UN's Ban Hands Nairobi Office to
German, Union Protests, Pemba Sidelined
Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of
Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
NATIONS, March 2 -- Handing
management of the UN's African hub from a Tanzanian to a German, the
Ki-moon has quietly named Achim Steiner to the top post at the UN
Nairobi, Steiner confirmed in an e-mail on March 2. In New York, Ban's
Marie Okabe dodged the issue on February 27, and on March 2, after
confirmation, told Inner City Press her Office "has nothing" on the
In fact, Ban's chief of staff Vijay Nambiar if not
Ban himself is aware
of strong opposition to the shift to Steiner from the UNON Staff Union.
February 26 letter to Ban, UNON union president Rhoda Atana protested
upcoming shift away from Tanzanian Anna Tibaikuka as, among other
"against the principles of gender balance you have been promoting."
Inner City Press has exclusively obtained a copy of
the letter and places it online here.
Ms. Atana wrote that she was advised, rather than confront Ban during
at the UN-affiliated International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in
deliver the letter to Vijay Nambiar. Days
later in New York, Ban's deputy spokesperson said she "ha[d] nothing"
on either the switch to Steiner or the Staff Union letter protesting
As Inner City
Press reported exclusively on February 28, previously "the
[UNON wa]s headed by a Director-General, at the Under-Secretary-General
who is the most senior Under-Secretary-General among the Heads of the
Nations Programmes headquartered at the duty station, namely, UNEP and
Thus, the Director-General of UNON was Anna
Tibaijuka. She wrote the
UN's report on Robert Mugabe's "Operation Take Out the Trash" in
Zimbabwe, and finessed questions about the UN taking sides in the
election in Kenya between Raila Odinga and Mwai Kibaki.
UN's Ban at Kilimanjaro on Feb. 27, UNON
switch to German and Pemba protests not shown
Now, under the Bulletin Ban quietly put out and that
went into effect on
March 1, "the Office is headed by a Director-General, at the
Under-Secretary-General level, designated by the Secretary-General from
the heads of United Nations programmes headquartered at the duty
UNEP and UN-Habitat."
Inner City Press
noted that following the recent
in which Ban's Under Secretaries General signed "compacts" with
him, Tibaijuka did not sign a compact to remain as head of UNON.
that Ban's USG for Management Angela Kane is German, as is Achim
has been placed above Tibaijuka in Nairobi.
All this takes place against a backdrop in which Ban
sought to eliminate
the post of Special Advisor on Africa, a move opposed by the Group of
China and the Africa Group. In the budget debate in December 2008, the
Assembly directed Ban to henceforth appoint a new Special Advisor on
which he has yet to do. Ban's team has not explained either that move,
one. Some call it, diplomatically, tone-deaf, or surmise that Ban is
At the UN's noon briefing on February 27 Inner City
Press asked Ban's
Deputy Spokeswoman Marie Okabe
Press: in yesterday’s Journal there was an announcement in a new
Secretary-General Bulletin about how the UN Office in Nairobi is
organized. And it is my understanding
that it actually would result in currently the most senior of HABITAT
is running the Office in Nairobi, and that the new policy the
would get to choose between the two. Is
that accurate and is it his intention to switch Nairobi from Ms.
Mr. Achim Steiner?
Spokesperson Okabe: If the
Secretary-General’s Bulletin is what you read that’s all I have for you
Press: Well, what’s the rationale of changing the existing policy under
an African official runs the Africa office of the UN to a policy that
have it the other way?
Spokesperson: I have nothing beyond what
you read in the Bulletin.
Then on March 2,
after Steiner sent
out an e-mail, below, that he has the job, Ms. Okabe still said she
nothing" on the switch, or the Staff Union letter. Steiner wrote,
afternoon in Nairobi but hours before the UN's noon briefing in New
Secretary-General has issued a new Secretary-General's Bulletin on UNON
effective 1st March 2009 and has designated me as Director General of
transition inevitably creates a certain sense of anxiety and
expectation - and
I am writing first to bring to your attention the Secretary-General's
decision... I believe in continuity while reforming and enhancing our
to deliver effectively and efficiently on our mandates... We have
lessons and I intend to build on and further develop the reforms
In fact, a memo
accompanying the Staff Union letter to Ban says that by
removing Ms. Tibaijuka from the top post, he is sending the message
"impunity reigns at the Nairobi duty station." Impunity
is not limited to Africa.
As the UN's Ban Ki-moon
traveled through Tanzania last week, elders from the island of Pemba
succession wanted to present him with a petition to that effect. The
ministry announced it had discovered and disrupted the
25, Inner City Press asked Ban's Deputy
Spokesperson Marie Okabe about "this report that a threat was found
against the Secretary-General, not a threat but a... to disrupt his
Tanzania by these Pemba elders. One, is
that something that the UN can confirm? And two, what history does the
system or Secretariat have with this Pemba issue in Tanzania?"
Ms. Okabe replied, "I have seen the press reports,
and I have not
heard anything in what I've read that would be affecting his travel
the UN's Deputy Secretary General Asha Rose Migiro was previously
foreign minister, it seemed that unlike Ban's deputy spokesperson, she
have some knowledge or a comment. Ms. Migiro was slated to speak with
the Francophonie organization. Inner City
Press sought information about the meeting but was told it would take
outside of the UN, with no press. Inner City Press asked a senior
to please get a comment, even a formal no-comment, from her about
later, none has been provided. Nor when Inner City Press asked at the
briefing, for response by Ban or Migiro, was any response given.
26, Inner City Press asked a follow-up
Question: On the
Secretary-General’s trip in Tanzania,
the Foreign Ministry there had said that the Pemba elders were going to
give him a petition. And now it’s
reported that Fernandez-Taranco, the country representative, has met
elders. Was the Secretary-General made
aware of the issues that the people from this Pemba Island were trying
and did he or Deputy Secretary-General Migiro have any comment or
Spokesperson Okabe: I am sure that he,
like you, reads press reports on various issues. I
have nothing on that. There is nothing on
his schedule today.
met with the elders, then claimed there was no relation to their desire
confront Ban, and that the Tanzanian government has everything under
Among the elders' gripes are a lack of water and of electrical power --
political power. We will have more on all this.
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