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On Somalia, Belated Disclosure by UNDP, Protest by UN-Funded Academic

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

UNITED NATIONS, March 29 -- In the debate about Somalia, those who matter least are actual Somalis. Dozens were for example killed by supposed peacekeepers, on the day that the new Somali president was being applauded in Ethiopia. When some media reported on the slaughter, they were castigated by the UN's envoy for Somalia, Ahmedou Ould Abdallah, and told they were like Radio Milles Collines in Rwanda, hate media. Later Ould Abdallah told Inner City Press he only meant that it was unfortunate that one days of good news for Somalia, other news was also reported.

  Likewise, one of the United States' most -- well, few -- expert professors on Somalia, Ken Menkhaus of North Carolina's Davidson College, has recently lashed back at media coverage of a talk he gave across the street from the UN, at the International Peace Institute. Inner City Press attended the session and asked Menkhaus two questions, to review Ould Abdallah's and the UN's performance in Somalia. Later that day, Inner City Press reported three of Menkhaus' responses, all accurately, in an article also noting that just as the UN was refusing to disclose its funding in Somalia, the head of IPI Terje Roed Larsen declined UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's call to make minimal public financial disclosure, since he is an Under Secretary General.

UN's Ould Abdallah at the Council stakeup

  Menkhaus the next day wrote:

From: Menkhaus, Ken>
To: Inner City Press
Sent: Wed, 25 Mar 2009 12:32 pm
Subject: IPI Somalia Story

Dear Mr. Lee,

Your Innercity article about our IPI Somalia presentation was just brought to my attention. I write to tell you, in no uncertain terms, that you badly misrepresented the nuanced points Jabril and I made... Maybe you didn’t hear us stress how incredibly dangerous Somalia is now. Jabril and I have lost close colleagues to asssassinations in the past because of this kind of irresponsibility by foreigners. You seem to fancy yourself an investigative journalist challenging the UN -- fair enough, we can use more of that. But investigative journalists need to be very careful with how they present claims and quote third parties, especially in zones of armed conflict...Please do not ask me to go through your article point by point -- I am busy.

 Dr. Ken Menkhaus
Professor of Political Science
Davidson College
Davidson NC 28035

  It is difficult to respond to Menkhaus if, of the mere three citations of what he said, he chooses not to contest any of them. As should be clear, a journalist does not go to a policy briefing such as those so profitably offered by IPI in order to transcribe verbatim was is said. For that, Menkhaus writes his own books.

  In fact, he has: in the library of a major university in New York City, there is a book by Menkhaus, albeit a slim monograph entitled "Somalia: State Collapse and the Threat of Terrorism," circa 2004. The first page, "About the author," notes that Menkhaus "frequently serves as a consultant to the UN."  With the UN, that means a paid consultant. One might infer that, while as an academic Menkhaus was necessarily critical of the UN's performance, for example of UNDP being seen to take sides with the same security forces which are engaged in killing civilians, as a past and seemingly future wanna-be recipient of UN funding, he was troubled to see what he said, online in print.

Interestingly, Menkhaus' book at page 46 says of a Somali Transitional Government that “it succeeded in netting enough aid (roughly $50 million over two years, mainly from the Gulf Arab states) to make it a worthwhile venture for some.” There is a strange resonance here with IPI and its funding sources. Without comment or critique, Menkhaus mentions that “the management of several UNICEF municipal piped water systems has been outsourced to a multi-clan consortium of businessmen, who have run the water system... as a money making venture.”

   Belatedly, UNDP responded to the simple question Inner City Press posed just after Ould Abdallah and his spokeswoman referred to UNDP the issue of the UN system's funding of the Somalia government. UNDP now writes:

Subject: Responses to your queries on Djibouti Start-up Package

From: UNDP Spokesman
To: Inner City Press
Sent: Thu, 26 Mar 2009 10:47 am

Here is our response to your question “please describe any UNDP role in Djibouti Start-Up Package." 


The Djibouti peace process is led by the UN political office (UNPOS) and funded by various donors, for which UNDP plays an administrative and logistical support role. As far as the start-up package is concerned, donors contributed to the project and their contributions have been channeled by UNDP in 2008 to provide some basic infrastructure support to the TFG institutions. This includes computers, office furniture, travel costs to/from Somalia and some rehabilitation of office buildings. In total, around 6.5M USD has been disbursed for this project, financed by a consortium of donors (EC, DFID, Norway, Sweden, USAID, Italy).


Was that so difficult? To be continued...

 A new Inner City Press debate will appear over the weekend here.

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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