As Fowler Invited Himself to Niger, Did He Create
His Own UN Mandate in Niger?
Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of
Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
December 19 -- As Niger's president
failed to mention Robert Fowler, among other things the UN's envoy to
country, in his 50th anniversary speech, it emerged that Fowler had
himself to the celebration, before going mission on an unauthorized
trip to a
Canadian-owned gold mine. At the UN in New York, Inner City Press for
fourth day in a row asked for an explanation of Fowler's now-confirmed
the gold mine. UN
Marie Okabe said "on the mines, we just have nothing for you on
But it has
now been reported
that "Niger's Communications Minister Mohamed ben
Omar said Fowler had requested an invitation from the authorities to
Niger's 50th anniversary celebrations held yesterday."
That is, it was Fowler who requested to
travel to Niger, and then visited a Canadian-owned gold mine. Many now
speculate that Fowler was, at least on this trip, using the UN, its Laissez Passer and other benefits, for
some other purpose. Others even speculate that just as Fowler reported
requested an invitation from Niger to enter ostensibly for a
celebration, he or
Canada requested Ban Ki-moon to give him the mandate as a UN special
UN previously in Niger, Fowler's murky mission not
In part to try to
disprove this logical theory, at Friday's
briefing, Inner City Press asked
Inner City Press: An official in
Niger has been quoted that Mr.
Fowler’s trip was official, but that 'we were not aware of his trip out
to the Samira gold mine.' So I want
to... now it’s pretty clear that the gold mine… it’s confirmed that he
visited. The United Nations has said
that he went to the gold mine. How can
you describe a trip to a country where on official business, where
side trip to a Canadian-named gold mine in a UNDP vehicle?
Was he going to reimburse the UN for the
car? What was the UN… or are envoys
expected to inform the UN when they go on private business? And what is your understanding of that
Deputy Spokesperson Okabe: Matthew,
I think on this subject we really
don’t have anything further that we can report publicly.
The Special Envoy of the Secretary-General
for Niger, Mr. Fowler, was in Niger in his official capacity. He was on official mission, as we repeated to
you a number of times, and we just simply cannot comment or release
which may compromise our efforts and jeopardize the safety of Mr.
Guay and the driver. And on the specific
point that you mention on the mines, we just have nothing for you on
that. And as you know we are working very
this matter and the Secretary-General should be speaking with the
Inner City Press: Can you just
say generally, putting aside this situation, when UN envoys go to a
there some… how do they inform the UN if they’re going to do some
that’s their own business or their country’s business?
Is it expected that they will tell the UN:
“Look, this is what I’m going to do in the country”?
Spokesperson: Obviously, there
are terms of reference for a special envoy when he visits a country,
objectives are laid out and there are reporting channels established.
Inner City Press: Are the terms
of reference of Mr. Fowler’s mandate and of this mission public or not
Spokesperson: They are not
Question: What resources has the
UN shifted to Niger to
assist in the investigation? Are people
Spokesperson: Without getting
into too much detail, again,
we have mobilized a team on site, and they’re working very closely with
Niger authorities. And we appreciate
their cooperation and we are working very closely with them.
Question: You say a team? Are you going to want to say any more about
how many are in the team, where they came from, are they security
from New York or what?
Spokesperson: I can’t get into
any details on that. It’s just to let you
know that we are working
very hard on this matter.
Question: Just to confirm -- I
know you commented
yesterday -- as of now there’s been no contact, no one’s claimed, made
asked for anything, just the mystery sort of continues just as it was
correct. (Video here,
from Minute 10:45.)
Inner City Press
was told by a senior
Secretariat official that Ban Ki-moon spoke to Niger's president; other
officials told Inner City Press to stop reporting on this issue, since
somehow impact "Mr. Fowler's insurance." An
anonymous letter reiterated that reporting on these matters should
stop. But we're yet to be convinced that would help.
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