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UN's Envoy to Somalia Denies He's a Target and that War Crimes Are on Both Sides

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 29 -- More than a week after the Al Shabaab insurgents ordered out from the parts of Somalia that they control some segments of the UN system, notably UN envoy Ahmedou Ould Abdallah and the UN Development Program, the UN still refuses to speak or apparently even to think about why it became a target.

   Inner City Press asked Ould Abdallah to respond to accusations that he has, in essence, taken sides in a civil war, and made himself a target. Ould Abdallah responded by asking, "You support the Islamists?" Video here, from Minute 12:06.

   Inner City Press responded that it was asking for his and the UN's response to the statements of one of the parties in Somalia. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has said, through her spokesman Rupert Colville, that "both sides were reported to have used torture and to have fired mortars indiscriminately into areas populated or frequented by civilians... The High Commissioner believed that some of these acts might amount to war crimes."

   Inner City Press asked Ould Abdallah if he acknowledged that the forces of the Transitional Federal Government which he supports, and also of the AMISON African Union, have at time fired mortars into civilian areas. "I don't like to introduce AMISOM as a part of a problem," Ould Abdallah said. Video here, from Minute 16:06.

   But isn't it the UN's role to speak out against the killing of civilians by either side? Rather than answer the questions about his neutrality, and relatedly about the efficacy of his diplomacy, Ould Abdallah joked that he is neutral because when he arrived in Somalia he said he would not engage in local politics, would not engage in business and would not get married in Somalia.

   But refusing to speak up about, and in fact covering up, killing of civilians by one or more of the armed forces in Somalia shows a lack of neutrality. And Ould Abdallah's still unexplained role in the joint Law of the Sea Continental Shelf filing of the Kenyan Government and the TFG, funded by oil-exploring country Norway, constitutes business in the view of some.

  Ould Abdallah told Inner City Press, next time we go to meet with the Islamists we will take you. In mid 2008, Inner City Press covered the Security Council's trip to the Somalia talks in Djibouti, top heavy with TFG officials who flew in from London. Business was done, in a $400 a night waterfront Kampinski Hotel. The Press stayed elsewhere.

   When asked about the looting of his Office in Baidoa, in connection with al Shabaab ordering him and UNDP to get out, Ould Abdallah said it was mere theft of private property with, as a "bandage," statements against him. This is called, by some, being in denial.

  Also in denial is the UNDP, which on July 28 told Inner City Press that "UNDP programmes and operations continue uninterrupted in Somalia." But it was looted and ordered out of the former TFG capital, Baidoa.

Ould Abdallah previously in front of the Council

   Ould Abdallah is a funny man. Wednesday he drew laughter when he called Somali piracy a form of hedge fund. But he did not state what if anything he has done about the problem on non-Somalis engaging in illegal fishing off the coast, or dumping toxic waste on the shore.

  This was by his count his fourth or fifth briefing of the Security Council and the press in the past 20 months. The situation is hardly better. Perhaps the bombast, the willful blindness and yes, the lack of neutrality, are part of the problem.

Footnotes: On July 28, as Inner City Press passed through the UN's 37th floor Peacekeeping Office on route to a briefing about the UN's New Horizon plan, Ould Abdallah asked, who invited you here? He added, with a smile, "You are impossible." Others say that he is impossible -- including to discipline or replace. A Ban Ki-moon advisor from the 38th floor told Inner City Press that following Ould Abdallah's comments that the media should not report of the killing of civilians by AMISOM forces, he was told by the UN in New York to issue an apology, but refused to.

   The source marveled at, and offered an explanation of, why Ould Abdallah is allowed to get away with it. The answer does not make this UN look good. Watch this site.

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In Somalia, As UNDP Is Expelled by Shabaab, UN's Ban Claims Target is All UN

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 21, updated -- The day after Al Shabaab in Somalia attacked and targeted for expulsion three UN system agencies, specifically excluding other UN agencies from the ban, the UN put out a statement on July 21 that 'the Secretary General condemns the looting yesterday of UN offices in Somalia [which] target the whole gamut of UN peace and humanitarian operations in Somalia."

   While the UN and Ban Ki-moon might wish the statement were true, it is dubious. Al Shabaab, as they did in earlier attacks on the UN Development Program, picked a particular part and approach of the UN system. UNDP was the middle man for unnamed, largely European and former colonialist funders of the armed forces, with questionable human rights records, which defended the Transitional Federal Government..

   By contrast, as Inner City Press asked and wrote about last week, the UN World Food Program recently met with Al Shabaab, seemingly connected to WFP staying in the country.

    UNDP will say, as its paid defenders have, that it takes sides in this civil war and chooses the TFG because it is entity the UN helped set up. But with so many of its parliamentarians not even living in Somalia, the TFG's credibility is questionable. And UNDP insiders tell Inner City Press that UNDP's reason for siding with the TFG is not unrelated to the fact that UNDP had make fees as middleman on funding to the TFG, while Al Shabaab is not getting, or even asking, for international aid.

UNDP's Helen Clark and WTO's Pascal Lamy on July 4, answers on Somalia and other UNDP questions not shown

  Perhaps there are legitimate reasons why one part of the UN system -- in this case, UNDP, Ould Abdallah's UNPOS and Department of Safety and Security -- takes sides in a civil war and get thrown out of the country, while another part (WFP, UNICEF and others) speaks with both sides and stays in. A debate on these two approaches might be helpful. Instead, the UN rushes out a blurry statement which is inaccurate on its face, and expects that nothing will be said.

  It is time for UNDP and its no longer so new Executive Director Helen Clark to come and take Press questions. There are been developments with regard to UNDP's involvement in diamond mining in Zimbabwe, and over-compensation of consultants. Written questions put to UNDP have been pending for months. Watch this site.

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In Somalia, UNDP Said to Take Sides, No Financial Answers, UN Post Intrigue

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

UNITED NATIONS, March 24 -- Optimism about Somalia is a new trend in and around the in UN in New York. Days after the country's new foreign minister -- himself British -- told the Press outside the Security Council that one month of receipts from the Mogadishu port portends well for the paychecks of the Transitional Federal Government's ever multiplying number of parliamentarians, the International Peace Institute presented two experts, both upbeat about the negotiations in Djibouti and the UN which sponsored them.

  As at the Council, however, no one would say how much the UN paid, from or to whom. IPI's two presenters, Ken Menkhaus of Davidson College and Somali expert Jabril Abdulle, both said that the Shabaab rebels are on the run, the port is in government hands and the future is rosy. Inner City Press asked for an assessment of the performance of UN envoy Ahmedou Ould Abdallah and the UN's Group of Experts on sanctions. The former called for a moratorium on reporting from Somalia; the later reported a few years ago that Somali militants were in South Lebanon for training, which made more Somali-watchers laugh.

   Menkhaus defended the Group of Experts recent work, dismissing the Lebanon error -- circa 2006 -- as "in the distant past." He did, however, sound a cautionary note about the role of the UN Development Program, which he said has been paying the salaries of security forces in Somalia. Abdulle added that the UN paid to transport the bloated Somali TFG contingent from Djibouti to Mogadishu. On Friday, Inner City Press' question to Ould Abdallah about what the UN pays for in Somalia was referred, through his spokesperson Susie Price, to UNDP. Four days after promising an answer, UNDP has still not answered.

Somalia's FM in UNSC on March 20, financial disclosure not shown

  Menkhaus noted the attack on UNDP last year, and said the agency is perceived as taking sides. Perhaps this partiality is mirrored in an unwillingness to provide basic financial information about what it spends in Somalia, and on what.

Footnote: The head of IPI, Terje Roed Larsen, was not in attendance on Tuesday. Inner City Press has asked UN spokespeople for reaction to Syria's critique of Roed Larsen as exceeding him mandate as UN envoy under Security Council resolution 1559. Roed Larsen is also one of the most senior UN officials who has rebuffed Ban Ki-moon's call to make basic public financial disclosure. Now, Roed Larsen's wife Mona Juul is rumored as a closed but failed candidate for the vacant Assistant Secretary General post in the UN Department of Political Affairs vacated by Angela Kane. The post, sources say, is slated for UNDP's previous Middle East operative, Oscar Fernandez Taranco, well imbued in UNDP's culture. We'll see.

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN 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.

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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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