UN, Fowler Fall-Out Continues, Info "Got Out Somehow," But Answers Four
Days Late and Counting
Aid Diversion in Somalia Portrayed as Inevitable, Murky Investigation
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, September 16 -- Amid allegations that UN aid funds are being
diverted in Somalia, leading to reported threats by the United
Kingdom and U.S. to cut or condition their funding, Inner City Press
on Wednesday asked top UN humanitarian John Holmes what the UN is
Holmes said that the World Food Program has begun an internal
investigation, and that he doesn't know how long it will take. He
said it is mostly the U.S. that is concerned -- others name the UK
first -- and that other donors just keep on giving. He said there is
little choice but to continue. Video here,
from Minute 28:26.
allegations focus on particular trucking companies that are being
used, and their links to entities on anti-terrorism lists, Inner City
Press asked Holmes what is being done about this, since such
diversion would violate, in some cases, legal prohibitions. Holmes
said that WFP is diversifying the number of trucking firms it works
with. He did not address the legal question. (As reported
today, the UN's top legal refuses to answer questions other than on
the narrow topics for which she appears for press conferences: today,
the UN Treaty Event).
a sense, there
is not a contradiction between taking seriously and acting on these
allegations of diversion of funds, and wanting the programs to
continue. In fact, diversion leads to a lack of credibility, and
ultimately hurts the programs' beneficiaries more.
UN's Ban gets award from WFP's
Sheeran, diversion of UN aid in Somalia not shown
referring problems to internal investigations, the time frame of
which knows no limits, also hurts the UN's credibility, as has
happened this summer in the months old investigation of the head of
the UN's Congo Mission Alan Doss asking the UN Development Program
for "leeway" to hire his daughter. It was relegated to an
internal investigation, and nothing has been done. When
during the summer's G-8 meeting WFP
spent $400,000 to fly in children from Ghana for a "simulated feeding
demonstration" for the G-8 leaders' spouses, neither Ban Ki-moon
nor John Holmes for OCHA said there was anything wrong with this. This
too undermines confidence in the UN, including by donors.
other things going on beneath this WFP corruption story, Inner City
Press' Somali sources say: the use by the US and, contra Holmes, UK
of food as a weapon, embargoing or problematizing food aid to areas
controlled by Al Shabaab. As one source puts it, "to kill the
fish, you have to drain the water, right?" We will have more on
* * *
Somalia, UN Manufactures Consent As AMISOM Shoots Camels as
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, September 15 -- The UN, which nearly invariably uses as a
defense against inaction on human rights abuses that only works in
countries upon invitation, views Somalia through a different prism,
it seems. How else to explain the dismissive response of the head of
the UN's Department of Political Affairs, Lynn Pascoe, to questions
that have arise about the work of UN envoy Ahmedou Ould Abdallah
after his Norway-funded, Kenya-drafted Law of the Sea filing about
rights to Somalia's continental shelf was roundly rejected by
asked about that, and other questions that have arisen about the
legitimacy of the multinational naval
presence off Somalia's coast
under a UN Security Council resolution based on a letter signed right
at, or past, then President Yusuf's last day in (appointed) power.
from Minute 1:05.
breezily that Ould Abdallah is so "activist" that it is not
surprising that some people don't like it. But if those people
include the majority of Somali parliamentarians, isn't that a problem
for the UN? Pascoe replied that the former President -- presumably
Yussuf -- really wanted the UN in the country.
Pascoe about surprise, it is not surprising that rulers who have
never been directly elected by the people welcome outside forces
which treat and support them as legitimate. Some Somalis were found,
as a fig leaf, to invite in the Ethiopian forces in 2006. Recently,
the AMISOM force which took over from the Ethiopians mistakenly shot
and killed a group of camels just outside the barbed wire fence around
Adan Ade airport in Mogadishu, mistaking them for
The camels shot by AMISOM as insurgents
spokesperson, Barigye Ba-hoku, told the press that "It was our new
forces and they were not aware of the camels’ movements. They say they
were attacked, and so opened fire,"
has asked the UN what its role with AMISOM is, whether it provides
ammunition and training, and what it thinks of the camel killing
incident. Watch this site.
* * *
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, September 14 -- The UN's head of political affairs Lynn
Pascoe on Monday defended his agency's "reticence to be
explicit" about what Robert
Fowler, the Canadian ostensibly
serving as the UN's envoy to Niger, was doing in the country,
traveling to a Canadian owned mine, when he was kidnapped in
December. Pascoe said Fowler was working on relations between the
government of Niger and the Taureg rebels, with "the full
agreement of the government." Video here,
from Minute 1:08.
said that the government of Niger "hated" his mandate, and
that his located was leaked to the kidnappers neither by the
government of Niger or by "supporters of Al Qaeda" within
the UN in Niger or even within UN headquarters. Pascoe did not
respond on camera to that, but in the hallways afterwards he told the
Press that it was clear that someone told the kidnappers where Fowler
would be, somehow the information got out.
asked Pascoe, if the supposed Niger mandate was so important, if
anyone is still working on it, after Fowler's kidnapping and eventual
release. Video here,
from Minute 1:05:59. Pascoe did not answer this
question, saying only that Fowler was "grabbed" before the
work was "far along." Some question if the work might have
had anything to do with mining, specifically of uranium.
pounded by you," Pascoe said, referring to Inner City Press,
"for not saying what he was doing in the first place."
Pascoe was asked if it is appropriate for an envoy traveling to a
country to work for the UN to go without explanation in a UN vehicle
-- but no security -- to visit a mine owned by a company from his own
country. "If I spent my day telling SRSGs where to be every day,
I" couldn't work on anything else, Pascoe said.
envoys or Special Representatives of the Secretary General have a
duty to tell him and the UN when they go in or out of a country, or
out of the region they are to work in. In Fowler's case, it's said
the area the mine is in and where he was kidnapped has little to do
with the Taureg rebels. So why didn't Fowler tell the UN where he was
going? Ban Ki-moon's Associate Spokesman Farhan Haq said that the UN
had to "reconstruct" what Fowler had been doing after he
then, Niger's ambassador to Canada, Nana Aïcha Foumakoye, has
that Fowler did not give her government his agenda for the day he was
abducted and she suggested he was hiding the true nature of his work.
"What did he have to hide?" said Ambassador Foumakoye. "Why
didn't he let us know? I don't understand why he didn't."
Fowler, Guay, and Mali's President and
Foreign Minister, answers not shown
his press conference, Pascoe repeatedly said that the UN and its
Department of Political Affairs only gets involved when invited by
the government. But Fowler calls Niger President Mamdou Tandja
"offended, annoyed [and] embarrassed" by him showing up as
UN envoy, and says Niger "hated" this mandate.
Spokesperson's Office still has not answered the following questions,
them in writing on September 10:
You said yesterday that Fowler is no longer a USG. What was his last
date as a UN employee?
Did Fowler receive UN compensation for the dates that he was held in
captivity? How much?
Yes or No? Did the United Nations issue the air ticket that Fowler
used to fly from Canada to Niger in December 2008?
Fowler Party did not have ANY UN- or Host Country-provided close
protection on its trip to the Canadian owned gold mine in Niger last
December -- yes or no?
and his associate, Louis Guay, did not have UN-issued travel orders
prior to their excursion to Niger -- yes or no?
Department of Safety and Security was not informed by the Department
of Political Affairs about the Fowler trip in advance, contrary to UN
rules and regulations, and therefore did not provide security
clearance in advance -- yes or no?
use of a UNDP driver and vehicle was not authorized by the
appropriate UNDP security and administrative authorities, contrary to
UN rules and regulations -- yes or no?
Niger Government was not aware of the Fowler Party's side trip to the
gold mine, and was not informed that Fowler was undertaking any UN
responsibilities in Niger during that trip besides representational
duties related to Niger's national day celebration the Friday prior
to his abduction -- yes or no?
response, Haq told Inner City Press that "These
questions will need to go to our human resources office, and I very
much doubt (from past experience) that I can ask them a question this
afternoon and still have an answer for you later today. It'll take
more time than that. But I'll pass your questions on."
days later, we have not a single answer. Pascoe said that Fowler's
release somehow proved the UN was right to have been "reticent to be
explicit" during his detention about what Fowler had been doing. But
now that he's released, why are these questions not being answered?
Watch this site.
* * *
Says Fowler On Private Visit to Niger Mine, Of P-5 Plus One,
Other Secret Envoys?
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, September 9 -- After months of denying then refusing to
comment on reports that its putative Niger envoy Robert Fowler was
visiting a Canadian owned gold mine on the day of his abduction, the
UN on September 9 admitted they didn't know where he was going that
day, and later reconstructed that it was to a mine that had nothing
to do with its supposed UN mandate. This reversed even the UN's
September 8 statement that Fowler was on UN business at the time.
Some cynics conclude that the UN covered up Fowler's activities
Fowler turned on the UN and said that perhaps UN supporters of Al
Qaeda "sold" him. Then the UN admitted the truth about
Fowler's foray, but only as revenge or retaliation. Others say tell
Inner City Press that Fowler's mission to Niger was about uranium,
and was in fact supported by four of the P-5 Plus One...
co-visitor to the mine, Louis Guay, Fowler has said "I have a
moment, just a moment, and I said Louis, tell them the truth. No
matter what happens, tell them the truth. You don't have anything
that is so important to protect that it's worth your life." Some
wonder, why was Fowler's partner trying to lie? Is it because of the
mining visit ?
disagreeing with the UN's statement Wednesday about its knowledge of
his itinerary, Fowler has said
president of Niger, whose name is Tanja. It was clear from the first
time I met him in August that he was offended, annoyed, embarrassed
by the fact that the secretary general of the UN had seen fit to
appoint a special envoy for his country. In fact, some of the stuff
I've read since I got out, with Niger government spokespeople talking
about my mission. They said I was there to see if I could get hold of
illicit arms trafficking, which was not my mission. My mission was
to get the government to make peace with the rebels. As long as there
was no peace with the rebels, the enemy was at the gate, right? If
al-Qaeda is taking people on the outskirts of the city, the enemy's
really at the gate. And governance of national security makes sense,
right? So I don't know who shopped me. I know somebody shopped me.
Who could it be? It could be the government of Niger. Could be an
al-Qaeda sympathizer in the UN office in Niger. In the UN office in
West Africa. In the secretariat building in New York. All of them had
my agenda, my itinerary."
the September 9
noon briefing, UN Associate Spokesman Farhan Haq said that "we
ourselves at the United Nations were not always fully apprised of his
travels; and in fact the day he was abducted we had to try and to
reconstruct what had happened on the day that he was kidnapped."
In Niger, a (uranium) mine, Fowler and UN mandate not shown
Press followed up:
City Press: I wanted to ask a follow-up on Mr. Fowler. In what you
just said, you just said that the UN, I just want to be clear --
you’re saying that the UN didn’t know where he was going or what
he was doing that day? I mean, I wanted to know, is it the
Spokesperson: We did not know at the time; we had to reconstruct
that afterwards -- after the abduction.
But what’s the protocol if an Under-Secretary-General is in the
country of known -- I’m not sure what the security threat was -–
isn’t he supposed to tell security, at lease DSS [the Department of
Safety and Security] where he is going? Did he have security with
him that day? I guess not.
Spokesperson: As you’re well aware, he did not have security with
him. There were Mr. Fowler, Mr. [Louis] Guay and their driver,
Soumana Mounkaila, were travelling -- just the three of them.
And does that violate UN procedures?
Spokesperson: I don’t want to get into that particular question. As you
know, Mr. Fowler kept people apprised sporadically. But, at
the very moment that he was abducted, we did not know about his
travels over those previous several hours.
And just when you reconstructed it, can you now say where was he
going? Because many people, many newspapers have reported that he
was headed to a gold mine that’s owned by a Canadian firm. Is that
true or not true?
Spokesperson: He was headed back from a trip to that mine.
He’d visited the mine, which was part of a private visit,
but he was actually going back to the capital, to Niamey.
You’d said yesterday that he was performing his official duties at
the time it took place. Is it official duties to visit a mine?
Spokesperson: He’d done a number of official duties that day and
in fact he was going to a working meeting back in Niamey at the time
that he was abducted.
September 9, the UN never admitted that Fowler had engaged in a
"private visit" to a Canadian owned mine. The conflict of
interest, and even violation of the UN charter, is obvious. But the
UN apparently has or enforces no rules in this regard. Inner City
Press asked a question left unanswered from the previous day's
City Press: I’m just wondering; is he still a USG or not, or has
his term expired?
Spokesperson: He’s no longer working for the United Nations.
then, for the
City Press: Are there any other USGs that have been named, say, this
year, that have not been announced in this room?
Spokesperson Haq: If they have not been announced, I am not aware of
spurious: there are many things the Office of the Spokesperson is
aware of and does not announce. We'll see.
Sources tell Inner City Press that Fowler's mission to Niger was
about uranium, and was in fact supported by four of the P-5 Plus