was no answer -- and on December 9, about Somalis' protest to UN envoy Augustine Mahiga:

Inner City Press: Various Members of Parliament there say that they are petitioning Ban Ki-moon about problems they have had with Mr. Mahiga and UNPOS, saying that he has violated the Transitional Federal Charter by engaging selectively with parties, and that they don’t consider him an honest broker. I wanted to know whether the Secretary-General, in his visit, received such a petition and also when he met, whether or not he has, what he makes of this criticism by parliamentarians in Somalia?

Spokesperson Nesirky: Well, I do not know whether such a petition was handed to the delegation or not. I am sure that we will be able to find that out. Mr. Mahiga obviously enjoys the full confidence of the Secretary-General in the work that he does in very difficult circumstances.

This was followed, on December 30, with Ban's unqualified praise of the so-called Garowe Principles:

"The Secretary-General commends the commitment by Somali political leaders, as outlined in the Garoowe Principles adopted on 23 December, to a clear process and timeline for the finalisation of the draft constitution, the reform of Parliament, and the conclusion of the transition."

  Of these, others have noted that powers are being transferred to six persons called stakeholders– three in the TFC (President, Speaker, Prime Minister) and three others (the Presidents of Puntland, Galmudug and an alternating representative from Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama).

  Decisions prepared by the UNPOS under the guidance of the UN Department for Political Affairs are or will be rubber stamped by the six persons. UNDPA is led by American Under-Secretary General B. Lynn Pascoe and, they say, Assistant Secretary General Taye-Brook Zerihou of Ethiopia.

  And so what of this failure to speak of the incursions into Somalia? We'll have more on this in 2012.

(c) UN Photo
Ban, PGA, Mahiga & UN staff, comment on incursions & IDP bombing not shown

Footnote: At year end in the US, a drive to deny funding to Al Shabab has resulted in curtailing wire transfers and remittances to Somalis, including via Sunrise Community Banks.

  This collective punishment has some wondering: the Taliban now have a legal office in Doha in Qatar, which provided assistance to Ban's trip to Somalia. Why the different approach to Somalia? Watch this site.

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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

Click here for Sept 26, 2011 New Yorker on Inner City Press at UN

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