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For Yemen UN Post, Saudi-Touted Fisherman or Kobler, or Ms. Buttenheim?

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, April 16 --  How weak is today's UN?

 On April 15 Inner City Press reported that despite UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's claims to stand behind the UN's envoy to Yemen Jamal Benomar, who refused to call Saudi airstrikes positive, Ban was planning to replace him.

  After that Inner City Press report, the UN Spokesman sent out this a canned statement that Benomar "expressed an interest in moving on" and would be replaced in due course. But by whom?

  On April 15, Inner City Press named the name which was floated by Saudi and UN sources, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, and linked to its February 15, 2015 exclusive report on this individual's previously "incompetence" in Yemen, and side fishing business. There is more on both of these below.

  But, now on April 16, Inner City Press can exclusively report another candidate: Martin Kobler of Germany, currently the head of MONUSCO in the DR Congo. Kobler ran for head of the Office of Humanitarian Affairs, but that post "belongs" on the UK, in the person of Stephen O'Brien. Inner City Press' exclusive were credited in the Telegraph and Channel 4. (At least Andrew Lansley was avoided, as Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed should be here.)

 Kobler speaks Arabic; as Inner City Press has exclusively reported, some six years ago he was in line to become UN Special Coordinator on the Middle East until a Permanent Five member blocked him (more on that soon), given the job to Robert Serry. Now Kobler is ready. But is Saudi Arabia?

 Another name floated by UN sources (also reported exclusively by Inner City Press) is Lisa Buttenheim, currently at the UN mission in Cyprus. Like Kobler, she has more diplomatic experience than Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed.

  She is a woman. For the UN, that should be a plus, given what Ban Ki-moon has said. But as a well placed sources put it to Inner City Press, if Ban gave in to Saudi Arabia and got Benomar out, will he stand up to an edict NOT to name a woman? Watch this site.

  Before all this, on February 6, 2015, Inner City Press exclusively reported:

"UNSMIL's former deputy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed of Mauritania has been moved to head UNMEER, the UN's Ebola mission. Sources in Yemen say Ould Cheikh Ahmed was the UN's “designated security official” when a UNICEF staffer was taken hostage while traveling to the Sana'a airport without the required (and needed) security detail. Some say Ould Cheikh Ahmed was distracted, in Yemen and later in Libya, by side business interests.

 Now on April 17 we can report: in Yemen UN personnel where to have escort to the airport, and armored vehicles. But designated official Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed allowed the guards he hired to do nothing, and left the armored vehicles in customs. The staffer was kidnapped by a criminal group affiliated with Al Qaeda and was traumatized.

"But a check of Ban Ki-moon's Public Disclosure website, where his officials are supposed to make rudimentary disclosure of the finances and outside business interests, does not even list Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed (while numerous other Deputy SRSGs are listed). His is not in the most recent database, for 2013 - and may escape any disclosure by become an Under Secretary General with a mere nine month stint at UNMEER. Then what? We'll stay on this."

 So, no matter how much of a sycophant for the Saudi-led coalition he is, how can he get this post? How can the "P4" support this?

  For now, Inner City Press asked this additional question: in  Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed's business(es), are there any Gulf investors?

For now, here's what Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric at the UN's April 16, 2015 noon briefing:

Inner City Press: On Yemen, I’m, I would assume you have seen this report that the Saudi airstrikes killed 31 people in a dairy factory in Hudaydah. They make it pretty clear it may have been an errant missile, but it killed 31 civilians.  And I’m wondering, what’s the, is there any comment from the Secretariat on that?

Spokesman Dujarric:  Obviously, as we said here, that it is incumbent for all the parties in this conflict to fully respect international law which clearly includes the non-targeting of civilian infrastructure or civilian infrastructure, schools, facilities, civilian infrastructure in general.  We have no way of knowing what exactly was the intended target.  What we do know is that in many instances, since the fighting has started, civilians are the ones who are suffering, and I think that’s why the Secretary-General wants to see a halt to the violence, restart of the political process, and most urgently, the free flow of humanitarian aid going in.  I think we’re seeing the food situation getting dire and dire every day.  As our colleagues at the World Food Programme said, you know, when you’re a country that imports 90 per cent of its food is already vulnerable at any time and a time of conflict, that just increases that vulnerability very much so.

Inner City Press:  And also on Yemen, I’m sure you’ve seen the reports — I don’t know if the UN is the source of them — floating Mr. Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed as a possible replacement.  What I want to ask, I know you’re not going to say yes or no, but given he was so recently appointed to UNMEER, can you say that whoever’s working on Ebola will probably stay in that job?  Or—

Spokesman:  I think, you know, whenever there’s a senior vacancy at the United Nations, a lot of things float, a lot of names float around.  When we’re ready to announce, we will announce.  Obviously, the Ebola file is one of, it’s very important to the Secretary-General and to the United Nations, but when we’re ready to announce somebody, we will

Watch this site.


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