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Killing of Civilians by UN Supported Troops in Somalia Admitted But Not Acted On

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 21 -- In the wake of the World Cup finals bombing in Uganda, there has been even less discussion of the civilians being killed in Mogadishu by the peacekeeping mission which the UN is supporting. But a memo leaked from within that AMISOM mission notes continued firing into civilian neighborhoods.

Inner City Press asked UN Humanitarian coordinator Mark Bowden whether there is a special responsibility on the UN to ensure that the troops to which it provides logistical support through its UNSOA office are not killing civilians. “Yes there is,” Bowden said, adding that he's “had discussions” with Ambassador Diarra of the African Union about “reducing civilian casualties.”

But shouldn't the UN's support to troops be conditioned on avoiding killing civilians? “I think it is,” Bowden said. “It's not my side of the shop” but “my colleagues are in active discussion in Addis with the AU.” Video here, from Minute 18:13.

Inner City Press asked, which colleagues? UNSOA or the Department of Field Support? “DFS and UNSOA,” Bowden said. Previous questioning by Inner City Press, of DFS chief Susana Malcorra and the Office of the Spokesperson for Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, has not yielded any specifics to back up the claim that the UN has made its support to troops in Mogadishu conditioned on not killing civilians.

In fact, despite the UN's and others' support of the Transitional Federal Government, the UN's own Humanitarian report for June describes TFG forces looting UN food supplies in a convoy. Inner City Press asked Bowden about this, and about the TFG's reported shelling of a press conference on June 29, which killed journalists.

UN's Ban & envoy Mahiga, safeguards on UN supported troops killing civilians not shown

Bowden acknowledged “indisciplined TFG forces... vying with each other.” On the killing of journalists by the TFG, he referred to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, without providing any more specifics.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, by contrast, when violations by the Congolese Army forces the UN was supporting were exposed, the UN claimed to put in place a detailed policy of conditionality, and to suspend support to a particular unit engaged in the killing of civilians.

In Somalia, the troops the UN is providing logical support to are killing civilians. Where is the policy of conditionality? Are human rights protections another casualty of the World Cup final bombings in Uganda? Watch this site.

Footnote: Of the last two times Inner City Press spoke with new UN Somalia envoy Augustine Mahiga, in the first he agreed that the AMISON peacekeepers are mis-using long range artillery and harming civilians. In the second conversation, it was all about Al Shabab. In between? The bombing in Kampala, claimed by Al Shabab...

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On Child Soldiers Supported by UN in Somalia, UNSC Will Respond After 3 Years

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 16, updated -- Days after the UN-supported Somali Transitional Federal Government's use of child soldiers was widely exposed, the UN Security Council's lack of seriousness on the issue was on display on Wednesday. Mexican foreign minister Patricia Espinosa presided over a day-long series of speeches about children and armed conflict. At noon, Inner City Press asked her what she and the Council would do about their support of the TFG, which uses children as young as nine and 12 to wield AK-47s in Mogadishu.

    This has not been raised to the Security Council, Secretary Espinosa replied, not even to the Working Group.  Video here.

  But minutes later, when Inner City Press asked the UN's envoy on the issue Radhika Coomaraswamy how the TFG's use of child soldiers could have been missed, she protected that the Council had in fact been told of the TFG's recruitment in three straight years' reports.

Later, at the end of the Council's debate after 7 p.m., a Mexican mission official confirmed that yes, the Somali TFG has been formally listed for the past three years. The most senior Mexican mission official shrugged* that the minister had been mis-informed. [See update below, on both the shrug and the information.]

  The expose of the TFG's use of child soldiers was on the front page of the New York Times days before the UN's day long "debate." The representative of a Permanent Five member of the Council told Inner City Press that the NYT story had triggered inquiries to the capital(s), and statements ready for the press. How could the month's Council presidency, with children and armed conflict as their chosen thematic issue, be so unprepared?

Update: It has been explained to Inner City Press that what Secretary Espinosa was referring to was an upcoming Working Group session in September. Our point remains the same: something is wrong with the Security Council when pressing issues, involving as this one does the Council's own integrity, get confined to slow bureaucratic processes.

  But that is hardly this month's Presidency's fault. And the senior -- senor -- diplomat, it's worth nothing, undertook a thankless trip to Eritrea and other hotspots, in the name of Somali sanctions. The shrug* was not disinterest but fatigue after a full day of speeches. We will continue to follow this issue.


UNICEF's Johnson, Ms. Coomaraswamy, UN action on TFG not shown

Inner City Press asked Secretary Espinosa if this didn't show that the Council is too bound in bureaucracy to deal with egregious behavior in the peacekeeping or political missions it creates, from Somalia to the Congo to Haiti. These are the mechanisms, she replied. Indeed.

  Ms. Johnson said that UN Envoy to Somalia Ould Abdallah had been told, UNDP had been told. Why did Ould Abdallah say or do nothing? Why did UNDP keep training? Watch this site.

  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.

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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

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