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As Somalia's TFG Prints Bills, UN Accused of Shipping Tanks, Denial by Ould Abdallah

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 14 -- Somalia's Transitional Federal Government, in control of just a small part of Mogadishu, is contracting with Sudan to print new Somali shillings, UN envoy Ahmedou Ould Abdallah acknowledged to Inner City Press on Thursday. Video here.

  Ould Abdallah had just told the UN Security Council that it should further back the TFG. Inner City Press asked about opposition by Somali MPs to the TFG's finance minister Sharif Shaykh Hasan Shaykh Adan cutting a deal with Sudan. Ould Abdallah said that new shillings were needed, because the previous bill were counterfeited, on "photocopy machines" and otherwise.

  Inner City Press asked how wide or small an area these new bills would be used it. Ould Abdallah claimed all over the country, but for the dollarization of the economy. But with Al-Shabaab controlling whole swaths of Southern Somalia, one wonders if this currency contract is even practical.

With the European Union bragging about escorting from Kenya to Mogadishu a ship chartered by the UN's UNSOA, and reports that the ship contained arms and tanks for the TFG, Inner City Press asked Ould Abdallah about it.

UN's Ould Abdallah in Council, bill printing and
MV Alpha Kirawira not shown

  For the record, it has been reported that

[T]he TFG had imported a large shipment of arms, including tanks—the latter representing a considerable escalation from the "technicals," improvised battle wagons constructed by mounting a machine or anti-aircraft gun on a pickup truck or four-wheel drive vehicle, which have been ubiquitous in the Somali conflict. It later emerged that the shipment came on Sierra Leonean-flagged vessel, the MV Alpha Kirawira, which, according to a press release by the European Union Naval Force (EU NAVFOR) Somalia's Operation Atalanta, was chartered by the UN Support Office for AMISOM (UNSOA) and escorted out of the Kenyan port of Mombasa by the Spanish frigate SPS Navarra and accompanied all the way to Mogadishu by the French corvette FS Commandant L'Herminier.

  Ould Abdallah said he hadn't heard of the ship, then added that heavy equipment is needed in Somalia, including APCs. His spokeswoman urged him to leave the stakeout, again without herself agreeing to provide any answers.

  Ould Abdallah, as he left, said he would look into the ship. His deputy, who previously a serious humanitarian, seemed to indicate the same. We'll see.

* * *

At UN, Indigenous Cite Abuse from Right and Left, Myanmar, U.S. and Ecuador

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 14 -- A review of indigenous people's rights at the UN on July 15 found problems with "militarism" in Myanmar and Colombia, including accusations that indigenous people in active pursuit of land rights are terrorists, and a failure to respect indigenous people's rights by governments of both the right and left.

  The State of the World's Indigenous People mentions that in Myanmar, for example, indigenous people were tortured and their community ransacked. Inner City Press asked about Myanmar, and the chairperson of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Victoria Tauli-Corpus from the Philippines, bemoaned the support that Asian countries have shown toward Myanmar's military government. The new ASEAN Commission on Human Rights, she argued, would take a closer look.

  The UN, it appears, is taking even less of a look at Myanmar. On July 8, Inner City Press asked the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary General to comment on a dictum by Than Shwe, Burma's strongman, that voters in the upcoming election had been make the "correct choice."

  There being no answer, four days later on January 12 at the noon briefing, Inner City Press put the same question to Spokesman Martin Neskiry. He responded that the statement was old, and that the UN would have no comment. He confirmed that Myanmar is being handled, such as it is, by UN chief of staff Vijay Nambiar.

   Meanwhile, Ms. Tauli-Corpus' colleague, from Peru, said that entreaties are being made about American "military bases in Colombia." Ecuador was mentioned -- a leftist government that, in the name of pursuing natural resources, has enraged indigenous groups.

Dancers in UN auditorium, defense of indigenous, in Myanmar and elsewhere, not shown

  Inner City Press asked Mr. Corpus about the U.S. still not signing the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. The first time, the question was not answered. On a second pass, expanding to the Copenhagen climate change talks, Ms.Corpus acknowledged that the U.S. negotiators had opposed the inclusion of pro-indigenous language, before relenting and "unbracketing" it.

  Not the position one would have predicted. But, Ms. Corpus said, the struggle continues. The Permanent Forum will meeting in the UN's new "UN-KIA" building. And we'll be there.

* * *

UN Doesn't Count Haitian Staff - But Treats Them Equally, Ban Says

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 14 -- A day after the UN's death count of its personnel in Port au Prince at first included a single Haitian staff member, and then dropped the reference, on Thursday morning Secretary General Ban Ki-moon dropped all reference to nationalities in his count of the dead.

Inner City Press asked if the UN's national Haitian staff have been included in the figures the UN has been giving out, not only of casualties but even of how many people work for the UN.

While Ban insisted that national staff are treated "equally," the figure thrown around - that 11,000 people work for the UN's MINUSTAH mission -- does not include the UN's national staff.

  In response to the question, Ban referred to notes and said that the UN has 1200 national staff in Haiti. This compares to 490 international civilian staff.

  After Ban left the stakeout, Inner City Press asked his spokesman Martin Nesirky to explain the UN's reporting of casualties. Nesirky said that the focus has been on reporting to those with international interest.

UN's Ban at stakeout, national Haitian staff not in figures

  He also said that national staff who worked in the UN headquarters in Port of Prince were somehow more likely to have already have left the building for the day when the earthquake struck. Video here.

  Now, he said, the UN is going out to the listed home addresses of its national staff to check on them. But will they now begin reporting the Haitians, equally, in their public statements? Watch this site.

Footnote: after Ban and his spokesman left the stakeout, another journalist -- not this one -- marveled that the UN would focus on internationals and not Haitians, who are the people most impacted, and of most interest to her as a journalist.

  From the UN's January 14 transcript:

Inner City Press: I understand that now you are saying that the nationality of those killed will be given by the Spokesman. Yesterday it was mentioned that a Haitian national was among those who were deceased, and then in what you said yesterday evening, it wasn’t mentioned. Some questions have arisen whether the numbers the UN is given actually include the Haitians that are hired, the national staff. What is the figure, or what are the procedures for checking how the actual Haitian nationals employed in various functions for the UN are faring?

SG Ban Ki-moon: In saving lives, there is no difference, no distinction between international and national staff. We have 1,200 national staff employed by the United Nations [in Haiti]. There seems to be very much a difficulty in communicating with all the national staff. Some of their houses have been affected. It is very difficult to account for all the national staff. We are doing, on the same principal: that we will try to save all the lives, without any distinction.

 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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