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At the UN, Somalia Discussed As Journalists Are Killed, White Phosphorous Used

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

UNITED NATIONS, August 13 -- While in Mogadishu journalists are targeted and killed, Monday in New York the Security Council held closed-door consultations on Somalia, in anticipation of a draft resolution being prepared by the UK. Inner City Press asked UN envoy Francois Lonseny Fall what the UN will do about the violence and human rights violations, even war crimes. A recent UN report details the Ethiopian troops' use of white phosphorous as a weapon.

            Mr. Fall said that the UN in Geneva "intends to send independent experts." Later, when Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson was asked the same question by Inner City Press, she said as to whether there will "be people deploying in the near future" that she "will definitely inquire with the Human Rights Office in Geneva." We'll see.

            Meanwhile, the National Reconciliation Congress peters on. As previously reported, Prime Minister Gedi came to the UN asking for $32 million dollars, but received far less. Since then, he reportedly struck gold in Saudi Arabia -- a round $32 million.

      While the African Union has not been able to reach the 8,000 troop strength called for in its Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), the AU now says it has all the troops necessary for the "hybrid" force in Darfur. Mr. Fall on Monday said that in Somalia there are 1700 Ugandan soldiers, with the promise of 1500 from Burundi and more from Nigeria. It still appears likely that Somalia may be left in the dust as focus concentrates on Sudan and Darfur.

Mogadishu on fire

            Inner City Press asked Mr. Fall if he and the UN think the National Reconciliation Congress has been inclusive enough. Main opponents from the Union of Islamic Courts are not participating. Mr. Fall said that the UN "put enough pressure on them to call all parties, some did not come," specifically the Islamic Courts.

            That has not stopped the UN system, through the UN Development Program, from paying and training to propagate a positive message, according to sources:

Subj: UNDP is also involved in Manufacturing Consent  

Date: 8/6/2007 12:55:37 AM Eastern Standard Time

From: [Correspondent's name withheld from fear, email grammar also tweaked]

To: Matthew Russell Lee at Inner City Press

Hi Matthew; I heard that the UNDP is involved in the coordination and orchestrating "positive" news coverage in the local media in Somalia.  A meeting for coordinating was held on 25th July 2007  at UNDP Offices in Mogadishu. This sounds like the scandal with the US defense department contractors were placing positive articles etc in Iraqi newspapers. Is it part of the UN or UNDP's role to manipulate the media coverage of a conflict zone?  The good feel programs about the Reconciliation conference that they are generating in local Somali radio broadcasts are listened to by stringers for the wire services who then report it as a fact (that the reconciliation conference is going well). These reports then affect the UN, US and the international community into a false sense of success and progress.

            Inner City Press has asked UNDP's lead spokesman, and Administrator, about this, without any response. Nor has UNDP been willing to disclose whether or not it has funded the TFG's police and military force.

            A question that Inner City Press' sources repeatedly raise concerns the consequences and accountability if the U.S. and / or UN decide to pay or train or use Somali journalists.

            Over the weekend, following the murder of two HornAfrik journalists, a belated plea for an end to impunity was sounded by UN country representative Eric Laroche, who earlier this year called for the UN and NGOs to whole-heartedly support the TFG. But only a few days before the murder, at the Ethiopian embassy in Mogadishu's request, the TFG had shut down a radio station and interrogated its staff. There was, it seems, no statement by the UN's Fall or Laroche on that. Developing.

 Video Analysis here

* * *

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.

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Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540