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As Somalis Are Killed by Peacekeepers, Censorship Urged by UN's Ould Abdallah

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

UNITED NATIONS, February 6 -- In Mogadishu the week began with Ugandan troops of the AMISOM mission firing into a crowd of civilians and killing between 25 and 40, after the explosion of a roadside bomb. In New York, UN Deputy Spokesperson Marie Okabe read out dozens of UN statements, but nothing on Somalia.

   Inner City Press asked, "there are reports from Somalia that African Union peacekeepers there firing into a crowd and killing some say 25, some say 39, is the United Nations aware of that, does it have any comment on that?" Deputy Spokesperson Okabe replied, "I don’t have any comment on that today, but we can certainly ask them for you." Video here.

   But when Ould Abdallah spoke about the incident, he blamed the media for reporting it, even comparing them to the radio station in Rwanda convicted of stoking up genocidal hatred. Ould Abdallah said

"What happened is to divert attention from what is going on here, and as usual to use the media to repeat Radio Mille Colline, to repeat the genocide in Rwanda. There is a need to have a truce, one month truce in reporting on Somalia.. till there is double, triple checking, because Somalia is exceptional. We have to have exceptional checking of the news."

   So the UN's top envoy to Somalia, a country the UN and international community have mis-served for more than a decade, is calling for censorship of reports of Somali civilians killed by international "peacekeepers."

  Despite Inner City Press' request at UN headquarters for the UN's statement on the shooting, Ould Abdallah's comment have not been repeated from the UN podium. Calls are growing for him to retract the statement, for him to step down.

  Inner City Press has obtained a copy of the media strategy designed by Ould Abdallah and his spokesperson, a former BBC correspondent named Susanna Price, and puts it online here.

UN's Ban and Ould Abdallah, calls for censorship and response not shown

  When Inner City Press attended the surreal negotiations in Djibouti between the UN-supported Transitional Federal Government and London-based supposed opposition leaders in mid- 2008, it left written questions with Ms. Price about who had paid for the hotel bills at the Kempinski in Djibouti. The question was never effectively answered. Now comes word that the re-invented Sheikh Sharif Sheik Ahmed has recently paid with many of his supporters' plane tickets. With what money?

  The press strategy for the Somali diaspora, which Inner City Press is putting online here, presaged Ould Abdallah's February 3 comments:

"There has been some extremely negative reporting about the UN for example... with regards to UNDP. There is a perception that the UN is partial and is supporting the TFG and that it is helping the security services."

   The irony is that comments like Ould Abdallah's on February 3 are a part, but only one part, of why "there is a perception that th UN is partial." Rather than modify his partiality, at least to the extent of acnknowledging and trying to avoid pro-TFG soldiers' killing of civilians, Ould Abdallah has decided to try to silence the media by outrageously mis-playing the Rwanda genocide card.

  The UNPOS strategy also contradicts Ould Abdallah's call to censor media outside of Somalia in praising the impact of pro-UN members of the Somali diaspora:

Apart from their financial input, the diaspora have important ties back home with their clans and political groups and wield much influence on affairs inside Somalia. A number attended Arte and Mbagathi conferences and became MPs. Many of the MPs, and the leaders from the Government and opposition side in the first round of Djibouti talks were, like the Prime Minister, UK passport holders.

 Their support is extremely important for the UN and can help to change perceptions.

The largest numbers of Somalis in the West are in UK (London, and other cities) and North America (Toronto, Minneapolis, Columbus Ohio)  with slightly smaller concentrations in the Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Australia. There are also significant numbers in Kenya, South Africa, Saudi Arabia and they are one of the largest immigrant communities in Dubai

It is very important to let the Diaspora know that we value their contribution, support and input and we want them to be involved and informed. We also need the Diaspora to recognize the work that the UN is doing in Somalia and to inform them that the UN is working inside Somalia for the benefit of the country.

  This last may be a definition of propaganda, which UN Spokesperson Michele Montas last month said is not allowed in UN press briefings. What will happen to UN envoy Ould Abdallah? Watch this space.

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

Click here for Inner City Press Nov. 7 debate on the war in Congo

Watch this site, and this Oct. 2 debate, on UN, bailout, MDGs

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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