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Inner City Press Podcast --

UN Acknowledges Abuse in Uganda, But What Did Donors Know and When? Kazakh Questions

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee at the U.N.

UNITED NATIONS, June 29 -- The rights of Ugandan civilians have been abused by government soldiers, leading the UN Development Programme to halt its programs in eastern Uganda, Kofi Annan's spokeswoman Marie Okabe stated on Thursday. (Video is here, answer is Minute 11 to 13:35.) While clearer than before in acknowledging abuses by the Ugandan People's Defense Force, which Inner City Press has reported on for the past eleven days, this statement does not address what the Ugandan government's funders knew and when they knew it. UNDP has repeatedly declined to answer this question, which has been put to it in writing and orally, or has left its answers vague and not, it's said, to be quoted. Here however is AllAfrica.

            A UNDP statement issued in Kampala on Thursday, three paragraphs in length, waited until its last terse sentence to disclose that "pending clarification from the Government of Uganda on the current disarmament approach in Karamoja, UNDP Uganda has suspended its support to activities related to the KIDDP."

             This last stands for the Karamoja Integrated Disarmament and Development Plan, a copy of which Inner City Press has obtained.  The KIDDP lists a number of funding partners, including the Danish International Development Agency, the European Union, the World Bank, the government of Italy, Germany's GTZ, USAID, Netherlands' SNV, Ireland's DCI, and the UN agencies World Food Programme and UNDP. Since UNDP initially named Denmark as the funder of disarmament programs in eastern Uganda, Inner City Press last week asked the Danish mission to the UN for its comment on specific allegations of abuses in Karamoja. "It will take time to look into," the mission's spokesman said. On Thursday Inner City Press asked the Danish Ambassador to the UN, the outgoing Security Council president. The World Food Programme was asked for comment a week ago but no response has been received. The inquiries will continue.

  With regard to UNDP, the statement is undated, and cannot itself be the warning which UNDP states it has given. Some surmise that the abuses were to meet the aggressive gun-collection targets, even to provide a photo-op. As with photography, transparency would have been better from the beginning, and is still being called for.

Inner Asia

            Also at the UN on Thursday, the Ambassador of Kazakhstan spoke to the press about the June 17 meeting in Almaty of the 18 member Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia, called CICA and pronounced seek-a. Thailand is a member; the Ambassador said diplomatically that the Thai deputy foreign minister is an attractive candidate to become UN Secretary General. Kazakhstan has reportedly pledged its support to Bangkok, just as Uzbekistan has opened traded its vote to South Korea in exchange for an ongoing energy sales deal.

            It was about Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan's pattern of returning dissidents to that country to face torture, that Inner City Press questioned Ambassador Yerzhan Kazykhanov, specifically about the recent arrest of Gabdurafikh Temirbaev.  The Kazakh Ambassador's response, after saying that Kazakhstan gets along fine with UNHCR, was that Kazakhstan wants and needs prosperous and stable neighbors. One could infer that he meant that returning dissidents to Uzbekistan makes that country and its Karimov regime more stable.  Through the OSSG, Inner City Press has asked what the UN and UNHCR are doing to stop the trend of refoulement to Uzbekistan, which has already taken place from Ukraine and Kazakhstan, is constantly threatened from Kyrgyzstan, and is now said to be happening in real (media) time to a person, Gabdurafikh Temirbaev, who UNHCR reportedly on June 16 deemed to be a refugee?  What guidance might the UN or UNHCR give to the organizations and members in the CICA and of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization?  Kofi Annan at his June 15 press conference answered that he is aware of those facing refoulement from Kyrgyzstan, the transcript is online -- but what about Kazakhstan's refoulements of Uzbeks? We'll see.

  This time the stories connect, thusly: despite Uzbekistan's record, and UNHCR being tossed out of the country by Karimov, UNDP has not retracted its praise of the regime. And so it goes...

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