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UN Says Fowler On Private Visit to Niger Mine, Of P-5 Plus One, Other Secret Envoys?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 9 -- After months of denying then refusing to comment on reports that its putative Niger envoy Robert Fowler was visiting a Canadian owned gold mine on the day of his abduction, the UN on September 9 admitted they didn't know where he was going that day, and later reconstructed that it was to a mine that had nothing to do with its supposed UN mandate. This reversed even the UN's September 8 statement that Fowler was on UN business at the time.

    Some cynics conclude that the UN covered up Fowler's activities until Fowler turned on the UN and said that perhaps UN supporters of Al Qaeda "sold" him. Then the UN admitted the truth about Fowler's foray, but only as revenge or retaliation. Others say tell Inner City Press that Fowler's mission to Niger was about uranium, and was in fact supported by four of the P-5 Plus One...

  Notably of his co-visitor to the mine, Louis Guay, Fowler has said "I have a moment, just a moment, and I said Louis, tell them the truth. No matter what happens, tell them the truth. You don't have anything that is so important to protect that it's worth your life." Some wonder, why was Fowler's partner trying to lie? Is it because of the mining visit ?

   Entirely disagreeing with the UN's statement Wednesday about its knowledge of his itinerary, Fowler has said

"The president of Niger, whose name is Tanja. It was clear from the first time I met him in August that he was offended, annoyed, embarrassed by the fact that the secretary general of the UN had seen fit to appoint a special envoy for his country. In fact, some of the stuff I've read since I got out, with Niger government spokespeople talking about my mission. They said I was there to see if I could get hold of illicit arms trafficking, which was not my mission. My mission was to get the government to make peace with the rebels. As long as there was no peace with the rebels, the enemy was at the gate, right? If al-Qaeda is taking people on the outskirts of the city, the enemy's really at the gate. And governance of national security makes sense, right? So I don't know who shopped me. I know somebody shopped me. Who could it be? It could be the government of Niger. Could be an al-Qaeda sympathizer in the UN office in Niger. In the UN office in West Africa. In the secretariat building in New York. All of them had my agenda, my itinerary."

At the September 9 noon briefing, UN Associate Spokesman Farhan Haq said that "we ourselves at the United Nations were not always fully apprised of his travels; and in fact the day he was abducted we had to try and to reconstruct what had happened on the day that he was kidnapped."

In Niger, a (uranium) mine, Fowler and UN mandate not shown

  Inner City Press followed up:

Inner City Press: I wanted to ask a follow-up on Mr. Fowler. In what you just said, you just said that the UN, I just want to be clear -- you’re saying that the UN didn’t know where he was going or what he was doing that day? I mean, I wanted to know, is it the protocol…[interrupted]?

Associate Spokesperson: We did not know at the time; we had to reconstruct that afterwards -- after the abduction.

Question: But what’s the protocol if an Under-Secretary-General is in the country of known -- I’m not sure what the security threat was -– isn’t he supposed to tell security, at lease DSS [the Department of Safety and Security] where he is going? Did he have security with him that day? I guess not.

Associate Spokesperson: As you’re well aware, he did not have security with him. There were Mr. Fowler, Mr. [Louis] Guay and their driver, Soumana Mounkaila, were travelling -- just the three of them.

Question: And does that violate UN procedures?

Associate Spokesperson: I don’t want to get into that particular question. As you know, Mr. Fowler kept people apprised sporadically. But, at the very moment that he was abducted, we did not know about his travels over those previous several hours.

Question: And just when you reconstructed it, can you now say where was he going? Because many people, many newspapers have reported that he was headed to a gold mine that’s owned by a Canadian firm. Is that true or not true?

Associate Spokesperson: He was headed back from a trip to that mine. He’d visited the mine, which was part of a private visit, but he was actually going back to the capital, to Niamey.

Question: You’d said yesterday that he was performing his official duties at the time it took place. Is it official duties to visit a mine?

Associate Spokesperson: He’d done a number of official duties that day and in fact he was going to a working meeting back in Niamey at the time that he was abducted.

Yet until September 9, the UN never admitted that Fowler had engaged in a "private visit" to a Canadian owned mine. The conflict of interest, and even violation of the UN charter, is obvious. But the UN apparently has or enforces no rules in this regard. Inner City Press asked a question left unanswered from the previous day's briefing:

Inner City Press: I’m just wondering; is he still a USG or not, or has his term expired?

Associate Spokesperson: He’s no longer working for the United Nations.

And then, for the record:

Inner City Press: Are there any other USGs that have been named, say, this year, that have not been announced in this room?

Associate Spokesperson Haq: If they have not been announced, I am not aware of them.

The answer seems spurious: there are many things the Office of the Spokesperson is aware of and does not announce. We'll see.

Footnote: Sources tell Inner City Press that Fowler's mission to Niger was about uranium, and was in fact supported by four of the P-5 Plus One...

* * *

As Fowler Speculates Al Qaeda Supporters in UN Sold Him Out, Questions Remain

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 8 -- Robert Fowler, the Canadian whose abduction in Niger last year was followed by the UN's belated announcement that he had by stealth been serving as an Under Secretary General envoy to that country, has now expressed a belief that his kidnappers were tipped off about his location either by the Niger government or by Al Qaeda sympathizers in the UN in Niger or headquarters in New York.

  Inner City Press on September 8 asked UN Associate Spokesman Farhan Haq if Fowler is still serving as a USG, and what the UN or Secretary General Ban Ki-moon makes of a current or former USG speculating that there may be Al Qaeda sympathizers in the UN who fingered him for kidnapping. Video here, from Minute 16:15.

  Haq claimed that Fowler hadn't said that, that he only speculated that someone leaked his itinerary. Inner City Press asked Haq to confirm what the UN refused to, during Fowler's captivity, that he was visiting a Canadian owned gold mine, without UN security, when he was grabbed. Haq insisted that Fowler when kidnapped had been "going about his regular duties." But why did these duties include visiting a Canadian owned gold mine?

  Fowler has said that the government of Niger "hated" the mission Ban ostensibly sent him on, mediating with the Taureg rebels including about uranium claims. If the UN, which so often describes itself as a club of member states, can appoint an envoy to Niger which the government there hate, some ask why Ban Ki-moon has not done anything of the sort in light of the bloody conflict in Sri Lanka?

  While Haq did not answer Inner City Press' question of whether Fowler is still a USG, the UN belatedly disclosed, at least internally, that he began in the post on July 21, 2008. Will the UN now say that his term simply ran out, organically, on July 21, 2009, without explaining more?

Guay, Fowler and Mali's president, answers to questions not shown

  Here are other still unanswered questions about l'affaire Fowler, for the UN to confirm or deny:

--The Fowler Party did not have ANY UN- or Host Country-provided close protection (or any form of security whatsoever) on its ill-fated and unauthorized side trip to a Canadian owned gold mine in Niger last December -- yes or no?

--Fowler and his associate, Louis Guay, did not have UN-issued travel orders prior to their excursion to Niger, and that travel orders have been created by the Secretariat after the fact, contrary to UN rules and regulations -- yes or no?

--The Department of Safety and Security was not informed by the Department of Political Affairs about the Fowler trip in advance, contrary to UN rules and regulations, and therefore did not provide security clearance in advance -- yes or no?

--The use of a UNDP driver and vehicle was not authorized by the appropriate UNDP security and administrative authorities, contrary to UN rules and regulations -- yes or no?

--The Nigerien Government was not aware of the Fowler Party's side trip to the gold mine, and was not informed that Fowler was undertaking any UN responsibilities in Niger during that trip besides representational duties related to Niger's national day celebration the Friday prior to his abduction -- yes or no?

  Watch this site.

Footnote: Fowler, who while at UN Headquarters being "debriefed" never spoke to or answered questions from the press, gave his interview to Canadian Broadcasting, CBC. During the time of his detention, CBC obediently did not report on the story or scandal. Some surmise that was in exchange for the access now granted. If Fowler won't answer the questions about, the UN should. In fact, both should. We'll see.

* * *

UN's Ban "Did Not Know of Fowler" as Niger Envoy, Diplomat Says, Alleging Fraud

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

UNITED NATIONS, March 1 -- Ten weeks after Canadian diplomat Robert Fowler disappeared in Niger while ostensibly serving as UN envoy to that country, in New York a diplomat of a Permanent Five member of the Security Council told Inner City Press that Secretary General Ban Ki-moon "didn't know about Fowler's appointment as an envoy when he was asked," after Fowler's disappearance.

   The diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity as was the case in Inner City Press exclusive and subsequently video-verified report a month ago of Fowler being alive, said this means that mine-related business was being done through the UN without Ban's knowledge.

   "You have a layer of quasi-UN people," he said, "supposedly working for a dollar a year and the like. It is fraud." He added that attempts to delve into l'affaire Fowler are "being blocked... there are interests on the other side."

  The diplomat approached Inner City Press at a reception on February 26 at the East 62nd Street residence of Yukio Takasu, Japan's Ambassador to the UN. Takasu served a Security Council president for February, and held an end of the month reception as is the custom. The previous anonymous diplomatic scoop, that Fowler "est vivant," came a month prior, at the end of presidency reception held at the French mission to the UN. Inner City Press hopes that further inside information does not have to await the end of March, when Libya's time at the Council's helm will end. Watch this site.

Photo of hostages in the region, AFP via Jeane Afrique

  Meanwhile, a second video of Fowler and Louis Guay, as well as their UN Development Program driver, has reportedly been seen by AFP. Jeane Afrique runs a photograph of hostages.  The Canadian Dominion reports on previous interventions by past and present diplomats from Ottawa in mining business disputes in Niger, including between Canadian and Chinese companies. The read-out given of the meeting last week between Prime Minister Harper and Ban Ki-moon, before Ban left for Africa, was vague if not evasive.

  That business may be run through Ban Ki-moon's office without his apparently knowledge is raised by sources for another Inner City Press story this weekend, that a switch was quietly made in which the top post at the UN Office in Nairobi can be switched from Tanzanian head of UN Habitat, Anna Tibaijuka, to director of the UN Environment Program, Achim Steiner. Locals note that Ban's Under Secretary General for Management Angela Kane is German, as is Steiner.

  As in their shifting responses to questions about Fowler's appointment and mandate, even on this rule change Ban's Spokesperson's office was evasive. At the UN's noon briefing on February 27 Inner City Press asked

Inner City Press: in yesterday’s Journal there was an announcement in a new Secretary-General Bulletin about how the UN Office in Nairobi is organized.  And it is my understanding that it actually would result in currently the most senior of HABITAT or UNEP is running the Office in Nairobi, and that the new policy the Secretary-General would get to choose between the two.  Is that accurate and is it his intention to switch Nairobi from Ms. Tibaijuka to Mr. Achim Steiner?

Deputy Spokesperson Okabe:  If the Secretary-General’s Bulletin is what you read that’s all I have for you right now.

Inner City Press: Well, what’s the rationale of changing the existing policy under which an African official runs the Africa office of the UN to a policy that would have it the other way?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I have nothing beyond what you read in the Bulletin.

  Watch this site.

Click here from Inner City Press' Feb. 26, 2009 debates about the UN

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

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

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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