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Afghan Corruption Extends to UN and USAID, Fulgham Conflict, Ghani in Media Circus

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 13 -- While the U.S. causes and suffers deaths in Afghanistan, it asserts control not only over politics but also on corruption. USAID was defrauded of at least $7 million by the UN Development Program and UN Office of Project Services. But the scandal has been quietly put to bed. Alonzo Fulgham, the current head of UNAID, you see, was in charge of the agency in Afghanistan at the time that the money was lost. Click here for Inspector General's report, and here for Inner City Press' April 14, 2009 story. Click here for Alonzo L. Fulgham's USAID bio, that he was "Mission Director in Afghanistan from June 2005 to July 2006." Does he or can he investigate himself?

  Sources tell Inner City Press that USAID made a deal with UNDP to quash the investigation. And beyond UNDP's conflict of interest, given its negligence is overseeing UNOPS despite taking a seven percent fee, since Inner City Press' April report, UNOPS has hired the son in law of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. The sources in UNOPS who told Inner City Press about the hiring also predict that the move effectively put UNOPS above the (UN) law.

  Meanwhile, mere weeks after Richard Holbrooke urged Hamid Karzai to accept a run-off against challenger Abdullah Abdullah, now he says a run-off is out of the question, would only help the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

Afghan elections on August 20, fraud and UN and USAID conflicts not shown

 The U.S. is said to be pushing Karzai to accept as his prime minister the candidate who came in a distant fourth, Ashraf Ghani. A television appearance scheduled this weekend for Ghani was converted into a web-onl "exclusive," in light of his weak showing.

  On this same show, noted Afghan walker and Iraq colonialist Rory Stewart urged a light but ongoing footprint in the country. Stewart, alongside his other hats, shows up on a list of Conservative political candidates in the UK. Go figure.

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Crackdown on Somali Pirates, Based On Letter to UN by Ex-Prez Yussuf, Questioned

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 10 -- Somali pirates have been the topic at the UN for the past two days. Thursday outside the Fourth Meeting of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia, Japanese diplomat Masafumi Ishii, who chaired the meeting, told the Press that money will be raised to fight the pirates, and to implement a "comprehensive" strategy against them, including on land.

   Inner City Press asked if the underlying issues of toxic waste dumping and illegal fishing had been discussed at all in the meeting. No, Ambassador Ishii said, that did not come up. Inner City Press asked about a recent incident in which Germany shot and killed a pirate, seemingly in violation of rules procedures as in Afghanistan. No, that incident was not discussed, Ishii said.

  The UN Security Council resolution under which pirates are being hunted, Resolution 1851, is based on the purportedly still valid consent of Somalia, on a December 9, 2008 letter to the Council from then-President Abdullahi Yussuf, who was out of power soon after signing the letter. People and even parliamentarians in Somalia have told Inner City Press they have not found it easy to get and see a copy of this letter, which is referred to in Paragraph 10 of Resolution 1851:

"10. Affirms that the authorization provided in this resolution apply only with respect to the situation in Somalia and shall not affect the rights or obligations or responsibilities of Member States under international law, including any rights or obligations under UNCLOS, with respect to any other situation, and underscores in particular that this resolution shall not be considered as establishing customary international law, and affirms further that such authorizations have been provided only following the receipt of the 9 December 2008 letter conveying the consent of the TFG."

  On September 9, Inner City Press asked U.S. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Thomas Countryman about the letter. He said he was not aware of it. Also on September 9, Inner City Press asked UN Security Council Affairs staff how to get a copy of the letter. You'd have to ask the Somali mission, was the answer.

On the beach in Somalia, Yussuf's letter not shown

  And so on September 10, while Ambassador Ishii spoke, Inner City Press asked an omnipresent Somali deputy ambassador for a copy of the letter. No, he said. You have to ask the Council. This is called the run around.

This has the potential of being similar to the Somali parliament's rejection of the Law of the Sea Continental Shelf filing done in the name of the Somali people by UN envoy Ahmedou Ould Abdallah, using Norwegian money, co-written and filed by Kenya. Watch this site.

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Somali Continental Shelf Filing Rejected by Parliament Has Norway "Embarrassed," UN Admits

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 31 -- The Somali parliament recently voted over 90% against a deal cut by UN envoy Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, using Norwegian assistance, to make a joint Kenya - Somali filing about the Somali people's rights to the continental shelf and its natural resources. Even before the vote, Inner City Press had repeatedly asked the UN by what right Ould Abdallah had coordinated the filing, without getting a straight answer.

   Now, with meetings about the Continental Shelf and the Law of the Sea taking place in the basement of the UN's headquarters in New York, Inner City Press finally got at least some answers.

  In a meeting on "The Regular Process of Marine Assessments" held by the UN's Office of Legal Affairs, Inner City Press asked a group of UN experts how they deal with a now-contested filing like the one about Somalia. At first, an expert tried to evade the question, saying it could only be asked and answered at another meeting down the hall about the Limits of the Continental Shelf. But those meetings are all closed.

  The master of ceremonies Peter Gilruth, director of the UN Environment Program's Division of Early Warning and Assessment, said he would try to answer, although he felt it might put his "head in a difficult spot." He said that Norway paid for the filings of some 10 African countries but that in Somalia, some "other elements.... may have tried to take the information in a different direction, causing the difficulty you refer to." Gilruth that moved the proceedings forward, asking if there were "any questions easier than that one."

  Afterwards, Inner City Press approached Mr. Gilruth, who said that the whole Somali filing snafu "involved embarrassment to the government of Norway." 

  Next to him Patricio Bernal, UNESCO Assistant Director-General and Executive Secretary of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, said that he had been working on this for ten years, he had coordinated with the Somali "government in exile" in Nairobi, and he could not understand the stink made in Somalia itself. He emphasized that the decisions in Continental Shelf meetings -- behind closed doors, mind you -- are "unappealable."

UN's Ban, Jean Ping and Ould Abdallah, Somali Parliament's rejection not shown

   Perhaps the ongoing snafu reflects that to deal with the Somali government in exile, or the TFG, or Ould Abdallah, is not to deal with the Somali people, and is no guarantee of support or legitimacy. Ould Abdallah, meanwhile, is reported trying to invite into the TFG process a notorious war lord. Inner City Press asked about this last week at the UN's noon briefing, and the Spokesperson said an answer would be sought from Ould Abdallah. But still none has been received. Watch this site.

As first reported by Inner City Press, the filing states that Ould Abdallah

"initiated the preparation of preliminary information indicative of the outer limits of the continental shelf of Somalia beyond 200 nautical miles... In the preparation of this material the SRSG accepted an offer of assistance from the Government of Norway... Both the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate have been involved in the preparation...

Inner City Press wrote about this and asked the UN and Ould's spokesperson Suzie Price, but never received an answer.

   On May, the question was put to Ould Abdallah and he said he is "no specialist," that he was unfamiliar with the filing that states that he prepared it. "Ask Norway," he said. Video here, from Minute 12:30.

Back from Sri Lanka, UN's Holmes Admits NGO Killings and Restrictions Not Raised

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

UNITED NATIONS, May 26 -- Just back to the United Nations from Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's surreal tour of Sri Lanka, Inner City Press asked UK Ambassador John Sawers if the UN paying for interment camps for Tamils rounded up from throughout northern Sri Lanka compiles with international humanitarian law.

  Ambassador Sawers, rather than answer, said that there has been a "high level of attention" to the issue by the UN, by envoy Vijay Nambiar, humanitarian chief John Holmes and the visit of the Secretary General over the weekend. There's been not report to the Security Council yet, Sawers said, we look forward to that and "we'll have to consider steps after that." Video here, from Minute 6:15.

   Ban Ki-moon is still out of New York. John Holmes took questions by phone, since he was outside of the UN (some said in Upstate New York). Inner City Press asked Holmes about the people looked up in the camps who were not in the final conflict zone. "I was not aware of that," Holmes said, arguing that "the whole Vanni" or jungle area was under Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam control "so in a sense was the conflict zone." Video here, from Minute 21:15.

   Interviews in the camps, even under the watchful eyes of Sri Lankan soldiers and seemingly pro-government UN personnel nevertheless revealed that people were swept into the camps. The goal, if not to move members of the Sinhala majority into the now-vacated areas, is to screen anyone who lived under the LTTE for whether they support Tamil separatism or autonomy. Should the UN be assisting in such ideological if not ethnic cleansing?

   Holmes insisted that "there is no question of the UN funding the sweeping up," the UN is "only providing emergency relief in the camps." But if the camps are being used, not as a temporary fix to a natural disaster but to ethnic and ideological screening, providing food and money -- and in the case of UNOPS, planning the camps and helping build them -- makes the UN's role more direct, and problematic.

   Inner City Press asked Holmes if Ban Ki-moon, in his meeting with President Mahinda Rajapaka, has raised the issue of press freedom, including of the editor will last year, and other reports who have been harassed, arrested and disappeared, and of the aid workers, including from Action Contre la Faim, who have been killed, allegedly by pro-government militias. No, Holmes said, neither issue was raised by Ban in his meetings. He did not say, why not?

   The government's proposed Memorandum of Understanding it wants NGOs to sign would require them to provide information on all their clients, which these NGOs don't do anywhere in the world. Since a number of NGOs have told Inner City Press that they are not in the best position to fight the proposed MOU, as they are working in Sri Lanka; they would like to see John Holmes and OCHA take the lead in fighting back the intrusive NGO. Holmes admitted that the "MOU was not raise by the Secretary-General," and said that the issue had been set on the side. He did not say, by whom?

Tamil IDPs in Manik Farm await UN's Ban with baited breathe, May 23 (c) M.Lee

   Since some NGOs have expressed concern about the publication statements about what they expect from Holmes' OCHA -- to fight back against the MOU, for example -- and in light of major NGOs' summary from last week that John Holmes "had objected to the trip, as many of you know," Inner City Press asked Holmes about this position, and to explain it. Holmes replied that "I did not say to the NGOs that I was against the visit, I simply said that there were some tricky presentational aspect about which we were very well aware and that we would be dealing with while there, and which I think we did successfully."

   Apparently, Holmes was comfortable with the "presentational aspects" of children in the camps being forced to sing "Ban Ki-moon" to the Secretary General, and of Ban acceding to Rajapaksa's demand that they meet not in the capital but in the Buddhist shrine town of Kandy, which many say was a message to Tamils, we win, you lose. In fact, there are reports of Tamil shopkeepers in Colombo being besieged by Sinhala mobs and told to pay money, since "you lost." The UN should be countering such trends, not covering them up or, worse, stoking them.

   Lynn Pascoe was also at the briefing, but said less. When Inner City Press asked about reports that Tamil MPs were barred by the government from entering the Colombo airport's VIP lounge for the meeting they had been promised with Bank Ki-moon, Pascoe said he is investigating those reports and will "pass on to Maria" [Okabe, the Deputy Spokesperson] what he learns. Inner City Press asked about the symbolism of the visit to Kandy. Pascoe said it was a misperception and that "when a government says where, it's their decision."

   Inner City Press asked both Pascoe and Holmes if they thought the forcing children in the camps to sing to Ban Ki-moon was appropriate. Pascoe said that he's seen children waiting in the sun for longer than he could put up with, and not only in camps. Video here, from Minute 34:34. Holmes did not answer about the appropriateness of the forced signing and flag waving in the UN-funded camps. Watch this site.

Footnote: as the Human Rights Council in Geneva takes up the question of Sri Lanka, not only is there a pro-Rajapaksa resolution, now there is a Swiss proposed compromise, which would ask the Rajapaksa administration to investigate itself...

 Channel 4 in the UK with allegations of rape and disappearance

  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.

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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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Other, earlier Inner City Press are listed here, and some are available in the ProQuest service, and now on Lexis-Nexis.

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