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Niger Coup Leader Reportedly Served on UN Missions, France, UN and Council Shrug, on Guinea

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 19, updated -- The leader of the coup in Niger, Major Salou Djibo, learned while on UN Peacekeeping Missions in Cote d'Ivoire and the Congo, it was reported. Inner City Press asked the UN to confirm it, and on February 22 received the following:

Subject: Answer to your query on Niger coup leader
From: Yves Sorokobi at
To: Inner City Press
Date: Mon, Feb 22, 2010 at 11:52 AM

- Major Salou Djibo served in MONUC as a military observer from 06 August 2006 to 06 August 2007. At the time, he was a captain.

- Concerning his alleged service in Côte d'Ivoire in ONUCI, we are unable to confirm this report. Any service of this individual in Côte d'Ivoire would have been as a member of the Niger contingent deployed there.

  Inner City Press asked the head of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations Alain Le Roy whether working and ostensibly receiving training with DPKO makes a soldier more or less likely to join or launch a coup. Video here.

 Le Roy and his fellow UN Under Secretary General John Holmes both laughed. Le Roy responded that the UN cannot answer for what peacekeepers do after their service, then countered with the example of former Nigerian President Obansanjo. Some found it a weak defense, given charges charges of irregularities in large infrastructure deals reached in Obansanjo's days in power.

  The two USG spoke in front of the UN Security Council, after a meeting about Haiti. Inner City Press was told by a Permanent Five member's political advisor that France was being "hesitant to raise Niger" in the Council, despite the fact that it forces the Council to consider attempts to overthrew Idriss Deby the strongman in Chad, another French ex colony.

  Inner City Press asked France's representative at the meeting, is anyone raising the Niger coup? "You are," he replied.

Niger coup leader's spokesman, UN Peacekeeping training not shown

   On camera, the French representative said that neither Niger nor the delay of elections and increase of violence in Cote d'Ivoire had been discussed in the Council on Friday.

  Also unaddressed by France, the Council and Secretariat is the inclusion in Guinea's interim government of Major Claude Pivi, a military officer named in the UN's own report as likely being responsible for the massacre of civilians last September 28. Inner City Press asked UN Deputy Spokesperson Marie Okabe about it on February 17, and she referred to a previous Ban Ki-moon statement lauding the interim government.

  A French senior official on February 18 said he wasn't aware of it, and nothing was said on Friday either. "Maybe Monday," a fleeing diplomat said. And so it goes at the UN.

Footnote: it is impossible to discuss Niger and the UN without recalling the UN's stealth envoy to the country, Canadian Robert Fowler, who was kidnapped while visiting a Canadian owned mine in the country. When he was released, he said someone in the UN in New York might have leaked his location and how to grab him. Then the UN tried to sweep the whole thing back under the rug. Now, a coup. Might the rug become unfurled?

* * *

Susan Rice of US Insists UN "Misconstrues" Somalia Aid Restrictions

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 19 -- Susan Rice, the US Ambassador to the UN, accused the UN's humanitarian coordinator for Somalia Mark Bowden of "misconstruing" US restrictions on aid. Ambassador Rice asserted a "diversion of resources" to the Islamist group Al Shabab. Since it is on US terrorism lists, US law requires the restrictions the US is demanding.

   But what are these U.S. restrictions? Bowden, while publicly complaining about them, would not provide any description. Rather, he said that when he went to Washington to discussed them with US aid officials, they told him the issue was "above [their] pay grade."

  Inner City Press asked Ambassador Rice about precisely this quote. She insisted that it is Al Shabab which is responsible for the lack of aid. Video here, transcript below.

  But what of Bowden's quoting of US aid officials? A US State Department official in Washington, described as "irritated," has said of Bowden, "We're going to talk to him." The quote reminded on UN observer of "something from the Sopranos," or the Mafia film "Good Fellas."

 When Bowden's boss, top UN humanitarian John Holmes, stood before a UN microphone on Thursday evening, Inner City Press asked him to explain what Bowden had said, and to describe the US restrictions to which the UN is publicly taking exception.

  But Holmes responded that the message was only that the UN needs more funds. Even pressed, he declined to follow or back up Bowden. Video here, last question.

  Was this "good cop, bad cop," an observer mused afterwards. Or was Holmes showing his political stripes, declining to criticize the U.S. as, for example, his predecessor Jan Egeland did after the tsunami?

Susan Rice back on Jan. 26, US Somalia aid restrictions not shown

  Following Ambassador Rice's two responses to the Press about Somalia, she went in to a Security Council meeting about Haiti. Speaking first, from a prepared text, was the UN's John Holmes. So goes diplomacy at the UN.

Footnotes: While Ambassador Rice also took two questions about Iran's nuclear program, the Press was not able to ask for her views on developments in Sudan and Darfur, or on anti-democratic moves in Niger and Cote d'Ivoire, nor the incorporation of a presumptive war criminal into Guinea's interim government. But the answers on Somalia, although of a piece with Washington's script, were appreciated.

  Thursday a UN official told Inner City Press that "Susan Rice, as an expected future Secretary of State, is playing it safe. She will not, for example, criticize [former South African president Thabo] Mbeki about Sudan." Until questions are asked, and answered, we'll stick to an open mind.

From the US Mission to the UN's transcript:

Inner City Press: On Somalia, the U.N. has said that the U.S. is politicizing aid, and has made restrictions that make it impossible to feed people in southern Somalia. Could you say what the restrictions are and what the reasons for them are?

Ambassador Rice: Well, first of all we utterly reject that claim; we think it's false and unfounded. The reason why aid is not now proceeding to the people of southern Somalia is one reason alone and it's quite clear: it's Al Shabaab's attacks on WFP and other U.N. agencies, its kidnapping of innocent relief workers, its extortion of funds which prompted WFP on January 5th to take the decision that it could not and would not continue to deliver life saving assistance in southern Somalia. That's an unfortunate development but it is a direct consequence of Al Shabaab's attacks and efforts. The U.S. is the largest donor of humanitarian assistance to Somalia, we have been consistently over many years, and in 2009 we contributed $150 million in humanitarian assistance to Somalia. So, as I said we reject that claim as false and unfounded.

Inner City Press: One follow up, Mark Bowden of the UN had said when he traveled to Washington and met with USAID officials they said to him that the decision was above their pay-grade and was being made by the State Department on a political basis.

Ambassador Rice: He's conflating and misconstruing two different things. The reason why the people of Somalia in the South are not able to receive the assistance that we and others have traditionally provided at present is because WFP took a decision, a decision they felt compelled to take and we understand why they had to take it, that they could no longer continue to provide assistance safely, given Al Shabaab's harassment, attacks, and terrorist activities. The question of how the U.S. government has responded, and we have been in discussions with humanitarian delivery agencies about the fact that we have grave concerns about the diversion of resources to Al Shabaab and other terrorist organizations in contravention of U.S. law. And we have had those discussions, they have been ongoing but nonetheless, the U.S. provided $150 million of humanitarian assistance to Somalia last year. We remain, as we have been for many years, the largest donor, and what is precluding the delivery of assistance to people in southern Somalia is Al Shabaab.

 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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