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Off Somali Coast, Norway, UN and Kenya Make Plan for Drilling Rights, Pirates of the Pen

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: Exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, April 19 -- While the international press focuses on the teenage Somali pirates who took the American ship Maersk Alabama and captain Richard Phillips and were killed, Kenya and Norway and the installed Somali government are quietly dealing the continental shelf off Somalia away to the benefit of the former two.

    While the press says Somalia has no government, Kenya with Norway's and the UN's behind the scenes assistance has filed with the UN a “Memorandum of Understanding” between itself and the “Transitional Federal Government of the Somali Republic,” ensuring that Somalia will be unable to later object to Kenya's claim to undersea oil drilling rights.

    The related 15-page memo, also filed with the UN, makes the UN's and Norway's role clear. It recites that Special Representative of the Secretary General Ahmedou Ould Abdallah

"initiated the preparation of preliminary information indicative of the outer limits of the continental shelf of Somalia beyond 200 nautical miles... In the preparation of this material the SRSG accepted an offer of assistance from the Government of Norway... Both the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate have been involved in the preparation... All of the expenses related to the preparation of the present submission have been covered by the Government of Norway."

    Norway, of course, is a major oil producer. Absent safeguards that do not appear to be in place, it is viewed as a conflict of interest for Norway to pay for and prepare a filing about drilling rights for an African country described as having no government. And yet little has been said, and the UN has accepted the filing. Call them pirates of the pen.


UN's Ould Abdallah, Norwegian funding and Somali drilling rights not shown

   As one close observer put it to Inner City Press, “Ould Abdallah started the whole process -- the UN asks Somalia to submit papers and the UN special envoy Ould prepares the papers Somalia is submitting -- why waste time, have the UN and Mr. Ould Abdallah directly handle things instead of abusing the poor colonial era chiefs such as the Transitional Federal Government.”

   For this Somali government, the deal was signed by Abdirahman Abdishakur, the Minister of Planning and International Cooperation, whom Inner City Press last saw in June 2008 at the UN-sponsored (and paid-for) talks of Somali expatriates held in a luxury hotel, the Kempinski, in Djibouti.

   The UN has been remarkably untransparent about financing in Somalia. Most recently, Inner City Press asked Mr. Ould Abdallah about the UN's financing of not only the Djibouti talks but now also Somali parliamentarians. (Inner City Press also asked about a UN-affiliated humanitarian worker now held by kidnappers for months; Ould Adballah has yet to revert with the promised update information.)

   On financing, Ould Abdallah affably told Inner City Press to ask his spokeswoman, who in turn referred Inner City Press to the UN Development Program. UNDP produced boilerplate, with no funding amounts nor the recipients of the funding:

From: UNDP Spokesman
To: Inner City Press
Sent: Thu, 26 Mar 2009 10:47 am

The Djibouti peace process is led by the UN political office (UNPOS) and funded by various donors, for which UNDP plays an administrative and logistical support role. As far as the start-up package is concerned, donors contributed to the project and their contributions have been channeled by UNDP in 2008 to provide some basic infrastructure support to the TFG institutions. This includes computers, office furniture, travel costs to/from Somalia and some rehabilitation of office buildings. In total, around 6.5M USD has been disbursed for this project, financed by a consortium of donors (EC, DFID, Norway, Sweden, USAID, Italy).

   Now, the UN participates in Norway's and Kenya's grab for Somalia's undersea drilling rights. Italy of course is the former colonial power. What roles might other countries, including Permanent Five members of the UN Security Council, have? Watch this site.

Footnote: the one pirate -- the “leader” -- captured in the Maersk Alabama incident is only16 years old. Inner City Press asked UN Associate Spokesman Farhan Haq if the UN has any concerns under the rubric of its Children and Armed Conflict mandate about the United States putting the 16 year old, who presumably began group pirating while a minor, on trial as an adult in the U.S. Federal Court for the Southern District of New York. Haq expressed no concerns. Video here.

  Inner City Press asked UNICEF, “what is UNICEF's comment on the calls to put a reportedly 16 year old Somali 'pirate' on trial, in the US or elsewhere? Is UNICEF doing anything about children recruited into or active in Somali piracy?” UNICEF spokesman Chris Debono answered:

Subj: Re: Q re children in Somalia (piracy)
From: [Spokesman at]
To: Inner City Press
Sent: 4/13/2009 5:06:04 P.M. Eastern Standard Time
Hi Matthew, if children are accused of crimes, they should be treated in compliance with international standards of juvenile justice and with the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

   The UN recently advised on and praised an episode of the U.S. television show Law and Order which took the position that the mantle (and defense) of child soldier applies to an individual who began combat as a minor, even if acts of combat (or piracy) continues after the sixteenth birthday. But would this UN stand up to the United States with this position on a Somali pirate? The same UN which is taking Norwegian money to put in play Somalia's drilling rights? Watch this site.

  Click here for a new YouTube video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

* * *

These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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