Rice of US Insists UN "Misconstrues" Somalia Aid
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, February 19 -- Susan Rice, the US Ambassador to the UN,
accused the UN's humanitarian coordinator for Somalia Mark Bowden of
"misconstruing" US restrictions on aid. Ambassador Rice
asserted a "diversion of resources" to the Islamist group
Al Shabab. Since it is on US terrorism lists, US law requires the
restrictions the US is demanding.
what are these
U.S. restrictions? Bowden, while publicly complaining about them, would
not provide any description. Rather, he said that when he went to
Washington to discussed them with US aid officials, they told him the
issue was "above [their] pay grade."
asked Ambassador Rice about precisely this quote. She insisted that
it is Al Shabab which is responsible for the lack of aid. Video here,
But what of
Bowden's quoting of US aid officials? A US State Department official
in Washington, described as "irritated," has said of
Bowden, "We're going to talk to him." The
quote reminded on
UN observer of "something from the Sopranos," or the Mafia
film "Good Fellas."
boss, top UN humanitarian John Holmes,
stood before a UN microphone
on Thursday evening, Inner City Press asked him to explain what
Bowden had said, and to describe the US restrictions to which the UN
is publicly taking exception.
responded that the message was only that the UN needs more funds.
Even pressed, he declined to follow or back up Bowden. Video here,
cop, bad cop," an observer mused afterwards. Or was Holmes
showing his political stripes, declining to criticize the U.S. as,
for example, his predecessor Jan Egeland did after the tsunami?
Susan Rice back on Jan. 26, US Somalia aid
restrictions not shown
Ambassador Rice's two responses to the Press about Somalia, she went
in to a Security Council meeting about Haiti. Speaking first, from a
prepared text, was the UN's John Holmes. So goes diplomacy at the UN.
While Ambassador Rice also took two questions about Iran's nuclear
program, the Press was not able to ask for her views on developments
in Sudan and Darfur, or on anti-democratic moves in Niger and Cote
d'Ivoire, nor the incorporation of a presumptive war criminal into
Guinea's interim government. But the answers on Somalia, although of
a piece with Washington's script, were appreciated.
official told Inner City Press that "Susan Rice, as an expected
future Secretary of State, is playing it safe. She will not, for
example, criticize [former South African president Thabo] Mbeki about
Sudan." Until questions are asked, and answered, we'll stick to
an open mind.
the US Mission to the UN's transcript:
City Press: On Somalia, the U.N. has said that the U.S. is
politicizing aid, and has made restrictions that make it impossible
to feed people in southern Somalia. Could you say what the
restrictions are and what the reasons for them are?
Rice: Well, first of all we utterly reject that claim; we think it's
false and unfounded. The reason why aid is not now proceeding to the
people of southern Somalia is one reason alone and it's quite clear:
it's Al Shabaab's attacks on WFP and other U.N. agencies, its
kidnapping of innocent relief workers, its extortion of funds which
prompted WFP on January 5th to take the decision that it could not
and would not continue to deliver life saving assistance in southern
Somalia. That's an unfortunate development but it is a direct
consequence of Al Shabaab's attacks and efforts. The U.S. is the
largest donor of humanitarian assistance to Somalia, we have been
consistently over many years, and in 2009 we contributed $150 million
in humanitarian assistance to Somalia. So, as I said we reject that
claim as false and unfounded.
City Press: One follow up, Mark Bowden of the UN had said when he
traveled to Washington and met with USAID officials they said to him
that the decision was above their pay-grade and was being made by the
State Department on a political basis.
Rice: He's conflating and misconstruing two different things. The
reason why the people of Somalia in the South are not able to receive
the assistance that we and others have traditionally provided at
present is because WFP took a decision, a decision they felt
compelled to take and we understand why they had to take it, that
they could no longer continue to provide assistance safely, given Al
Shabaab's harassment, attacks, and terrorist activities. The question
of how the U.S. government has responded, and we have been in
discussions with humanitarian delivery agencies about the fact that
we have grave concerns about the diversion of resources to Al Shabaab
and other terrorist organizations in contravention of U.S. law. And
we have had those discussions, they have been ongoing but
nonetheless, the U.S. provided $150 million of humanitarian
assistance to Somalia last year. We remain, as we have been for many
years, the largest donor, and what is precluding the delivery of
assistance to people in southern Somalia is Al Shabaab.
* * *
Haiti, UN Force Commander Silent on Killings, Clinton Skips Press,
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, February 18 -- In Haiti, the UN's Force Commander Major
General Floriano Peixoto Vieira Neto, has been aware of "incidents"
in which the
Haitian National Police have killed civilians. Inner
City Press asked him about it on Thursday. Video here,
said, "those were crucial and critical moments, the HNP needed
to use that kind of force." Video here,
from Minute 15:56.
is reported that President Rene Preval, his prime and other minister
met in January and authorized the summary execution of "criminals."
The UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti, MINUSTAH, which has a stated
and implicit duty to protect civilians, has confirmed it has been
aware of killings.
City Press asked the Major General what his troops do about this. "I
do not command the police," he said. "I do not speak on
seems to be a major problem. Even those the UN peacekeepers are
changed, according to the force commander, with security and not
criminal justice, if they witnessed one civilians killing another
they would act. But if Haitian National Police kill someone, even as
a summary execution, the UN says and does nothing?
Clinton, Ban, Holmes and Haitian Ambassador,
HNP killings not shown
on Thursday, Bill Clinton was scheduled to join a press stakeout with
Ban Ki-moon, John Holmes and Haiti's Ambassador. But Clinton was
delayed, due in part to an anthrax scare at the UN -- click here for
Inner City Press' first and second stories -- so he skipped the stake
out. Mr. Ban took only one question before leaving.
City Press asked Haiti's Ambassador about a meeting between President
Rene Preval and US contractor Ashbritt, to gain rubble removal
contracts. He replied no contract has yet be let, and whoever wins
must create jobs. Afterwards, he thanked Inner City Press for not
asking about the HNP's alleged executions.
Holmes dodged questions, first about his leaked email about Haiti,
then about restrictions on UN aid in Somalia being imposed by the US.
We'll have more on this.