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On Somalia, ICP Asked UN of Still Lax Sanitation, After UN Killed 10,000 in Haiti

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 1 – After an attack on a UN compound in Mogadishu on January 26 Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Farhan Haq about it, from the UN transcript, below. Now on February 1, the UN itself is implicated, in the type of negligent sanitation that had the UN kill more than 10,000 people in Haiti. From the UN's February 1 transcript: Inner City Press: the UN mission in Somalia is irresponsibly dealing with sewage and other matters, putting people at risk, and particularly, given what the UN is widely thought to have done in Haiti in terms of cholera, what is the UN's response to this damning audit of its practises? Spokesman:  You know, this was, of course, a UN and UN-requested audit of our own operations, so I think it's important for us to have on a periodic basis.  As you know, UN peacekeeping op… you know, UN operations often work in very complex and difficult environments, such as in Somalia, where infrastructure is minimal and where active combat is taking place.  We've recognized this problem, and we're taking steps to improve both performance and risk management across the board.  In 2017, our colleagues in the Department of Field Service began implementing a six-year global strategy to achieve a vision for "maximum efficiency in the use of natural resources and minimum risk to people, societies and ecosystems".  Before the end of 2018, each peacekeeping operation will begin to report a "score" to Member States on its performance in this area, including an indication of any risks and steps that are being taken to address it.  Progress is being made, and we're fully committed to ensuring full visibility of risk, as well as design, procurement, installation and managing of fully effective systems.  The mission itself identified an unacceptable level of risk through the Headquarters-led global baselining exercise on wastewater management, and DFS [Department of Field Support] has been working closely with the Somalia Office leadership to prioritise interim risk mitigation.  In June of last year, concurrent with the conclusion of the OIOS [Office of Internal Oversight Services] report, the senior leadership of both the Somalia Mission and DFS jointly agreed on a plan to mitigate risks relating to water… wastewater management, and key staff have been appointed to address the problem, and installation of the wastewater treatment plant in the final site is anticipated in April 2018. Inner City Press: Given what happened… just… just… and thanks for the detail, but, I mean, given what… what happened in Haiti and the expression of regret by Ban Ki-moon, were any steps taken to… system-wide to make sure that they didn't [inaudible] sludge put next to a market…? Spokesman:  Well, I think, obviously, system-wide processes have been taking place for quite some time to try to ensure that the management of wastewater is done in the best way possible.  As we said, they operate in very complex environments.  They… I think a key part of management wastewater is to ensure that there are regular audits.  If there are things that are point outed out, they try to fix them." Right. From the UN's January 26 transcript: Inner City Press: There's some reports of an attack on an UN compound in… in… in Mogadishu and the death of an international staff member from Uganda.  Are you aware of that?  Can you confirm it? Deputy Spokesman:  No, we don't have confirmation.  We'll try to see whether there's anything to those reports." This was published by the UN later in day, after the UN has sent this to Inner City Press: "In regards to your question on an attack in Mogadishu, we can confirm that a fatal shooting of a UNICEF contractor took place today in Mogadishu, Somalia early this afternoon. An investigation is underway, and UNICEF staff are safe. Our thoughts are with the family of the man who was killed." Yes, rest in peace. But why isn't the UN being louder about this attack, days after a UN Staff Union report about the increase of attacks on the UN? After Somali minister Abass Abdullahi Sheikh Siraj was shot and killed by the bodyguards of the country's Auditor-General, apparently in a case of mistaken identity, Inner City Press asked the spokesman for UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, Stephane Dujarric, if Guterres or the UN had any comment. Dujarric said it seemed to be an assassination. On May 11, Inner City Press asked again, from the transcript: Inner City Press: I saw that the Secretary-General at the Somali conference describe the death as Abass Siraji as tragic and unfortunate. I asked about it at the time, and you said it seemed like an assassination.  Is that no longer the view of the UN?

Spokesman:  I'll… I think whatever the Secretary-General says overrides whatever I may say.  That's a rule.

Inner City Press: And I just want to understand, when you say that his speech to UNA-UK was off the cuff, it seems like… I mean, it was a speech.  UN News Centre reported on it, so, like, what's the problem with releasing it?  I don’t understand.

Spokesman:  It's not that we're not releasing it.  It's just no transcript's been done.  We're going to release the video, and I think the video is as strong as the spoken word.

  From the earlier UN's transcript: Inner City Press: does the UN system have a statement on the killing of Somali Government minister Abass Siraji, a 31-year-old Government minister killed by the [inaudible]?

Spokesman Dujarric:  We obviously condemn what appears to be an assassination of this minister and send our condolences to his family and to the Government of Somalia.

Inner City Press:  Are you… Because some people are saying he was shot by mistake. And I’m wondering, does the UN have any role in security…?

Spokesman:  I have no… a role in providing his security? No.

Inner City Press:  No, no, in training, in this case, the bodyguards of the auditor general.

Spokesman:  Not that I’m aware of.

  The UN Has said nothing since, five hours later. Back on January 26 when the International Monetary Fund's deputy spokesperson William Murray took questions at the IMF's biweekly media briefing on January 26, Inner City Press asked him about Somalia and the UN, as well as Mozambique and Ghana.

 Inner City Press asked: "The UN's envoy to Somalia Michael Keating recently said in New York that the IMF is urging the government in Mogadishu to raise revenue, by means of a tax on 'ICT' or telecom/mobile phones. Is that accurate? Please explain the IMF's position."

  After the briefing, at which Inner City Press' Mozambique question was answered, an IMF spokesperson provided this on Somalia:

“Somalia has one of the lowest revenue to GDP ratios in the world. Increasing revenue mobilization, from a low tax base, is critical to Somalia’s economic and social development goals. To that end, the authorities and IMF staff reached an understanding on the need to collect higher nominal revenues in 2017 compared to those in 2016.  The ultimate goal is to progressively restore, over time, revenue to GDP to a level comparable to peer countries.
In 2017, the authorities plan to start implementing a more formal tax system, which is projected to increase tax revenues from about 1.4 percent of GDP in 2016 to 2.0 percent of GDP in 2017. A critical element of these revenue measures -- based on current law which the authorities will start implementing -- is revenue from the telecom sector, about $24.5 million in total in 2017. This is up from the negotiated tax of $5.0 million agreed for 2016. The projection comprises of about $12–14 million from taxes on corporate profits and $10–12 million from sales taxes. Additional revenue collection from the telecom sector could be achieved but will require significant improvements in revenue administration and tax collection, while improving security for telecom operators.”


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