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UN Enviro Short List Down to Four With India, Currying Favor of Member States

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 4 -- The short list for the UN's top environmental job, currently held by Yvo de Boer, is down to four, Ambassadors told Inner City Press on Tuesday. The finalists, they said, are from India, South Africa, Hungary and Costa Rica.

  The last of these held her own press conference to announce her candidacy. The penultimate, Janos Pasztor, was the subject of a UN noon briefing back and forth, about the possible conflict of vying of the UN post while occupying another.

  But Barbados, which also had a press conference, is apparently not on the final short list. Looking at recent appointments by the Ban Ki-moon administration, observers see a pattern of seeking to curry favor with particular member states or regional groups.

  This of course is how the UN works. But "it has gotten worse under the Moon," as one insider puts it, pointing at the appointments of sitting ministers and judges from member states to human rights positions, then appointing outgoing Ambassadors like Chile's Heraldo Munoz to a post at UNDP.

  A Croatian supporter of Ivan Simonovic, whose section for the rights ASG post Inner City Press reported on May 2, and was confirmed May 3 by the Spokesman's Office. A Croatian supporter of Simonovic said that he is a very loyal person and may not be able to come to New York until September, when in his current job he'll finish an EU negotiation. Inner City Press asked just this at noon, but Ban's Spokesman Martin Nesirky said he didn't know.

UN's Pasztor, Orr and Nesirky

  Here are some other things he said he didn't know, in the UN's transcript of its May 4 briefing:

Inner City Press: I want to ask a couple of questions about the Congo, about MONUC [United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo], I guess. One is, can you confirm that the Senegal and Benin troops are being withdrawn from MONUC? And beyond that, what percentage of the battalions remaining are actually from Francophone countries?

Spokesperson Nesirky: Let’s find out.

Question: Also, it’s a related question. The Military Adviser of DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] Mr. [Chikadibia Isaac] Obiakor, when does his mandate run out, and when does that of Mr. Babacar Gaye as MONUC Force Commander?

Spokesperson: Well, as we told you, Mr. Gaye is that Force Commander and is listed as such. But if there is about to be some movement and our colleagues in DPKO can advise us, then we’ll let you know.

Question: There were widespread reports that Andrew Leslie, a Canadian General, was offered the force-commanding position for MONUC, but now he has been given another job for Canada. So, I think the cat is kind of out of the bag that Mr. Gaye will no longer be the Force Commander of MONUC. So, I am just wondering, can you at least state when Mr. Obiakor leaves? I’ve heard that Gaye is replacing Obiakor, several delegations say that.

Spokesperson: I can’t right now. But, as I said, as we speak, Mr. Gaye is the Force Commander for MONUC.

Question: Can I ask, yesterday you announced the appointment of Mr. [Ivan] Šimonovic of Croatia as the ASG [Assistant Secretary-General] for the Human Rights High Commissioner. Can you say when he is going to begin? I’ve heard it may be as late as September, and I am wondering what sense that makes.

Spokesperson: I will find out. I would note that Mr. Šimonovic is a cabinet minister. He is a Minister of Justice, so I am sure there have been discussions between the Human Rights Commissioner and her team and the Croatian Government about the timing. Let’s find out.

Question: And does the Secretary-General, I know you’ve put his CV out, but was he aware of concerns raised by prominent human rights organizations that this is not the right choice, that the person has very little track record in human rights, and was appointed by a person alleged to be a war criminal, etcetera. Is that, I’m wondering just what the response is to criticisms voiced by prominent human rights organizations of the appointment.

Spokesperson: As I have said before with relation to other appointments, appointments of this kind, meaning senior appointments, are not undertaken lightly, and involve looking at a range of people and options. And there is a set pattern of interviews and references, as you might expect.

Question: In Iraq, there is a recount going on. Does the UN have a role? What is the UN’s role in that a recount? Are they observing the recount or are they supporting the recount in some way?

Spokesperson: The UN is not involved in observing, it was not involved in observing the election itself nor the recount. The United Nations has a role to provide the technical support that we’ve talked about a number of times, and that would include advising the election commission on how you conduct a recount.

Question: And finally, you sent me an answer about this Mr. [Bruno] Bastet who was a UN employee who was accused of using French subsidy for the poor while being a UN employee. But he was, as you said, removed from DC-2 by the Department of Safety and Security of the UN, is that common? When somebody’s contract runs out, why do they have to be escorted from the premises by security? Can you explain why this took place?

Spokesperson: No, I cannot give you any more details than what I have, what we have already sent to you, which is that he was escorted, I think that is the key word, he was escorted out of one of the UN buildings — for those in the know, DC-2 — last week, and that was following the termination of his contract. But, as you also know from what I told you and as we have also told others who are aware of this case, that this was without incident. As to further details about this, I would ask you to contact the Office of Human Resources Management

Question: On this incident, still a related one, the last time, at least I am aware of, this happening was Nicolas Baroncini, the person who was alleged to have bitten a security officer when the Alan Doss job was given. In light of the OIOS [Office for Internal Oversight Services] preliminary finding described by Farhan Haq as now been given to Mr. [Alan] Doss for him to respond to — does that have any bearing on the UN proceeding with its case, criminal case against Mr. Baroncini? But he was taken to criminal court.

Spokesperson: Does what have any bearing?

Question: Does the finding, does the preliminary OIOS finding about the propriety of Mr. Doss’s conduct have any bearing on the UN proceeding to continue the criminal prosecution of Nicolas Baroncini? Is the UN going forward, that’s to say? Is the officer going to testify against him and are you trying to, I guess, put him in jail?

Spokesperson: Well, that’s a lot of questions there. My answer will be fairly brief. And that is that we’ve said repeatedly and we’ve just told you this morning again, that this, if I am not mistaken, that it is precisely that. The findings, there is a preliminary finding that was given to Mr. Doss in that particular investigation or inquiry, and it’s not yet finalized. On the other aspects of your question, I don’t think that’s something I can comment on.

Question: Is it going to go forward?

Spokesperson: I cannot comment on that here and now. If I have anything else to add at another stage, I will.

We'll see. Watch this site.

* * *

At UN, Gaye and Simonovic Up for Posts, Human Rights Ignored in UN Musical Chairs, Khare and Hilde Johnson

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 2 -- Two appointments to two posts that are about to be made, including one in Peacekeeping and another of "Balkan partisan" Ivan Simonovic, demonstrate this UN's lack of commitment to human rights, sources tell Inner City Press.

  Less than two years ago, the post as Military Adviser to the Department of Peacekeeping Operations was given to Nigerian Lieutenant General Chikadibia Obiakor. Now, sources tell Inner City Press, Obiakor will be replaced by on again, off again UN Congo force commander Babacar Gaye of Senegal, a Francophone country which like Benin is currently having its troops pulled from the (Francophone) Congo.

  When Inner City Press asked Gaye last August about reports of sexual exploitation and abuse by UN peacekeepers under his command in the Congo, Gaye's answer left some scratching their heads, video here, from Minute 41:46:

"Yes, we sent a fact-finding mission in the localities in South Kivu and North Kivu where allegedly there was SEA cases. I have the results of this fact-finding mission. This is the document that I received. Unfortunately, or [do] we say fortunately, most of the time the accusations, the allegations, are not precise enough to see something on the ground and that is why we have decided to send as soon as possible a fact-finding mission every time there is this kind of accusation. You know that it is up to OIOS to investigate this kind of things. But this fact-finding mission is the way for us to react as promptly as possible in order at least to send evidence and so on and so forth. In both cases, that probably your question is related to, there was nothing on the ground for being evidence that something took place."

When Inner City Press asked to see the document Gaye was waving in the air while saying the above, Gaye refused to release. Likewise, he denied that there had been any issue of Pakistani and Indian peacekeepers resisting crossing the administrative border between North and South Kivu, which Inner City Press dubbed the Kashmir in the Kivus. But other DPKO staff, since Gaye's public denial, have acknowledged that this happens. Some military adviser.

Babacar Gaye with Alan Doss, self-exoneration duo?

The new human rights post in New York of Assistant Secretary General, for which many names have less than accurately been tossed around, is according to well placed NGOs about to be awarded to Ivan Simonovic of Croatia, currently that country's Justice Minister. As determined, they say, by Ban Ki-moon's senior advisor Kim Won-soo, he's to get the post over, among others, Karin Landgren of Sweden, who heads the U.N. mission in Nepal, on the theory that the UN can't have two senior Swedes, and Swede Margot Wallstrom got the rape of a weapon of war post.

The human rights NGOs tell Inner City Press they are concerned that Simonovic was named his country's ambassador to the UN by then prime minister Franjo Tudman, of whom Judge Jean-Claude Antonetti said

"It is true that Mr. Tudjman was not charged because he is dead, but alive, he would be here on the accused bench. General Bobetko, that he was alive, he would be accused of the bench. It should be borne in mind when talking about a joint criminal enterprise."

The human rights NGOs also point to what they called the disproportionate prosecution of ethnic Serbs in Croatia while Simonovic has been Justice Minister. While Simonovic, they say, argues that his post is not directly responsible for particular prosecutions, the groups are surprised that the UN is moving in this direction. But should they be?

Footnotes: There are other UN system retreads seeking new posts. When Haile Menkerios was named SRSG of the UN Mission in Sudan, he beat out two competitors viewed as "non African" -- India's Atul Khare, previously of the UN Mission in Timor Leste and Hilde Johnson, a top UNICEF official who points to her childhood in Africa as a demographic qualification.

 In what many view as a hat tip to rising power India, Khare is being named to the number two Peacekeeping post vacated when Edmond Mulet was made permanent in Haiti. So what will Hilde Johnson get? She was schmoozing at Japan's End of Presidency reception on April 30. Watch this site.

* * *

Of UN Council, Rice on Sudan and Congo, S. Africa Running for Seat, UN Musical Chairs

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 26 -- Promoting its candidacy for a Security Council seat in 2011-12, South Africa threw a reception at the UN Monday night. The news, however, came from current Council members. U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice was there, meeting and greeting including with the Press. One of her answers, about the Council's Congo trip, she said was off the record. Other answers will be reported, diplomatically of course.

  Since on the day Sudan's Omar al Bashir declared electoral victory the UN had said nothing at its noon briefing, rebuffing a shouted question from Inner City Press on Sudan and from another journalist about the Balkans, Inner City Press asked Ambassador Rice if she thought the UN was being too quiet.

  Amb. Rice replied, as she would on Northern Congo, that she had spent the day immersed in something else, presumably Iran. These proposed sanctions, it seems clear, are the US Mission's and Administration's focus. But what about the outbreak of fighting between the SPLM and northerners, either tribes or Bashir's army?

  The focus, Amb. Rice said, the "big enchilada," is really on the referendum on South Sudan being independent. But if the process of these election was not credible, why and how would that one be?

  Still on Sudan, when Inner City Press told Ambassador Rice about reports of UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari meeting earlier in the day with Omar al Bashir, she smiled thinly. On the other hand, Sudan's Ambassador told Inner City Press he had called Gambari directly, and Gambari had gushed about the meeting, He said that in the pending UNMIS resolution, there is an attempt to give UNMIS chief Haile Menkerios a role up in Darfur.

  A Moroccan political coordinator, on the other hand, said the mixing of UNMIS and UNAMID would give Gambari a role in the South, "even if it breaks away." We'll see.

  Turning to the Congo, Inner City Press asked about the UN's strange failure to commit to investigating the alleged 11 civilian deaths caused in the re-taking of the airport in Northern Congo. When told that the alleged perpetrators are the Congolese Army, with which the UN works, Ambassador Rice said "good question." Inner City Press told her she is more likely to get an answer. "Thank you," she said.

US's Susan Rice, Gambari and "big enchilada" not shown

  There was chit chat, too. A reporter recounted that St. Lucia's Ambassador said Ms. Rice is part Caribbean. Ambassador Rice nodded. "All you need to know about me," she said, is I am half Jamaican and was conceived in Nigeria. She laughed. "My grand mother's maiden name was Daley [or Daly], as in Irish."

  Some reporters suggested she speak more with the press, contrasting her approach to that of the French. She shrugged. I can't do it every week, she said, adding that Americans are "not peacocks."

Menkerios, as it happens, will speak to the Security Council on Tuesday afternoon and then, it is promised, with the Press. An African Ambassador, requesting anonymity, told Inner City Press on Monday night that Menkerios' old position with the Department of Political Affairs will be filled by current Cyprus representative Taye-Brook Zerihoun. Then who would take Cyprus -- Atul Khare? Watch this site.

Footnote: as requested by the South African mission, Inner City Press would be remiss not to note that, with the African Union's endorsesment, South Africa is virtually assured of re-gaining a Council seat in 2011-12. When Inner City Press quipped that this fast return made the country the "Japan of Africa," a South African representative reminded that before what's now called the Dumisani Kumalo term, South Africa had not been represented. So welcome back -- the fix is in.

* * *

Amid Sudan Deaths, Bashir Victory Declaration, Silence at UN, Disdain for Rebels

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 26 -- With Sudan's Omar al Bashir declaring victory in Sudan amid deadly clashes and kidnapped UN peacekeepers, in New York the UN Security Council, which had been scheduled to meet about Sudan, was silent Monday morning.

  The Council's schedule provided for a meeting about UNMIS, the UN Mission in South Sudan. Inner City Press was told that UNMIS chief Haile Menkerios would be present and take questions. But at this key moment, in the UN's basement, the Council sat empty.

  Over in the UN's three story North Lawn building, an Assistant Secretary General told Inner City Press that Bashir's 68% of the vote made him look more legitimate than "those countries where the leader claims ninety-eight percent."

  Is this why the UN is implicitly blessing the election? "This way we avoid violence," said the ASG. And the UN gets to stay in the country. But at what cost to its credibility?

   Moments later, a South African diplomat told Inner City Press his country's peacekeepers had been released. Just as Al Bashir said it would be: once the results -- and his winning -- were announced. As they say in legal Latin, res ipsa loquitur: the things speaks for itself.

On Friday, before al Bashir declared victory, Inner City Press asked the UN about violence:

Inner City Press: There are these reports of 50 civilians killed in South Darfur that I am sure, I believe, the UN has probably seen. There are also, it’s reported that Mr. [Djibril] Bassole was told by JEM [Justice and Equality Movement] that they believe the Government is about to begin another military assault in Darfur. What’s the UN doing, just as an update? Has it gone to Jebel Marra? Is it trying to investigate the death of civilians? And can you confirm JEM’s concerns?

Spokesperson Martin Nesirky: Well, it’s not for us to confirm JEM’s concerns, of course. On the second part, UNAMID [African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur] has also received an unconfirmed report, but the mission has not received any reports that confirm signs of an imminent attack by the Government, or indeed the presence of the JEM in east and North Darfur. So, that’s the first bit, that we’ve heard these unconfirmed reports. We cannot, we have not received any reports that would confirm signs of an imminent attack.

And as for the violence in South Darfur that you are referring to, according to UNAMID, and you may wish to ask them for more details, but from what I understand, this was an incident on 20 April, and it involved inter-tribal violence, the details of which are a little sketchy, I would say. But its result, from what we know, according to UNAMID [is] 15 people killed, 24 injured. This also included Sudan border guard police, who were, according to UNAMID, ambushed in the course of this inter-tribal violence that I referred to. That’s pretty much what I have for you there. As I said, it may well be that UNAMID could provide you with more details.

UNAMID chief Ibrahim Gambari was meeting one on one with al Bashir, who telling promised to get the kidnapped UN peacekeepers from South Africa released. Reporting by Inner City Press indicates that the kidnappers are affiliated or aligned with Bashir's government. The UN has said nothing.

UN's Ban and Bashir, in previous handshake: repeated?

Insiders tell Inner City Press that Gambari would like Bassole to step down, so he could take over the Doha portfolio as well. Gambari was pushed out of his role in Iraq by UNAMI chief Ad Melkert. On Sudan he wants to consolidate his position. In New York he had told Ban, I can help with with GA President Ali Treki. He told Treki the same. Thus are careers made and preserved in the UN. But what about Darfur? What to make of the UN's and Council's silence?

Footnote: In front of the empty Security Council Monday morning were ambassadors of several developing countries, waiting for a meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement next door. The NAM recently told UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon he has no jurisdiction over war crimes, should not follow through on his promise to name a panel on Sri Lanka. And Ban has not moved forward, reverting to meeting with the Sri Lankan attorney general and hoping, like Sudan's scam elections, that the issue fades away.

 Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

* * *

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

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