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Chaos in UN's Somalia Policy, Working With Islamists Under Sanctions While Meeting with Private Military Contractors

Byline: Senior Reporter of Inner City Press at the UN

UNITED NATIONS, October 2 -- With the Islamic Courts Union having asserted control over south central Somalia from June of this year, the UN has quietly reached out to hard-line Islamists while at the same time meeting with competing U.S.-based private military contractors.

            The recent Islamist march on the southern port of Kismayu reportedly used non-Somali fighters, from Saudi Arabia, Yemen and elsewhere. An Inner City Press correspondent in the region reports on Hasan 'Turki' and his Shabab group admitting at rallies that "brothers in Islam" helped drive the former Jubba Valley Alliance (JVA) out of Kismayu. These traveling Islamists were featured in a fundraising video that has circulated at least since April, as the ICU moved to control Mogadishu.

            In the video, the foreign fighters are commanded by Shaykh Yusuf Inda "White Eyes" 'Addeh, who serves as deputy and financier for Hasan Dahir Aweys. As relates to the UN, he has also been seen, and pictured, meeting chief UN security officer for Somalia Joe Gordon earlier this year when a UN team visited Jowhar.

Somalia per UN / OCHA

            In order to better ascertain the specific of the UN's contacts in Somalia, Inner City Press three weeks ago asked the two New York-based spokespeople of the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, headed by Jan Egeland, to simply confirm or deny OCHA's dealings with Aden Hashi 'Ayro, who is widely reported to be the main link to al-Qaeda in Somalia, and who has also been seen with the UN's Joe Gordon. 

   To provide context for the question and to encourage a timely response, Inner City Press informed OCHA, and Kofi Annan's spokesman's office of 'Ayro's history digging up bones from an old Italian cemetery in Mogadishu and destroying them before building a corrugated metal mosque on top of the cemetery. It has been reported that the U.S. tried to capture 'Ayro using the militia of warlord Qanyare Afrah from Daynile, since chased into the DR Congo by the Islamic Courts. According to this account, they missed 'Ayro but seized his brother and an associated, who were then (un?) extraordinarily rendered to Djibouti. Subsequently they were charged for the murders of a man and wife team of British teachers, the Eyeingtons, and they are on death row in Hargeisa. On the involvement of foreign fighters in Kismayu, click here for an account in the reportedly pro-Abdullahi Yusuf Garowe Online service. Click here for ICG's report, including that "the most notorious member of Aweys's inner circle, however, is Hashi Ayro, now a militia commander for Ifka Halane court, who desecrated a colonial-era Italian cemetery in early 2005 and has been linked to murders, including of four foreign aid workers, a British journalist and a prominent Somali peace activist.29 Ayro's militia are believed to have provided protection for al-Qaeda operatives involved in the U.S. embassy bombings, the bombing of a Kenyan tourist hotel and the attempted shoot-down of an Israeli
charter airliner."

            So three weeks ago, UN's OCHA was asked to simply confirm or deny dealings with 'Ayro. Two weeks ago OCHA's main spokeswoman complained when Inner City Press reiterated the question, saying she was awaiting a response from OCHA in Somalia. Now in three weeks OCHA has not denied or confirmed working with 'Ayro. More questions have arisen:

who in fact are the UN's security contact points among the Islamists? Why did UN personnel meet Shaykh Inda 'Addeh? What is the link between Shaykh Hasan Dahir Aweys, Hasan 'Turki', Aden Hashi 'Ayro and Inda 'Addeh? What is the UN's position on reports that they are dealing with a group that is linked to al-Qaeda, to the 1998 US Embassy bombs in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, the 2002 Mombasa hotel bombing and the attempted rocket attack on an Israeli charter out of that city, plus multiple attacks in Ethiopia? 

            The fact that Islamists now control much of Somalia would be part of an explanation of working with unsavory characters to deliver aid. But it's an explanation that should be provided, and cannot be merely assumed.

            On September 21, Inner City Press raised the issue again, at the UN Spokesman's Office's noon briefing, click here for transcript:

Inner City Press question:  I have two questions into OCHA and about Somalia, that if you could light a fire under them...

 Associate Spokesman:  And what are those questions?

Inner City Press questions:  Whether OCHA works with a particular member of the Islamic Courts known to have torn up Italian cemeteries and built a mosque on top on them, a known fanatic.  Just a question whether they work with him or not.  And whether in fact there is, as is reported, an investigation of UNDP Somalia for missing funds?  Those are the two questions and both of them said they would give an answer as of last week and have not.

Associate Spokesman:  Well, I'm sure they are still looking into those two questions.  As for your first question, we are permanently in contact with the Somali authorities and we have an office based in Nairobi that specially monitors development in Somalia, and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia has very specifically the mandate of monitoring developments in Somalia.  So, he is touch regularly with the authorities in Somalia.  And, I will make sure that my colleagues get back to you on your two other questions.

            That was said more than ten days before this report, but no information has been provided. Now that October has arrived, Inner City Press checked in again with the UN Spokesman's Office. There has still been no reply.

            The UN Spokesman's office did, however, previously provide an answer to Inner City Press' request for specifics on UNDP's meetings with U.S.-based military contractors.

            As the Islamic Courts Union asserted control over south central Somalia in June of this year, two U.S.-based private military firms sought to work for the embattled Transitional Federal Government, reportedly with weapons bought under Uganda's end user certificate to evade the arms embargo imposed on Somalia by the UN Security Council. Inner City Press asked, and received this response:

Subject: in response to your first question on Somalia

To: [  at]

From: [   at]

  In response to your question about the meeting, what we can tell you about that is as follows:

- Two representatives of Select Armor visited the offices of the UNDP Rule of Law and Security (ROLS) Program earlier this year. Their visit was related to the reform of the Somali security sector. The facts of that meeting are:

- Ms. Michele Ballarin, Chief Executive of Select Armor, accompanied by General Douglas Eaton requested the meeting at UNDP. They said they had been designated by the Office of the President of Somalia to plan for the training of police Officers. They met with Mr. Sidi Zahabi, Program Manager with the ROLS program and Colonel Henricus (Harry) Haen, Senior Military Adviser with the UN Political Office for Somalia and interim chairman of the Security Sector Technical Working Group which coordinates Somali security sector reform initiatives. The focus of the conversation at UNDP was a briefing on UNDP's police training program for Somalia, particularly at the two academies in the north as well as the planned expansion of training sites in south central

in support of the National Security and Stabilization Plan (NSSP) and national police training needs.

... Our UNDP colleagues are following up on your query about any investigation into financial fraud in UNDP Somalia... we'll get back to you as soon as we have something.

            And still there has been no response. Developing.

Feedback: editorial [at]

UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

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Exclusion from Water Is Sometimes Called Progress, of Straw Polls and WFP Succession

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

UNITED NATIONS, September 28 -- In rural Chad, less then five percent of people have access to acceptable sanitation systems. Chad is a country with oil resources, much courted by China. In rural Ethiopia, only seven percent of people have improved sanitation. Ethiopia, recipient of substantial military aid from the United States, has most recently sent troops into Somalia, where fourteen percent of rural residents have improved sanitation.

   On Thursday UNICEF released a report card on sanitation and access to clean water. After a briefing by UNICEF executive director Ann Veneman and Ugandan minister Maria Mutagamba, Inner City Press asked how it could be that Chad was reported as on track to meet the Millennium Development Goal. The answer was that Chad is to be commended for reducing the gap between rural and urban availability, even if it is still the case that 43 percent of rural residents, and only 41 percent of urban residents, have access to clean water. Video here, from minute 24:05.

            While the focus appears to be on congratulating governments for any relative improvements, as the UNDP has done in praising Uzbekistan, one wonders if congratulating such condition is not enshrining a lower standards for Africa and countries like Cambodia, where only eight percent of rural residents have access to improved sanitation.

Water in Tunisia per UNICEF

            After the press conference, Inner City Press asked Ms. Veneman if she could confirm the identify of the United States' candidate to replace James Morris as head of the UN World Food Program. Ms. Veneman had testified Tuesday to the U.S. Congress, along with Mr. Morris. Ms. Veneman said, however, advised Inner City Press to "ask the U.S. government, I can't speak for them, I don't know if its public yet." As to the process, she said that an advertisement for the new WFP director has run in The Economist magazine and that some countries have forwarded candidates. Inner City Press will have more after, as Ms. Veneman suggested, asking the U.S. government. Ms. Veneman added that on Tuesday her and Mr. Morris' briefing was more detailed than usual, as mostly only Senator Lugar asked questions. She mentioned that a friend had seen the Senate hearing on C-SPAN, rebroadcast at 11 p.m., and had stayed up to 1 a.m. to watch it.

            Inner City Press also asked the Secretary-General's Spokesman's Office about the process to select a new WFP executive director, in an exchange transcribed by the UN:

Question:  I think that World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director James Morris has said he is going to leave.  Is the Secretary-General, before he leaves here, going to appoint a successor and what is the process due to appoint a successor at WFP?

Associate Spokesman:  Well, I donít have information on that and I havenít seen the report that you are referring to in which the Director of WFP said he was leaving.

Question:  The US is circulating a new candidate that is why Iím raising it to you?  If you could, later today, confirm it?

Associate Spokesman:  I will look into that, but I donít have information on that right now.

[The Spokesmanís Office later announced that the process to find a successor to the current Executive Director of the WFP was under way and that they expected a shortlist of candidates to be made available soon.]

            While Inner City Press already has a good sense of who and from where these candidates are, further reporting will wait until Ms. Veneman's advice, to asked the U.S. government, has been followed. Inner City Press also asked about Ivory Coast:

Question:  On the Ivory Coast, since the meeting here that President Gbagbo didnít attend, thereís this attempt to mediate by the President of South Africa.  The rebels or the opposition in CŰte díIvoire said he shouldnít be the mediator.  Has the UN taken any position on that, and, what is the UNís continuing involvement now that the meeting here did not result in any solution?  What are the next steps?  Does the Secretary-General view the South African President as a fair mediator in this?

Associate Spokesman:  The Secretary-General supports the work of Mr. Mbeki, who was appointed by the African Union to mediate the conflict in the Ivory Coast and I believe that as far as the UN is concerned, the peace process there and the negotiations towards a resolutions of the conflict are proceeding fairly well.  And we have, as I told you, I believe last week, we have a series of regional meetings planned.  The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) will be holding a meeting in the next 10 days or so, which will be followed by an African Union meeting, and we hope to have, sometime towards the end of October here, another formal meeting of the Security Council to address the situation in CŰte díIvoire.  But, the negotiations for achieving peace in CŰte díIvoire are proceeding well.

            We'll see. So far the initiative of Mbeki, a personal friend of Gbagbo just as Mkapa is a friend of Zimbabwe's Mugabe, has been criticized by the Ivorian opposition and the president of Senegal, among others. Meanwhile at the UN, most of the media's focus was on the Security Council's straw poll leading to the selection of the next Secretary General. The focus was on how many "discouragement" votes each of the seven candidates got. The South Korean front runner received only one discouragement, and one "no opinion." There was speculation that this "no opinion" was from France. A French diplomat told reporters that France was not the "discouragement" vote. The plot, like a sauce, thickens, leading to Monday's straw poll with colored ballots, to show if the discouragement comes from one of the veto-wielding Permanent Five members of the Council.

            At the Security Council stakeout, video here, Inner City Press asked Venezuela's foreign minister Nicolas Maduro for Venezuela's position on Darfur.  We'll speak when the debate starts, Mr. Maduro answered. But the debate is already far advanced...

            Finally, on openness, Inner City Press asked the General Assembly president's gracious spokeswoman:

Question:  Itís sort of a general question, having seen that 15 out of the 16 meetings held today are closed -- at least the ones listed.  If you could, who decides what General Assembly meetings are closed to the press and public?

Spokeswoman:  That depends on the Member States in large measure, whether the meeting is open or closed because it would depend on the item on the agenda.  And, at this point in time, most of it is organizational, and I think thatís probably the reason why itís closed to you -- because they are looking at organizing their agenda, in each committee, getting everything in order.  Once thatís finished, I donít think that you will be precluded from most of them.

Question:  Would the President of the Assembly consider giving some guidance at the start of this session?  Even in the last one, I remember, there were meetings that were sometimes closed and then you go in and nobody cared that you went in.  I guess Iím just raising it, maybe at some point, when she has a position on it, if more things should be open under her tenure.  At some later date, you could maybe address it?

Spokeswoman:  I will certainly raise it with her -- that there is a concern.

  Time will tell...

William Swing Sings Songs of Congo's Crisis, No Safeguards on Coltan Says Chairman of Intel

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

   UNITED NATIONS, September 27 -- The run-off election in the Congo, the United Nations' focus in that country, is on schedule for October 29 and looking good, UN envoy William Lacy Swing said Wednesday.

   Swing briefed the UN Security Council, whose president emerged to say he hopes the second round goes at smoothly as the first. Since the first round was followed by clashing militias in the capital, and since even Swing acknowledged the recent arrest of hundreds of street children, either the UN has low standards for the Congo, or Swing is behind the closed Council doors painting a decidedly rosy picture.

   In front of the TV camera outside the Council chamber, Inner City Press asked Swing about the UN's changing story on an incident at Kazana in Eastern Congo's Ituri region in which a village was burned down.

   "The huts that were burned down were militia huts," Mr. Swing said. But Inner City Press' sources, including eyewitnesses in Kazana that day, state that the burned huts had well-tended gardens, swept walkways and household utensils not associated with militia, in Congo or anywhere else.

            "We have never declared an intention to do an investigation as such" of Kazana, William Swing said into the camera, click here to view from Minute 5 of 9. But the UN's head of peacekeeping Jean-Marie Guehenno answered an Inner City Press question in late July of this year by saying he was "studying" the Kazana investigation carried out by the UN's mission in Congo, MONUC.

  Since then, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations has had to change the date they had ascribed to the Kazana incident, and has had to admit that huts were burned down. The claim by Swing that all huts belonged to militia, and that there will be -- and has been -- no investigation is questions unanswered that must continue to be asked.

UN's Ross Mountain in Ituri

            So too with question surrounding the Congo warlord who kidnapped seven UN peacekeepers for a month this past July. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan had said, on camera, that Peter Karim would face "personal accountability." But Wednesday Mr. Annan's envoy William Swing said that from "early on" in the negotiations leading to the peacekeepers' released, there was an intention to offer Karim a rank on the Congolese army. That has not been "fully consummated," Swing said. There are reports that Karim is conscripting more fighters, including children, to order to gain the title of general.

            Inner City Press has been told that during the month-long negotiation with Peter Karim, that Karim was a Muslim and a member of Al Qaeda floated through one or more agencies of the U.S. government, and the U.S. quickly got involved in the negotiations. Wednesday Inner City Press asked Mr. Swing about this. Swing responded that in and around Ituti there are many "Muslim adherents" and mosques, but that he was not "aware of that."

            Aware of Peter Karim's status, or if the U.S. had gotten interested? Neither, Mr. Swing said, on camera. Video here, from Minute 8:15. That question will continue to be explored. After the ten minute Q&A, Inner City Press showed Mr. Swing an article which had come up -- click here -- and on which comment should be forthcoming.

            At an earlier briefing on the digital divide, Inner City Press asked Intel's chairman Craig Barrett about any safeguards in place to ensure that the used coltan does not come from conflict zones in the Congo. Are there any safeguards? "Not that I'm aware of," Mr Barrett answered. Click here to view, at Minute 27:14.

            The UN Spokesman's office provided two post-briefing answers. Inner City Press has asked about reports that Sudan's Al-Bashir government sabotages military equipment that comes in bound for Darfur, as U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Frazer told Inner City Press last week. The UN's responses on Wednesday were not entirely consistent: that UNMIS in Khartoum has not received complaints, but that UN envoy Jan Pronk spoke about this issue before Ms. Frazer did. Which is it?

            Asked about a request by the opposition in Zimbabwe that the UN cease for now accepting Zimbabwean troops as peacekeepers, given the issues in Harare, the UN responded that it will only act on such requests when they come from governments. On a related report that at least one Zimbabwean soldier was involuntarily returned from a UN peacekeeping mission after reports of abuse, the UN responded that its personnel actions are generally confidential. An exception was made for a list on sexual exploitation and abuse recently provided to Inner City Press because these "are crimes," the UN said Wednesday. These issues and the situation in Zimbabwe, in which Mr. Annan stepped back from mediating due to the now-questionable involvement of Ben Mkapa, will continue to be followed closely.

            Among the closest followers of speeches and resulting online news articles in the latter stages of the UN's General Debate must be Azerbaijan. Reacting to a UN News headline, "Armenia Azerbaijan and Armenia Exchange Accusations on Nagorno-Karabakh During UN Debate," which was sent out by email at 5 p.m. Tuesday to Inner City Press and others, Azerbaijan complained and the story was unceremoniously taken down, the headline's "trade accusation" switched to "address issue" and the article substantially edited. But the two countries did trade barbs, as Inner City Press recently reported after dueling statements in the General Assembly about even jointly putting out fires in the disputed region. Or shouldn't we use the word "disputed"? To paraphrase New York tabloid columnist Cindy Adams, "Only at the UN, kids, only at the UN."

Warlord in the Waldorf and Other Congo Questions Dodged by the UN in the Time Between Elections

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press

   September 26-27, 2006 -- The United Nations Mission in the Congo, MONUC, is the UN system's largest peacekeeping project. In the run-up to MONUC chief William Lacy Swing's September 27 briefing to the Security Council, five questions have been raised to the Office of the Spokesman for the UN and MONUC. One was referred to the U.S. State Department, one was ignored and another awaits response.

   Two questions, regarding the mass arrest in Kinshasa of 500 woman and children and the German Defense Minister's desire to pull out the European Union force in November, garnered terse responses. On the former, " more than a dozen children and some 100 other men and women, some with babies, remained in custody on Tuesday inside the police compound in Kinshasa." Click here.  The UN responded, "About recent violence, he Secretary General has repeatedly appealed to Congolese and their leaders to ensure that the elections proceed peacefully."

   On the statement by German Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung, the UN's response is that it did not expect the EU force to stay.

   A question about William Lacy Swing's previous service in Liberia in the time Samuel Doe, during which current president Sirleaf-Johnson was locked up, was referred to the U.S. State Department, or to Swing "in his personal capacity."

The UN in Kinshasa

  A question about the continued boycott of the second round of elections by the largest opposition party, the Union for Democracy and Social Progress  and its leader, Etienne Tshisekedi, has yet to be answered. UPDS released a statement saying that the UN has excluded it; the UN has not responded. And a fourth question, pending for 48 hours, has been entirely ignored. This was the question, and context, posed to the Spokesman's office on the afternoon of September 25:

[Please]  provide any background or comment on ex-militia leader Mbusa Nyamwisi, formerly of the Armee Populaire Congolaise of the RCD / KML and now minister for regional cooperation of the DR of Congo? This question is asked in the context, among other things, of U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Frazer's comment last week [to Inner City Press] that MONUC must closely scrutinize the FARDC and wider DRC government if MONUC is going to continue to work with them]

            The further context of this still-unanswered question is that on September 22 at the Waldorf=Astoria Hotel on Manhattan's Park Avenue, Inner City Press spoke with ex-warlord Mbusa Nyamwisi, who said he was staying in room 1612 of the Waldorf through the weekend, even though Joseph Kabila had left town. Mbusa Nyamwisi  was the counterparty to Jean-Pierre Bemba in the latter's Operation "Effacer Le Tableau" (Erase the Blackboard) in Eastern Congo, in which villages were burned, civilians killed and pygmies were reportedly eaten.  Friday Mbusa Nyamwisi's belly was larger and softer as he settled in for a weekend in New York.  In the first round of the election, Mbusa Nyamwisi threw his weight behind Kabila. Is this the UN's work plan? One would expect some comment. In any event, we will soon have a longer, more nuanced view of Mbusa Nyamwisi.

            Inner City Press has had in a request to interview W. L. Swing. Tuesday at noon it was announced that Mr. Swing will take questions after he briefs the Security Council on Wednesday. Inner City Press aims to be there, to get these questions answered. Watch this site.

At the UN, Tales of Media Muzzled in Yemen, Penned in at the Waldorf on Darfur, While Copters Grounded

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

UNITED NATIONS, September 22 -- This week's Yemeni elections, mentioned as a sign of hope by U.S. President George W. Bush in his speech to the UN General Assembly, have resulted in charges of fraud by the opposition. On Friday at a UN press conference, Inner City Press asked Yemen's Minister of Foreign Affairs Abubakr A. Al-Qirbi about the opposition's charges. Al-Qirbi responded that since the opposition is also attacking the credibility of European Union observers, their claims should be taken with skepticism.

            Inner City Press then asked about a report by the Human Rights Information and Training Center, that state-run television in Yemen favored the incumbent Ali Abdullah Saleh. Foreign Minister Al-Qirbi responded that in the run-up to the election, opposition parties founded human rights groups to raise claims on their behave. Inner City Press then asked if Al-Qirby was stating, beyond just implying, that the Human Rights Information and Training Center was a front for opposition parties. After some hesitation Al-Qirby said, "As far as a know, it was not founded by opposition parties."

            Then Yemen's Ambassador to the UN, who'd sat with Al-Qirby at the podium, added that "Our neighbors say: 'This is unprecedented that you allow the opposition to come in and attack you on the official TV." Video here, following Minute 20:30. This quote showed up mis-attributed to Al-Qirby himself in a hastily-issued Associated Press article without a byline, entitled "Yemen's FM denies vote-rigging, praises advances toward democracy." These things happen, apparently, during a grueling week of General Assembly debate.

West Darfur per UN

            Other exhausted reporters gathered Friday from 4 to 6 at the Waldorf=Astoria Hotel on Park Avenue. In the Hilton Room just off lobby where a piano tastefully played, Mark Malloch Brown, Condoleeza Rice and the foreign ministers of Denmark, Ghana, Senegal and other countries met about Darfur. Reporters were ejected from the room once opening statements were over. In the lobby, U.S. security personnel pushed reporters into an impromptu pen, after a dog has sniffed their equipment (TV equipment, we mean). To while away the hour and a half of the meeting, reporters who'd accompanied Condi Rice from DC swamped stories. One well-groomed Fox News reporter told the tale of a woman who'd just ended a relationship of six year, because she caught her partner cheating with another man -- the third time this had happened to the woman. "I told her it's not her, it's societal," the Fox man said. Later Condi Rice called on him by name, for a question why the U.S. is not being harder on Iran. And so it goes...

            On Darfur, beyond set-up Condi Rice stakeout at the Waldorf, at the UN reporters asked Amre Moussa, secretary-general of the League of Arab States, about the lack of Arab League support for the African Union mission in Sudan, AMIS, on which Inner City Press reported yesterday.  Amre Moussa answered vaguely that now that AMIS' mandate has been extended through the end of the year, financial support will be forthcoming, in an amount yet to be determined.

            On the U.S.'s charges -- video now online here -- that Sudan's Al-Bashir government has been sabotaging armored personnel carriers en route to AMIS in Darfur, and delaying the issues of visas, Inner City Press asked these questions at the UN Spokesman's noon briefing on Friday, as summarized by the UN:

   Asked about comments from U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Jendayi Frazer that the Sudanese Government has been dismantling armored personnel carriers and other equipment intended for the African Union Mission in Sudan, the Spokesman said that the United Nations intended to move more than 100 UN personnel, as well as communications equipment, to help bolster the AU Mission prior to the transition to a UN force.

    He said that, as with any peacekeeping force, the United Nations in Sudan would have to work with the sovereign government, but it would expect all equipment that it delivers to be 'in one piece.' He noted that UN personnel would accompany the equipment being transported to the African Union Mission

            In further inquiries, Inner City Press has heard that the Sudanese Army has been allowed to tamper with AMIS' helicopters at night, removing for example the motor oil so that the helicopters can't fly in the mornings, and military actions against civilians can continue. A correspondent reports that the UN's man in Sudan, Jan Pronk, speaks of equipment languishing in Port Sudan, under control of the Al-Bashir government.

            Back in media-world, penned in at the Waldorf, among the unrelated news-bits learned is that Ghana's Foreign Minister Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, whom Inner City Press interviewed during Ghana's Security Council presidency in August of this year, click here to read, plans to run for the presidency of Ghana in 2008. One correspondent at the Waldorf Friday reminisced about Ghana's Council presidency, compared to the current president, who at Friday afternoon declined to do a stakeout interview after a Council meeting at which a President Statement on Congo was issued and Sudan acted on. When a business-minded reporter asked him if the UN's political chief Ibrahim Gambari might be the one to brief the Council on Myanmar, the current Council president responded, "You are asking about unimportant matters." Unimportant to whom?

Third Day of UN General Debate Gets Surreal, Canapes and Killings, Questions on Iran and Montenegro and Still Somalia

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

UNITED NATIONS, September 20 -- On the sidelines of the unfolding UN General Assembly meeting, surreal scene unfold, such as Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov speaking with reporters in front of a graphic photo exhibition of victims of terrorism, while canapes go like hot cakes, literally. This took place Thursday evening, three-quarters of the way through a day of speeches. Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in a press conference in Conference Room 4 mused which of his questioners were Zionists, and which one "work for the UN... trying to enforce Security Council resolution" like Resolution 1701 barring weapons in Lebanon except for that country's government.

   Ahmadinejad said repeatedly that he supports people who are getting killed, anywhere and by anyone. Time or the MC did not allow for these questions to be asked: what about in Darfur? Or in Xingjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, or Chechnya?


  Thursday at the UN began with a ceremony for the International Day of Peace, including without explanation Michael Douglas, Jane Goodall and on cello, Yo-Yo Ma. There was singing by a choir of 193 children -- one wag wondered if this was a harbinger of the outcome of the Kosovo status talks, given that there are currently only 192 member states of the UN.

  Number 192, Montenegro, told Media Accreditation, which told the Spokesman's Office, which told correspondents, that the new nation's prime minister would appear at the Security Council stakeout to take questions. Inner City Press passed through metal detectors with two questions to ask. But there was no microphone, no camera, and no Montenegrins. Here though are the questions: what will happen with the weapons Montenegro says it will sell, now that it has split with Serbia? And what are the prime minister's plans, to step down or not? And what about cigarette smuggling? But that would be the third, unanswered question...

   Some statements are so surreal they preempt all questions. Briefing on the Day of Peace, it was read-out that "in Somalia, for example, our office there tells us that communities in major population centers throughout the country are celebrating the Day with special activities ranging from peace marches and sporting events to music and dance." But the UN's own write-up of the Day of Peace quotes UN "Special Representative Francois Lonseny Fall highlighted two 'particularly violent events this week [that] have pushed peace deeper into the shadows,' the murder of an Italian nun who had served the needs of children in Mogadishu and the assassination attempt on President Abdullahi Yusuf in Baidoa. 'I wish I could paint a bright picture for Somalia today, but there are too many clouds, too many uncertainties on the horizon. And there are far too many competing interests that have too little to do with the profound humanitarian needs of the civilian population and the development of the country,' he said." So what happened to the music and dance?

  At the same briefing, Inner City Press was asked to summarize its still-unanswered questions on Somalia. From the transcript:

Question:  What communications has the UN system had with Transition Federal Government since the assassination attempt?  And, I have two questions into OCHA and about Somalia, that if you could light a fire under themÖ

Associate Spokesman:  And what are those questions?

Question:  Whether OCHA works with a particular member of the Islamic Courts known to have torn up Italian cemeteries and built a mosque on top on them, a known fanatic.  Just a question whether they work with him or not.  And whether in fact there is, as is reported, an investigation of UNDP Somalia for missing funds?  Those are the two questions and both of them said they would give an answer as of last week and have not.

Associate Spokesman:  Well, Iím sure they are still looking into those two questions.  As for your first question, we are permanently in contact with the Somali authorities and we have an office based in Nairobi that specially monitors development in Somalia, and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia has very specifically the mandate of monitoring developments in Somalia.  So, he is touch regularly with the authorities in Somalia.  And, I will make sure that my colleagues get back to you on your two other questions.

  Inner City Press checked in later with the Associate Spokesman and reiterated the questions. So now we'll just wait...

Other Inner City Press reports are archived on

As UN Checks Toxins in Abidjan, the Dumper Trafigura Figured in Oil for Food Scandal, Funded by RBS and BNP Paribas

Targeting of African Americans For High Cost Mortgages Grew Worse in 2005, While Fed Downplays Its Own Findings

The UN and Nagorno-Karabakh: Flurries of Activity Leave Frozen Conflicts Unchanged; Updates on Gaza, Gavels and Gbagbo

The UN Cries Poor on Lawless Somalia, While Its Ex-Security Chief Does Business Through Ruleless Revolving Door

At the UN, Micro-States Simmer Under the Assembly's Surface, While Incoming Council President Dodges Most Questions

"Horror Struck" is How UN Officials Getting Free Housing from Governments Would Leave U.S., Referral on Burma But Not Uzbekistan

Security Council President Condemns UN Officials Getting Free Housing from Governments, While UK "Doesn't Do It Any More"

At the UN, Incomplete Reforms Allow for Gifts of Free Housing to UN Officials by Member States

Rare UN Sunshine From If Not In Chad While Blind on Somalia and Zimbabwe, UNDP With Shell in its Ear on Nigeria

Annan Family Ties With Purchaser from Compass, Embroiled in UN Scandal, Raise Unanswered Ethical Questions

At the UN, from Casamance to Transdniestria, Kosovars to Lezgines, Micro-States as Powerful's Playthings

Inquiry Into Housing Subsidies Contrary to UN Charter Goes Ignored for 8 Weeks, As Head UN Peacekeeper Does Not Respond

Congo Shootout Triggers Kofi Annan Call, While Agent Orange Protest Yields Email from Old London

On the UN - Corporate Beat, Dow Chemical Luncheon Chickens Come Home to Roost

UN Bets the House on Lebanon, While Willfully Blind in Somalia and Pinned Down in Kinshasa

Stop Bank Branch Closings and Monopolies in the Katrina Zone, Group Says, Challenging Regions- AmSouth Merger

Ship-Breakers Missed by UN's Budget for Travel and Consultants in Bangladesh, Largest UNIFIL Troop Donor

Sudan Cites Hezbollah, While UN Dances Around Issues of Consent and Sex Abuse in the Congo, Passing the UNIFIL Hat

With Somalia on the Brink of Horn-Wide War, UN Avoids Question of Ethiopian Invasion

In UN's Lebanon Frenzy, Darfur Is Ignored As Are the Disabled, "If You Crave UNIFIL, Can't You Make Do With MONUC?"

UN Decries Uzbekistan's Use of Torture, While Helping It To Tax and Rule; Updates on UNIFIL and UNMIS Off-Message

At the UN, Lebanon Resolution Passes with Loophole, Amb. Gillerman Says It Has All Been Defensive

On Lebanon, Russian Gambit Focuses Franco-American Minds, Short Term Resolution Goes Blue Amid Flashes of Lightening

Africa Can Solve Its Own Problems, Ghanaian Minister Tells Inner City Press, On LRA Peace Talks and Kofi Annan's Views

At the UN, Jay-Z Floats Past Questions on Water Privatization and Sweatshops, Q'Orianka Kilcher in the Basement

In the UN Security Council, Speeches and Stasis as Haiti is Forgotten, for a Shebaa Farms Solution?

UN Silence on Congo Election and Uranium, Until It's To Iran or After a Ceasefire, and Council Rift on Kony

At the UN Some Middle Eastern Answers, Updates on Congo and Nepal While Silence on Somalia

On Lebanon, Franco-American Resolution Reviewed at UN in Weekend Security Council Meeting

UN Knew of Child Soldier Use by Two Warlords Whose Entry into Congo Army the UN Facilitated

At the UN, Disinterest in Zimbabwe, Secrecy on Chechnya, Congo Polyanna and Ineptitude on Somalia

Impunity's in the Air, at the UN in Kinshasa and NY, for Kony and Karim and MONUC for Kazana

UN Still Silent on Somalia, Despite Reported Invasion, In Lead-Up to More Congo Spin

UN's Guehenno Says Congo Warlord Just Needs Training, and Kazana Probe Continues

With Congo Elections Approaching, UN Issues Hasty Self-Exoneration as Annan Is Distracted

In DR Congo, UN Applauds Entry into Army of Child-Soldier Commander Along with Kidnapper

Spinning the Congo, UN Admits Hostage Deal with Warlord That Put Him in Congolese Army

At the UN, Dow Chemical's Invited In, While Teaming Up With Microsoft is Defended

Kofi Annan Questioned about Congolese Colonel Who Kidnapped Seven UN Soldiers

At the UN, Speeches While Gaza Stays Lightless and Insurance Not Yet Paid

At the UN Poorest Nations Discussed, Disgust at DRC Short Shrift, Future UN Justice?

At the UN Wordsmiths Are At Work on Zimbabwe, Kony,  Ivory Coast and Iran

UN Silent As Congolese Kidnapper of UN Peacekeepers Is Made An Army Colonel: News Analysis

At the UN, New Phrase Passes Resolution called Gangster-Like by North Korea; UK Deputy on the Law(less)

UN's Guehenno Speaks of "Political Overstretch" Undermining Peacekeeping in Lower Profile Zones

In Gaza Power Station, the Role of Enron and the U.S. Government's OPIC Revealed by UN Sources

At UN, North Korean Knot Attacked With Fifty Year Old Precedent, Game Continues Into Weekend

UN's Corporate Partnerships Will Be Reviewed, While New Teaming Up with Microsoft, and UNDP Continues

Gaza Resolution Vetoed by U.S., While North Korea Faces Veto and Chechnya Unread

BTC Briefing, Like Pipeline, Skirts Troublespots, Azeri Revelations

Conflicts of Interest in UNHCR Program with SocGen and Pictet Reveal Reform Rifts

At the UN, A Day of Resolutions on Gaza, North Korea and Iran, Georgia as Side Dish

UN Grapples with Somalia, While UNDP Funds Mugabe's Human Rights Unit, Without Explanation

In North Korean War of Words, Abuses in Uganda and Impunity Go Largely Ignored

On North Korea, Blue Words Move to a Saturday Showdown, UNDP Uzbek Stonewall

As the World Turns in Uganda and Korea, the UN Speaks only on Gaza, from Geneva

North Korea in the UN: Large Arms Supplant the Small, and Confusion on Uganda

UN Gives Mugabe Time with His Friendly Mediator, Refugees Abandoned

At the UN, Friday Night's Alright for Fighting; Annan Meets Mugabe

UN Acknowledges Abuse in Uganda, But What Did Donors Know and When? Kazakh Questions

In Uganda, UNDP to Make Belated Announcement of Program Halt, But Questions Remain (and see The New Vision, offsite).

Disarmament Abuse in Uganda Leads UN Agency to Suspend Its Work and Spending

Disarmament Abuse in Uganda Blamed on UNDP, Still Silent on Finance

Alleged Abuse in Disarmament in Uganda Known by UNDP, But Dollar Figures Still Not Given: What Did UN Know and When?

Strong Arm on Small Arms: Rift Within UN About Uganda's Involuntary Disarmament of Karamojong Villages

UN in Denial on Sudan, While Boldly Predicting the Future of Kosovo/a

UN's Selective Vision on Somalia and Wishful Thinking on Uighurs

UN Habitat Predicts The World Is a Ghetto, But Will Finance Be Addressed at Vancouver World Urban Forum?

At the UN, a Commando Unit to Quickly Stop Genocide is Proposed, by Diplomatic Sir Brian Urquhart

UN's Annan Concerned About Use of Terror's T-Word to Repress, Wants Freedom of Information

UN  Waffles on Human Rights in Central Asia and China; ICC on Kony and a Hero from Algiers

At the UN, Internal Justice Needs Reform, While in Timor Leste, Has Evidence Gone Missing?

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

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

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

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

In Praise of Migration, UN Misses the Net and Bangalore While Going Soft on Financial Exclusion

UN Sees Somalia Through a Glass, Darkly, While Chomsky Speaks on Corporations and Everything But Congo

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

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