Somalia, UN Denies Mercenary Use, Admits Areas Unserved, WFP and
USAID Cancel Q&A
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, September 23 -- In the wake in Somalia of the UN World Food
Program's self-investigation of the relation of its aid distribution
system and the Al Shabaab rebels, Inner City Press on September 23
asked the UN's humanitarian coordinator for Somalia Mark Bowden if,
as Somali sources say, WFP has hired military contractors, with USAID
money. Video here,
from Minute 10:28.
allegations by Somali sources which Inner City Press sought to ask
the most senior officials of USAID and WFP about at what was
advertised as a press availability on September 22, in the Millennium
Hotel across from the UN. When Inner City Press arrives, early, for
the Q&A session, WFP executive director Josette Sheeran was
visible in a meeting with USAID signs on the wall.
member confirmed it was Inner City Press which came to ask questions,
the Q&A session was canceled, as was a second USAID session set
for September 24. So the question was asked of Bowden as UN
to WFP, "I'm sure they haven't employed military contracts."
He said that he is the UN system's Department of Safety &
Security (DSS) designated security officer for the country. He then
acknowledged that there are parts of Somalia where DSS cannot
operate, where the UN relies on the security of "the agencies
concerned" -- that is, WFP. Video here,
from Minute 15:50
is a serious
drought in Somalia, and Inner City Press asked Bowden to confirm that
there are areas where the UN has no humanitarian access. Bowden
replied that yes there are, for example in Johar, where UNICEF
vaccines were looted. He said that usually the "local community"
makes good or provides assurances, but that hasn't happened in Johar.
asked about the Shabaab's statements against DSS, the UN Development
Program and Ould Abdullah's UNPOS, but not against WFP and UNICEF.
Bowden called these statements "propagandist in nature"
since, he said, UNPOS and UNDP weren't then working in the areas
Shabaab referred to. He called it unfortunate, as it appears to have
sidelined DSS. Could this explain Somali's increasing allegation that
the UN is using military contractors?
UN's Mark Bowden, no service in Johar,
mercenaries and promised FSMAU report not shown
scoffed that it would be nearly impossible for the UN to use military
contractors, Inner City Press when it inquired into the UN's
operations in Basra in Iraq was told:
your question on security in Basra
unspokesperson-donotreply [at] un.org
matthew.lee [at] innercitypress.com
9/2/2009 4:27:08 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time
Basra, where the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq has a small presence,
UNAMI has occasionally used in the past private security guards (who
were also providing security to the UK diplomats) to escort UN staff
to meetings with the local Iraqi officials at the civilian side of
the airport. That was paid through a support agreement with the UK,
which was responsible for security in Basra at the time.
what Mr. Bowden said, it is not so difficult for the UN to use /
benefit from military contractors. But who might be performing this
role in Somalia?
While USAID canceled both of its press availabilities, and WFP
canceled on September 22, it is hoped that further information can be
obtained outside of New York on September 25, and beyond. Regarding
USAID there are other questions regarding, for example, Afghanistan
and Bolivia. Watch this site.
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.
Click here for Inner City Press'
review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate
from Inner City
December 12 debate on UN double standards
here for Inner
Press Nov. 7 debate on the war in Congo
this site, and this
Oct. 2 debate, on
UN, bailout, MDGs
and this October 17 debate, on
Security Council and Obama and the UN.
* * *
usually also available through Google
News and on Lexis-Nexis.
for a Reuters
AlertNet piece by this correspondent
about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click
for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali
Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an
undefined trust fund. Video
UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017
Reporter's mobile (and
earlier Inner City Press are listed here, and some are available
in the ProQuest service, and now on Lexis-Nexis.
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