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UN & US, Transparency for Finance But Not Foreign Affairs: Somalia, Sovereignty and Senator Tom Coburn

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee at the U.N.

UNITED NATIONS, June 12 -- In the real world, Congo equals six Rwandas: that is how the UN's Jan Egeland put it in response to question about the death of seven humanitarian workers in Ituri in the DRC. "By far the worst humanitarian disaster of our time," he also said, urging that whatever happens at the end of July, when elections are slated, the UN not mostly leave the country as it did, in essence, in East Timor.

UNHCR aid reaches Dili

   In issuing $18 million flash appeal for Timor Leste, to supplement $4 million from the UN's Central Emergency Revolving Fund, Mr. Egeland characterized as "great" the United States' $10 million. The CERF web site shows that this $10 million is an "uncommitted pledge." Time did not permit this follow-up question:

how does this U.S. un-commitment relate to the issues raised in Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown's speech last week?

   On that, at 11 a.m. U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma, came down from a meeting with Mr. Malloch Brown, and after three times referring to waste-fraud-and-abuse as if a single word, took questions from the media. Responding to Sen. Coburn's demand for transparency, Inner City Press asked if he would support at the UN something like the U.S. Freedom of Information Act. The Senator said yes. Inner City Press later asked him if he had any insight into the controversy surrounding the U.S.'s alleged funding of warlords in Somalia. "I have no comment on that," Senator Coburn replied. It did not feel transparent.

Sen. Coburn --   versus [=] ???

            As it turns out, during his 2004 campaign Tom Coburn bragged that

"As a U.S. Senator, I will oppose any legislation or treaty that compromises the sovereignty of the United States... I will vote against approving the United Nation sponsored Law of the Sea treaty which seeks to impose a regime to rule over the use of the oceans and their resources... No treaty or international organization, including the U.N., shall ever supercede [sic] the sovereignty of the United States." 

(, as of June 12, 2006.)

            One wonders if this particular campaign promise came up at the meeting with the Deputy Secretary General. At the stake-out, Senator Coburn said this meeting had been scheduled well before "the speech," to discuss on what terms the U.S. would participate in renovating the UN Headquarters. Deputy Secretary-General Malloch Brown's daily schedule include a Republican Rep. from Arizona as well. At the noon briefing, Inner City Press asked if this meeting, too, pre-dated last week's speech. No answer came, as of press time five hours later.

            There was however some candor. Inner City Press asked Jan Egeland, as last week it asked Kofi Annan's spokesman, if the Lord's Resistance Army's Joseph Kony, Vincent Otti and three other ICC indictees should be arrested. Mr. Egeland responded that all five should be arrested. He added that he is working on a plan to reach out to the Lord's Resistance Army personnel below the five top indictees, to "remind" them that that there is a future, even to get them back in school. This has not been elsewhere reported. Nor has the second of these two responses to Inner City Press, from the ICC Prosecutor's spokesman in The Hague:

From: Christian.Palme [at]

To: Matthew.Lee [at]

Sent: Sat, 10 Jun 2006 13:58:24 +0200

  Dear Matthew, My only comment is the following official statement from the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC:

"The governments of Uganda, Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo are obligated to give effect to the arrest warrants, and we are confident that they will honor their joint commitment to do so.  The ICC warrants name  Joseph Kony, Vincent Otti, Okot Odhiambo, Dominic Ongwen and Raska Lukwiya.  Each is charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes, committed in Uganda since July 2002, in the context of a 20-year campaign of brutality against civilians."

  Then, after Inner City Press' follow-up question, does Sudan have any agreement or arrangement with the ICC in this regard, this:

From: Christian.Palme [at] To: Matthew.Lee [at]  Sent: Sat, 10 Jun 2006 19:20:17 +0200

  Dear Matthew, No, the Sudan is not a State Party to the ICC. Yes, there is an agreement between the ICC and Sudan to arrest the five leaders of the Lord's Resistance Army for whom arrest warrants have been issued by the Court.

            Subsequently, there were reports quoting that ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo that "the Sudan, a non-state party who had harbored the LRA in the past, has voluntarily agreed to execute the (ICC) warrants" and that Kony "has used negotiations to buy time and regroup. To do justice and re-establish security in the region, the justice network has to arrest the LRA commanders." And then there were reports of the LRA killing nine more people near Juba. Presumably, the triggers weren't pulled the five indictees.

            Of the S-G's spokesman's office in New York, speaking of waste-fraud-and-abuse, Inner City Press asked for an update and briefing from the UN's Jean-Pierre Halbwachs on the International Advisory and Monitoring Board for Iraq, whose June 2 release implies that oil is still not being metered in Iraq, by "continu[ing] to reiterate its concern that key actions, especially the installation of an oil metering system, needed to be comprehensive and were taking a long time to implement." Speaking of waste-fraud-and-abuse, the release also discloses delay in the auditing of contracts of Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown & Root:

"the IAMB requested an independent verification of the global settlement of all six DFI funded task orders under the Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR) contract reached between the U.S. Government and KBR on December 22, 2005 as well as a review of the remaining sole-sourced contracts to determine whether excess costs were incurred that would be the subject of renegotiation. However, progress has been slow in executing these special audits."

 On the peacekeepers in Ituri there was no update, after two weeks of captivity. On a report of UNHCR's dealings in Cairo with Sudanese refugees, culminating in the death of 27 refugees on December 30, 2005, Inner City Press was directed to UNHCR, which has denounced the report. Let the sunshine in!

Endnotes: First, on the topic of child labor, BBC today broadcast an in-depth report about 10-year old miners in Katanga in DRC, in a mine owned by Metorex Group. Cobalt dug and cleaned by foot by ten year olds... Next, some less enterprising gloating. Last week Inner City Press asked the spokesman about rumblings heard that the SRSG for Kosovo Soren Jessen-Petersen would leave at the end of the month. "I have nothing on that," was the response. Monday it was announced: Jessen-Petersen is leaving, at the end of the month. Finally, upstairs downstairs: in the basement in Conference Room 2, speakers inveighed for independence for Puerto Rico, pointing out the corporate interests which want to keep their Caribbean tax breaks. Upstairs in the lobby, a throng watched the Czech Republic beat Team USA 3-0. One wag in the crowd said, "If they still had Slovakia, would the score have been six - zero?" Let the games continue.

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In Bolton's Wake, Silence and Speech at the UN, Congo and Kony, Let the Games Begin

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee at the U.N.

UNITED NATIONS, June 9 -- What is the U.N.'s role, what is it's jurisdiction? U.S. Ambassador John Bolton on Friday said, "The member states tell the Secretariat what to do, not the other way around." Meanwhile in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the U.N. has 17,000 peacekeeping troops, prisoners in Beni, North Kivu are rioting to protest conditions and their lock-out without charges or trial. Less than a week after 192 prisoners broke out of jail in Bukavu, in Beni ten escaped and three were shot, including one prisoner who hadn't even tried to escape. In a post-shooting written statement, the UN stated that it will "remind the authorities once again of their responsibilities concerning prison conditions and the security of the population." So the UN does sometimes speak to, or at least remind, member states of their responsibilities.

            But when does the UN speak, and when does it stay silent? Friday at the noon briefing at UN Headquarters, Inner City Press asked the spokesman to take a position, primarily directed at South Sudan, on whether Lord's Resistance Army officials including not only Joseph Kony but also Vincent Otti, who have both been indicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Northern Uganda by the International Criminal Court, should be arrested. On Thursday, the new staffer in the Spokesman's office, previously speaking for the ICC, stated at five p.m. that he'd been unable to confirm reports that Otti is in South Sudan. The effort was appreciated and acknowledged. Friday after the briefing and Inner City Press' question about increasingly detailed reports, he appeared to say that it is not the UN's problem. (In fairness, Inner City Press later in the day sought clarification, see below.) In the briefing as before, the spokesman had inveighed generally against impunity.

 But what about this particular individual, Otti, as a test: will the UN "remind the authorities" in South Sudan that they have a responsibility, in light of the ICC indictment? 

World Cup fans in Congo

   So far, for two days the UN has declined to answer the question.  So too when asked about a detailed report in the New Vision newspaper, carried on the UN's own MONUC website, that the Lord's Resistance Army is entrenched in Garanga National Park in the DRC. Inner City Press raised this article at the noon briefing, and afterwards showed the new staffer that article, as well as a more recent article, "Sudan VP Meets Kony Rebels in Juba," in which the Ugandan state minister for foreign affairs Henry Okello Oryem is quoted that "We are consulting the International Criminal Court because they have issued arrest warrants, implying the government of southern Sudan is under obligation to arrest the rebels on sight. This issue has to be sorted out."

  Inner City Press asked again: why isn't the Secretary General or wider UN providing guidance at this point?  (In fairness, the Secretary General spoke out at the time of the ICC indictments, and since then generally about not tolerating impunity.) The reasons offered for not speaking at this time include that the International Criminal Court is not a UN body, that the UN and ICC have a partnership agreement; that Sudan is not a party to the ICC (the spokesman for the ICC Christian Palme will be asked to confirm this); and that the reported talks between the LRA, South Sudan and prospectively Uganda have no UN involvement.  Inner City Press said, and says here, that there are some who question if the UN would be so restrained if Mladic for example were spotted negotiation in Pristina or Montenegro, and who question if the proffered differences are much more than hair-splitting. So far not many seem to care or question, was the interim response. What is the standard for speaking? It becomes increasingly hard to tell.

            In Kampala, Uganda's president Yoweri Museveni said, "the DRC government and the UN are not serious" about acting on the Lord's Resistance Army. Often in reference to Un inaction it is said, "the UN and what army?" But in this case, the UN actually has an army, near the refuge of the long-denounced Lord's Resistance Army, reportedly down to fewer the 500 members. While 17,000 troops may be spread out, the rhetorical question about "what army" can, in this case, be answered. MONUC in the field will speak to government officials about their human rights duties, in jails and elsewhere. Why at UN headquarters has speech become so selective?

            Again no new update was given regarding the seven UN peacekeepers held captive in Ituri. Before he left for Khartoum, what we'll call a senior UN official told Inner City Press that the UN has seen the Nepali kidnappers, but that their captor is lucid one day and not so the next. More was said but for now not reported. As the Spokesman says, things are delicate.

            In lighter news, the first day of the 2006 World Cup saw dozens of people milling in front of the television in the UN Headquarters lobby, watching Germany beat Costa Rica 4-2 in French-language TV 5. Such crowds in the lobby usually connote an act of terrorism, or perhaps a John Bolton speech. But this time, and for this month, it is sport. On the second floor, a smaller crowd gathered by the TV set to the side of the Security Council. What will happen when a match overlaps with a Security Council stakeout is not yet known. Then again, as of Friday there's no ESPN, ABC or ESPN-2 available on UN TV. At 2:50 p.m., DSG Mark Malloch Brown floated through the lobby. Let the games begin!

3:25 p.m. postscript -- the light mood can't last long. An impromptu press conference was called at the stake-out regarding the alleged targeting of civilians on a beach by the Israeli Defense Forces. Questions were shouted about the impact on the referendum. Games, not funny, of an entirely different sort.

7:15 footnote: in the UN's Delegate's Lounge, prospective spokespersons for Lebanese inquiries hold forth with martinis and thick cigars, at the bar there's rare talk of Turkmenistan and Ruhnama, and even those who joist back and forth throughout the week are all at ease. If only world peace were this easy.

Pro-Poor Talk and a Critique of the World Trade Organization from a WTO Founder: In UN Lull, Ugandan Fog and Montenegrin Mufti

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee at the U.N.

UNITED NATIONS, June 8 -- The chairman of BP / British Petroleum on Thursday denounced the high cost of remitting money from poor people to their relatives as "a horrific indictment of the financial system."

   Peter Sutherland, Kofi Annan's point-man on migration and founding director general of the World Trade Organization, also conceded that the poor are ill-served by the WTO's dissonant treatment of goods and people. Nations accede to the free movement of goods and increasing services, but restrict those who must travel in search of work or other improvement.

   Asked what might make member states be as open to people as goods and services, Mr. Sutherland responded both that there are economic benefits and that it is inexorable, given most of the developed world's declining birthrate. Thus the briefing ended, but there were ever yet more question some quite concrete. In Russia for example, with its dwindling population, much of the construction work is done by migrants from Central Asia. Uzbek immigrants live in sheds, subjected to shakedowns under threats of deportation. The use of migrant labor may well be inexorable, but the fair and humane treatment of migrants is not.

BP's Mr. Sutherland & S-G

            The recent UN migration report's author, Hania Zlotnik, was asked about this outside the briefing room. She recounted recently watching an old Public Broadcasting Corporation documentary about Chicago, in which Eastern European immigrants were exploited but now have even power. She reported that on the substance of migration, the United States is not being a problem -- only on the issue of the upcoming forum and its timing. In the wake of Wednesday's John Bolton - Mark Malloch Brown dust-up, the U.S. position on migration was not mentioned in the briefing.  

   The U.S. was the elephant in the (briefing) room, as it is on the issue of the funding of the warlords in Somalia. On that, Ambassador Loj in the morning predicted a Security Council briefing, which occurred, leading to a more formal presentation from Francois Lonseny Fall, now slated for June 19. Whether he will take questions is not yet known. On Thursday, incoming General Assembly president Haya Rashed Al Khalifa was slated to speak with the press, and then decided not to at the late minute.  Speaking in depth, not in Room 226 but rather in the UN Correspondents Association, was the Grand Mufti of Bosniak and Albanian Muslims in Montenegro, Rifat Fejzic, who painted a positive picture of the treatment of the Islamic community in what's slated to be the 192nd member state. He estimated that there are 150,000 Muslims in Serbia itself, not including Kosovo.

   A long-time Balkans observer was surprised at the Grand Mufti's upbeat take, contrasting it to the Bosnians. He referenced a Balkan proverb, that one who is bitten by a snake becomes afraid of a lizard. Independence via referendum and not bloodshed means that lizards can be addressed without fear. The Grand Mufti said that French officials have approached him, for information on how to bring about a more hierarchical organization of Muslims in France. How this will work out is anybody's guess.

            There was something of a lull at the UN on Thursday. The Secretary General urged reporters to put the speech story behind them, advice echoed by the forthcoming lame duck General Assembly president at a four-minute East Foyer stakeout. John Bolton was in London; his Security Council colleagues were in Sudan, from which Reuters reported that Joseph Kony's deputy Vincent Otti will be participating in talks with South Sudan and even Uganda. Since Mr. Otti has been indicted by the International Criminal Court, at noon the question was raised, should Mr. Otti be arrested? Near press time the new member of the Spokesman's Office team courteously disclosed that the Otti report could not be confirmed, and thus there'd be no comment. The question remains: should South Sudan arrest Mr. Otti? Time will tell the answer.

Human Rights Forgotten in UN's War of Words, Bolton versus Mark Malloch Brown: News Analysis

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee at the U.N.

UNITED NATIONS, June 7 -- The dueling speech and sound-bytes from UN Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown and John Bolton, the U.S. Ambassador, consumed the press corps and debate on Wednesday. At a three-minute stake-out in the morning, Amb. Bolton declared that "this is the worst mistake by a senior U.N. official" since 1989. (Video here, quote is at minute 2:13). At the noon briefing, after the spokesman said that the Secretary-General stands behind his Deputy's speech, he was asked if any graver mistakes by UN officials since 1989 came to mind. A topic just then being discussed in the depopulated Security Council, Rwanda, came to mind but was not mentioned.

    The spokesman was also asked, since the speech named names, if there'd be any comment on the Council of Europe's just-released report calling "reprehensible" the U.S. policy of extraordinary rendition of terrorism suspects to secret camps -- including it seems in Poland and Romania -- and from there for torture with nary a court.  The spokesman said he hadn't yet seen the report and had not comment. So much for naming names.

   Asked, in advance, about the Dutch judicial system's conviction earlier in the day of Oriental Timber Co.'s Guus Kouwenhove for violation the UN arms embargo on Liberia, the spokesman said that it is up the member states to bring enforcement actions. On Ambassador Bolton's call for now lifting the arms embargo on Liberia, the spokesman had no comment.

            Later at the very Security Council stake-out, Mark Malloch Brown appeared. He selectively took questions from reporters by name, praising the very Fox news he'd in the speech called a detractor, and dismissing the notions of polarization, either that he is too closely aligned with the Democratic Party in the U.S. or that his remarks might make matters worse by enlarging the UN as a target of Republican rhetoric. When he strode off, there were still hands in the air and questions to be asked. These include, from the text of his speech, the identities of the G-77 member "few spoilers... opposed to reform for its own sake" and his views of the major candidates for the 2008 U.S. presidential election, referred to in the final substantive line of his speech. While he'd probably "no comment" an inquiry about Senator Bill Frist, for example, one might wonder why, given the other specifics in his speech.

 versus = ???

  One mostly wonders why what he calls his friendly critique of the U.S. did not include any reference to such controversies as extraordinary rendition or, even more unreported, the essentially confirmed U.S. funding of warlords in Somalia. The references in the speech to human rights are to the Unites States' vote against the new Human Rights Council and decision not to run for a seat, and to the Security Council's attempt to expand its mandate to include human rights. The speech mentions Rush Limbaugh and not Guantanamo Bay, and one wonders why.

            One might also wonder why Mr. Malloch Brown gave his speech at such a Democratic Party-identified venue. Why not the Council on Foreign Relations? Or the American Enterprise Institute, which he mentioned by acronym at the stake-out? Why not in the UN Headquarters building, described in the speech as "in most respects the most hazardous workplace in town"?

            In fact, the previous week Richard Holbrooke said much the same thing, in an impromptu stake-out after his remarks on the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS. Holbrooke said, as taped by this reporter (see, Corporate Spin on AIDS, Holbrooke's Kudos to Montenegro and its Independence, May 31, 2006), and the unnamed CNN, which never played it:

"This administration has shown a schizophrenic attitude towards the UN. We use it when it suits our purposes, like Iran, and we bypass it in a way that undermines it. It needs to be funded, and at the same time we need to push for more reforms."

            Some might call this a Cliff Notes version of Malloch Brown's later speech. While all day reporters were urged to "read the speech," as of 5 p.m. a Google search for "you will lose the UN" did not find the speech. [5:30 update: on clicking Dep. Sect-Gen and speeches and latest, one finds the speech.] In further punditry, the first lesson and question of public relations is "who are you trying to persuade"?  This question was posed to a right-leaning pundit who was, in fact, called on by Mr. Malloch Brown. "The people where he gave the speech," was the answer. "It was a job application." If so, consider the owners of Progressive Insurance in Ohio, Middle America, and the cashing-out duo of Golden West Financial, selling to Wachovia. But if the message was directed beyond that room, again the question is, to whom? If overseas, to omit a substantive critique of U.S. human rights seems strange. And if it was directed to Middle America, the phrase in the speech, it is not clear that the speech's venue, its gleeful dissection on Fox News or the subsequent stake-out are enough.

            In other fruitless stake-out news, while at the noon briefing it was announced that Carla Del Ponte and her replacement on the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, Hassan B. Jallow, would take questions after their time in the Security Council, Ms. Del Ponte walked right by the microphone and brushed off those reporters who trailed her.

            Security Council president Loj did stop and take questions. On Somalia, she said she anticipates a briefing on Thursday and next week. Asked again to comment on Denmark's failure to response to the UNAIDS survey, she deferred to a staffer, who reiterated this written response:

"From: Michael Starbaek Christensen [at]
To: Matthew.Lee [at]
Sent: Mon, 5 Jun 2006 15:42:42 -0400
Subject: Un  AIDS survey

  "Dear Matthew, I checked with the Danish delegation to the HIV/AIDS high level event. In Denmark, the Ministry of Health is in charge of the Danish efforts to prevent and inform about HIV/AIDS. The efforts are concentrated on the substantive work in this field, and resources have not been earmarked to produce a report to the UN."

            In refusing to even respond to a UN project on AIDS, is Denmark a "spoiler," as phrased in the Malloch Brown speech? On Denmark's (non-) response, UNAIDS has yet to respond to a request for comment. Selective naming of names, selective allowing of questions. How it will turn out remains to be seen

Other Inner City Press reports are archived on

AIDS Ends at the UN? Side Deals on Patents, Side Notes on Japanese Corporations, Salvadoran and Violence in Burundi

On AIDS at the UN, Who Speaks and Who Remains Unseen

Corporate Spin on AIDS, Holbrooke's Kudos to Montenegro and its Independence (May 31, 2006)

Kinshasa Election Nightmares, from Ituri to Kasai. Au Revoir Allan Rock; the UN's Belly-Dancing

Working with Warlords, Insulated by Latrines: Somalia and Pakistan Addressed at the UN

The Silence of the Congo and Naomi Watts; Between Bolivia and the World Bank

Human Rights Council Has Its Own Hanging Chads; Cocky U.S. State Department Spins from SUVs

Child Labor and Cargill and Nestle; Iran, Darfur and WHO's on First with Bird Flu

Press Freedom? Editor Arrested by Congo-Brazzaville, As It Presides Over Security Council

The Place of the Cost-Cut UN in Europe's Torn-Up Heart;
Deafness to Consumers, Even by the Greens

Background Checks at the UN, But Not the Global Compact; Teaching Statistics from Turkmenbashi's Single Book

Ripped Off Worse in the Big Apple, by Citigroup and Chase: High Cost Mortgages Spread in Outer Boroughs in 2005, Study Finds

Burundi: Chaos at Camp for Congolese Refugees, Silence from UNHCR, While Reform's Debated by Forty Until 4 AM

In Liberia, From Nightmare to Challenge; Lack of Generosity to Egeland's CERF, Which China's Asked About

The Chadian Mirage: Beyond French Bombs, Is Exxon In the Cast? Asylum and the Uzbeks, Shadows of Stories to Come

Through the UN's One-Way Mirror, Sustainable Development To Be Discussed by Corporations, Even Nuclear Areva

Racial Disparities Grew Worse in 2005 at Citigroup, HSBC and Other Large Banks

Mine Your Own Business: Explosive Remnants of War and the Great Powers, Amid the Paparazzi

Human Rights Are Lost in the Mail: DR Congo Got the Letter, But the Process is Still Murky

Iraq's Oil to be Metered by Shell, While Basrah Project Remains Less than Clear

At the UN, Dues Threats and Presidents-Elect, Unanswered Greek Mission Questions

Kofi, Kony, Kagame and Coltan: This Moment in the Congo and Kampala

As Operation Swarmer Begins, UN's Qazi Denies It's Civil War and Has No Answers if Iraq's Oil is Being Metered

Cash Crop: In Nepal, Bhutanese Refugees Prohibited from Income Generation Even in their Camps

The Shorted and Shorting in Humanitarian Aid: From Davos to Darfur, the Numbers Don't Add Up

UN Reform: Transparency Later, Not Now -- At Least Not for AXA - WFP Insurance Contract

In Congolese Chaos, Shots Fired at U.N. Helicopter Gunship

In the Sudanese Crisis, Oil Revenue Goes Missing, UN Says

Empty Words on Money Laundering and Narcotics, from the UN and Georgia

What is the Sound of Eleven Uzbeks Disappearing? A Lack of Seats in Tashkent, a Turf War at UN

Kosovo: Of Collective Punishment and Electricity; Lights Out on Privatization of Ferronikeli Mines

Abkhazia: Cleansing and (Money) Laundering, Says Georgia

Post-Tsunami Human Rights Abuses, including by UNDP in the Maldives

Who Pays for the Global Bird Flu Fight? Not the Corporations, So Far - UN

Citigroup Dissembles at United Nations Environmental Conference

Other Inner City Press reports are archived on

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