Hi Tech Miliband Is Asked of Somalia and Sri Lanka, by Twitter, Yes or
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, March 10, updated -- It's all the rage in diplomatic spin: UK
secretary David Miliband is taking questions by Twitter today,
during his two day stay in Boston. The UK consulate there has been
soliciting questions, saying they will be answered throughout the
the UN in New
York, Inner City Press has asked Miliband questions at the Security
Council stakeout, several times receiving wordy answers the meaning
of which was not entirely clear.
of 140 characters -- less with all the hash marks -- in the questions
and especially the answers will make Miliband's meaning more clear.
Here are two questions tweeted to the UK consulate as per their
instructions on Wednesday morning by Inner City Press:
Has UK cut aid to WFP in #Somalia, and if so what is required for the
aid to hungry Somalis to be resumed? #askfs
If #SriLanka refuses to investigate war crimes does UK think the UN
should name a panel of inquiry as in Guinea? #askfs
the first question is that while the UN and its Mark Bowden have
publicly questioned the restrictions on aid by the U.S., which says
funds are being diverted to Al Shabaab, the UK's position is less
clear. And with the UK's John Holmes in charge of the UN's
humanitarian operations, some wonder if his office would point the
finger at the UK.
In the past
week, Inner City Press has asked the UN's spokesman Martin Nesirky,
himself a Brit, for an update on restrictions on UN system operations
and funding in Somalia, and to explain UN envoy Ould Abdallah's call
for the UN to return to Mogadishu when, apparently, he can't. Still
there have been no answers. At least on the first question, perhaps
Miliband can answer.
Miliband and Sawers saunter pass stakeout, Twitter not shown
question, Miliband's then-UN Ambassador John Sawers, before he
returned to London and spy-hood, told Inner City Press that the UK
had "had the votes" to put Sri Lanka on the Security
Council's agenda during the blood bath on the beach stage of the
conflict in the Spring of 2009, but chose not to, in the name of
Council unity, perhaps on other issues.
Mark Lyall Grant speaks much less frequently to the press at the
Council stakeout. So the question must go to the traveling Miliband.
Watch this site -- and Twitter, @innercitypress, click
Update: while UK Foreign
Milliband did not, as UK embassies in the U.S. had appeared to promise,
respond to Inner City Press' timely submitted question about the
investigation of and accountability for war crimes, the following was
From: Brian.McGuigan, British
To: Inner City Press
Date: Fri, Mar
We're sorry that the Foreign Secretary was not able to answer your
question on Twitter. We'd still like to give you a response from the
British Government, however.
was a war without witness. The UK supports any credible process to
address possible violations of international humanitarian law by both
sides to the conflict. Such a process could advance the prospects of
national reconciliation. Whatever the outcome of the UN process, the
GoSL retains primary responsibility to investigate possible war
crimes committed on its territory and we urge it to do so.
* * *
Rice of US Insists UN "Misconstrues" Somalia Aid
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, February 19 -- Susan Rice, the US Ambassador to the UN,
accused the UN's humanitarian coordinator for Somalia Mark Bowden of
"misconstruing" US restrictions on aid. Ambassador Rice
asserted a "diversion of resources" to the Islamist group
Al Shabab. Since it is on US terrorism lists, US law requires the
restrictions the US is demanding.
what are these
U.S. restrictions? Bowden, while publicly complaining about them, would
not provide any description. Rather, he said that when he went to
Washington to discussed them with US aid officials, they told him the
issue was "above [their] pay grade."
asked Ambassador Rice about precisely this quote. She insisted that
it is Al Shabab which is responsible for the lack of aid. Video here,
But what of
Bowden's quoting of US aid officials? A US State Department official
in Washington, described as "irritated," has said of
Bowden, "We're going to talk to him." The
quote reminded on
UN observer of "something from the Sopranos," or the Mafia
film "Good Fellas."
boss, top UN humanitarian John Holmes,
stood before a UN microphone
on Thursday evening, Inner City Press asked him to explain what
Bowden had said, and to describe the US restrictions to which the UN
is publicly taking exception.
responded that the message was only that the UN needs more funds.
Even pressed, he declined to follow or back up Bowden. Video here,
cop, bad cop," an observer mused afterwards. Or was Holmes
showing his political stripes, declining to criticize the U.S. as,
for example, his predecessor Jan Egeland did after the tsunami?
Susan Rice back on Jan. 26, US Somalia aid
restrictions not shown
Ambassador Rice's two responses to the Press about Somalia, she went
in to a Security Council meeting about Haiti. Speaking first, from a
prepared text, was the UN's John Holmes. So goes diplomacy at the UN.
While Ambassador Rice also took two questions about Iran's nuclear
program, the Press was not able to ask for her views on developments
in Sudan and Darfur, or on anti-democratic moves in Niger and Cote
d'Ivoire, nor the incorporation of a presumptive war criminal into
Guinea's interim government. But the answers on Somalia, although of
a piece with Washington's script, were appreciated.
official told Inner City Press that "Susan Rice, as an expected
future Secretary of State, is playing it safe. She will not, for
example, criticize [former South African president Thabo] Mbeki about
Sudan." Until questions are asked, and answered, we'll stick to
an open mind.
the US Mission to the UN's transcript:
City Press: On Somalia, the U.N. has said that the U.S. is
politicizing aid, and has made restrictions that make it impossible
to feed people in southern Somalia. Could you say what the
restrictions are and what the reasons for them are?
Rice: Well, first of all we utterly reject that claim; we think it's
false and unfounded. The reason why aid is not now proceeding to the
people of southern Somalia is one reason alone and it's quite clear:
it's Al Shabaab's attacks on WFP and other U.N. agencies, its
kidnapping of innocent relief workers, its extortion of funds which
prompted WFP on January 5th to take the decision that it could not
and would not continue to deliver life saving assistance in southern
Somalia. That's an unfortunate development but it is a direct
consequence of Al Shabaab's attacks and efforts. The U.S. is the
largest donor of humanitarian assistance to Somalia, we have been
consistently over many years, and in 2009 we contributed $150 million
in humanitarian assistance to Somalia. So, as I said we reject that
claim as false and unfounded.
City Press: One follow up, Mark Bowden of the UN had said when he
traveled to Washington and met with USAID officials they said to him
that the decision was above their pay-grade and was being made by the
State Department on a political basis.
Rice: He's conflating and misconstruing two different things. The
reason why the people of Somalia in the South are not able to receive
the assistance that we and others have traditionally provided at
present is because WFP took a decision, a decision they felt
compelled to take and we understand why they had to take it, that
they could no longer continue to provide assistance safely, given Al
Shabaab's harassment, attacks, and terrorist activities. The question
of how the U.S. government has responded, and we have been in
discussions with humanitarian delivery agencies about the fact that
we have grave concerns about the diversion of resources to Al Shabaab
and other terrorist organizations in contravention of U.S. law. And
we have had those discussions, they have been ongoing but
nonetheless, the U.S. provided $150 million of humanitarian
assistance to Somalia last year. We remain, as we have been for many
years, the largest donor, and what is precluding the delivery of
assistance to people in southern Somalia is Al Shabaab.