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At UN, Malagasy Coup Leader Barred While Fiji's Speaks, Duplicity on Democracy

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 26 -- The day after Madagascar's de facto leader Andry Rajoelina was barred from speaking in the General Assembly, Fiji's coup leader Josaia Bainimarama was slated, without objection, to speak. It is not, then, that coup leaders are rejected by the UN. It all turns on who opposed the coup, and with what energy.

  Australia and New Zealand have spoken against the Fiji coup. On September 22, Inner City Press asked Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd if he had made any headway in getting the UN to stop using and paying the government for Fijian peacekeepers until democracy is restored. Video here. We have made ourselves clear, Rudd answered. But the UN continues using Fijians in Iraq.

Meanwhile, even for a November election in Honduras which presumably would put the country back on the democratic path, the UN has cut its technical assistance. On September 24, Inner City Press asked UN spokesperson Michele Montas whether the UN will similar not assist elections by the militiary government in Myanmar. Transcript and other UN GA footnotes below. The same question applies to Fiji and Madagascar.

UN's peacekeepers from post-coup Fiji, in Iraq 2/09

  From the September 24 UN transcript:

Inner City Press: I wanted to ask you about yesterday’s announcement about suspending technical assistance to the election in Honduras. I guess it’s a comparative question. What standard would the UN apply to providing electoral assistance for example, in Myanmar or even in Madagascar? Can you say a little bit more on why it was suspended at this time and what it would take to get it? There are countries like Spain that are sending their ambassadors back even the… so are [inaudible] country. What was the Secretary-General’s reasoning in this and what would it take to resume electoral assistance for an election?

Spokesperson: Yes, well, let’s first give you a little background. The electoral assistance project in Honduras was established in November 2007 for support in the lead-up to the general election planned for November 2009. So the implementation began in September 2008. It was way before the events that occurred in Honduras after that. The type of the assistance that is being provided, you know, it is assistance in training polling station staff, it’s assistance, for instance, on gender issues, an internal quick count project -- things of that sort. And they had already set up 41 polling stations; staffers, they had been hired, trained, they had been deployed. And so, all this has been put on hold. It’s a case by case issue, you know. In the specific case [of Honduras], as I said, it went back way back in November 2008. Why was it interrupted? I gave you the reason [earlier] in the statement we have.

Inner City Press: [inaudible] for example, Myanmar, it’s a military Government that’s setting up to have an election that many people say is not credible. But it seems that the UN is going to provide assistance. So I wanted to know what standard it is that the UN provides electoral assistance under.

Spokesperson: I think the best thing I can do for you is invite people from the electoral [Assistance Division of the Department of Political Affairs]; people who help on electoral issues to come here and talk to you. I think then they can give you [more accurate answers]…

Inner City Press: [inaudible] standard in the Secretary-General, who were they that made the decision to suspend this aid? Was it just the Secretary General’s decision…?

Spokesperson: Well, the Secretary-General made that decision on recommendations from his political department.

Would the UN not help an election in Fiji? Or in Madagascar? Watch this site.

Footnote: The General Debate has moved past the time of Presidents and down to ministers. Friday night as heads of state left Pittsburgh for their countries, the representative of the Solomon Islands used his GA speech to raise the issue of Taiwan. Azerbaijan's focused on Armenia's seizure, as he called it, of a fifth of his country, Nagorno-Karabakh. Still on the UN's second floor, where the Press had been promised renewed access, security officers apologetically barred the way.

Saturday morning began with Burundi saying it supports the African Union position that Ethiopia will take to Copenhagen -- reportedly, $67 billion a year in climate change reparations. The Prime Minister of Thailand said his country, a Kingdom, offers lessons from the financial crisis of 1997, that it avoided harm this time due to the King's philosophy of prudence. Slated for later were Albania, Fiji and Sri Lanka.

For UN's Darfur Post, Two Tanzanians Said to Compete, from G-20 to G-77, Sudan on Ice

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 25 -- Given the UN's focus on Sudan and specifically Darfur, the position of lead mediator, vacant since the tenure of Rodolphe Adada was not extended, is a hotly contested post.

  Inner City Press learned Friday that, beyond the candidacies of long time UN Africa hand Haile Menkerios and previous South African Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo, reported exclusively by Inner City Press, Tanzania's Foreign Minister is competing, against Tanzania's UN Ambassador.

  While its rare to have two candidates from the same country, the UN and "the West" are said to be looking for the candidate most accommodative of their views.

  U.S. envoy to Sudan Scott Gration was asked this week about the ouster of Adada. "That's above my pay grade," he replied. He praised the replacer of UNAMID force commander Martin Luther Agwai. But Inner City Press has learned that Agwai, despite being said to leave the UN, will be paid for three additional months, splitting his time between El Fasher and Manhattan. We will have more on this.

In Darfur with Council, Adada and Kumalo in, 2 Tanzanians not shown

  Those returning to the UN from the whirlwind G-20 meeting in Pittsburgh found a reception, complete with lobster, shrimp and an ice sculpture with Sudan's flag in it, underway on the fourth floor. It was the Group of 77 and China reception, hosted by Deng Alor Kuol, the foreign minister of Sudan which chairs the G-77. Information but not liquor flowed. At the end, a clean up worker said the flag of the Republic of Sudan would be put in the dining room's sink. It's hot in there, he said. It melts very fast.

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Mystery of APCs in Darfur Hits Scandal, UN on Non-Payment of Nigerian Peacekeepers

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 3 -- What seems a mere mystery of Nepali armored personnel carriers delayed on their way to the UN mission in Darfur has become a corruption scandal. For months Inner City Press has asked the UN about the eight APCs meant for the Nepali formed police unit in Darfur. Explanations varied from the need to train the Nepalis in their use, to Sudan blocking them because the trainers were British. UN Peacekeeping's highest officials offered assurances that it was all being solved.

   Now the Nepali legislature has started an investigation of "extortion," of underpayment by the UN, and insufficiency all around. And despite all the previous questions, the UN so far has no answer to the follow up Inner City Press asked on September 3:

Inner City Press: There is this issue of the Nepalese, Nepali formed police unit in UNAMID in Sudan and these APC’s that were never, that were not supposed to be delivered there. Now it’s come out that they… it’s been reported by the Nepali press that the APC’s are useless and dangerous, and that Nepal will not be paid for them and parliament has started an investigation into what they call embezzlement. I would assume that UNAMID or DPKO have something… in the past they blamed Sudan for these APC’s… having been called in for Sudan. What has actually happened? Has UNAMID found that they are unusable?

Deputy Spokesperson Okabe: I have not received anything from UNAMID or DPKO on this subject. So let’s see if they will have an update for you.

  Eight hours later, no answer at all. Rather, an answer belatedly came in on the 27 Nigerian soldier who were not paid after their service as UN peacekeepers. The soldiers not surprisingly protested. The surprise was, they were charged with mutiny, latest reduced to seven more years in prison. Inner City Press asked what the UN thought of such jail time for people who had served DPKO and not been paid.

DPKO's Le Roy takes tour d'horizon, Nepali APCs and Nigerian prisons not shown

  After a time, this statement came in:

Subj: Nigerian Peacekeepers in Jail
From: unspokesperson-donotreply [at]
To: Inner City Press
Sent: 9/3/2009 12:02:53 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time

In response to your question(s) on Nigerian peacekeepers who served in the UN Mission in Liberia and were later jailed for protesting the non-payment of their entitlements, we have the following response:

Nigeria has been an outstanding contributor to UN peacekeeping and while the matter is a domestic issue, the UN is aware of it and has raised it - through the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Alain Le Roy, during a recent visit - with the Nigerian Government.

   But we knew Le Roy raised it -- we asked him before he went to Nigeria, and sought a read out when he returned. He said he'd asked for "indulgence." The question is, are seven year sentences acceptable? Watch this site.

Footnote: The UN's response on Nigeria also said

On some reports/allegations that the imprisoned soldiers have been tortured:

Broadly speaking, we in the UN would expect that the Nigerian authorities would observe all the usual basic international norms and standards for human rights for the treatment of prisoners or people in detention - but as far as these claims go, we have not heard of them, nor have human rights colleagues at UN-OHCHR regional office in West Africa - if there's information on it, I'm sure we/they would appreciate being informed, etc.

We hope to have more on this.

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In Sudan, Nepali APCs Grounded Due to UK Trainers, UNMIS Strike Averted by Dollars

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

UNITED NATIONS, June 1 -- The complexity of the UN's presence in Sudan was on display at UN Headquarters on May 29. In a press conference on the international day of peacekeepers, UN official Alain Le Roy and Susana Malcorra were asked about a range of UN - Sudan issues. The real answers, at least as regards grounded peacekeeping police in Darfur, were given after the press conference.

  Inner City Press asked Ms. Malcorra to explain why a unit from Nepal of more than 100 police were in Darfur while their armored personnel carriers are stuck in Port Sudan. Previously, the UN told Inner City Press vaguely that it was a training issue, that the Nepalis had to go to the Czech Republic for training on the APCs they'd bought.

  But Friday, after Malcorra and Le Roy had both said that the Nepali APC problem was being solved by training, Inner City Press was told by a UN official who asks that his name not be used that initially the Nepalis had shown up with British trainers on how to use the Czech APCs. But Sudan, he said, did not let the British trainers in, thereby causing a waste of money and police power in Darfur.

UN's Le Roy in Sudan, British APC trainers not shown
   Inner City Press asked, why wasn't this foreseen? Why did the UN contract with Nepal for APCs they didn't know how to use, and trainers from a country whose Ambassador to the UN has said he didn't go to Sudan because then he'd have to meet a war criminal, the president? We can't tell TCCs [Troop Contributing Countries] which nationality of trainer to bring, the UN official said. If the UN mission is supposed to be saving people, why not?

    Inner City Press asked Ms. Malcorra to confirm or deny that the UN's staff in the UNMIS mission in South Sudan are or were in the verge of going on strike. Malcorra to her credit confirmed it, explaining that due to a lack of Sudanese currency, the UN had been paying the staff in U.S. dollars.

   Then, the UN reverted to Sudanese currency without any advance notice, and the staff rebelled. The UN has gone back to dollars for this month and next, she said, but the UN cannot "continue with hard currency" now that there's enough Sudanese currency in the area. Who knew?

   Of Mr. Le Roy, Inner City Press asked for a comment on Sudan's complaint that the spokesman for UNAMID in Darfur improperly disclosed the location of Sudanese troop fighting an incursion from Chad by the Justice and Equality Movement. Le Roy countered that part of the UN's mission is to report on facts on the ground, they'd just gotten it wrong in this instance. But why then is the UN so resistant to reporting on or even confirming casualty figures in Sri Lanka?

  Going further than Mr. Le Roy did when Inner City Press asked on May 10, Ms. Malcorra on May 29 said that the UN will begin publishing on its web site at least how many peacekeepers were in fact disciplined by the country after charges of sexual abuse or exploitation. We'll see.

  Le Roy also went further than on May 10 in saying that on the case of the 27 Nigerian peacekeepers given life sentences for their complaints against not getting paid for their UN service, he will raise it in Nigeria next month. Malcorra said she would look into the case of a female Nigerian peacekeeper who has alleged being pressures for sex while in UN service, as raised by the Guardian's correspondent. Malcorra also said she will read a study about how air transport companies involved in illegal arms running are also used for peacekeeping. We'll see. Watch this site.

Footnote: one question that couldn't get asked or answered on May 29 is whether, as Russian sources say, there was a split between the Department of Political Affairs, as it is run, which wanted the name "Abkhazia, GEORGIA" in the Secretary-General's recent report, and DPKO which was fine with just the numbers of the applicable Council resolutions. This question, about splits among UN Under Secretaries General, should be answered. Watch this site.

Georgia Accuses Russia of "Blackmailing" UN on Abkhazia, Ban's 2nd Term Mentioned

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

UNITED NATIONS, May 27, updated May 28, DPRK draft here -- Russia "blackmailed" the UN Secretariat of Ban Ki-moon into changing Mr. Ban's report on Abkhazia, Georgia's Ambassador to the UN Alexander Lomaia told the Press on Wednesday. Inner City Press asked if he meant that Russia threatened to veto the resolution to extend the mandate of the UN observer mission there, or as many have speculated threated to veto a second term as Secretary General.

  Ambassador Lomaia said he has heard that, but that the threat he knows of "first had" is to veto the resolution to extent the mission's mandate, set to expire on June 15. Video here, from Minute 25:39.

  Since the conflict of last August in which, after Georgia sought to retake to frozen conflict zones, Russian recognized as independent both Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Russia has urged changes to the name of the "UN Observer Mission in Georgia," UNOMIG. To Russia, these areas are not longer Georgia. Therefore, according to Lomaia, Russia walked out of the talks on the areas in Geneva, until the UN re-titled its report.

  Lomaia mentioned Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's visit with Ban Ki-moon on May 11 as part of the "pressure of Russia on the Secretariat." Video here, from Minute 13:19. After Ban Ki-moon wouldn't call Kosovo's breakaway from Serbia illegal, rumors circulated that Russia was threatening to veto Ban's future bid for a second term. Since then, Ban's position on Kosovo was become more pro Serbian and Russia, and now the report on Abkhazia [Georgia] is renamed. Lomaia called it blackmail. Only two journalists asked questions.

Georgia's Lomaia, who says UN's Ban's Secretariat was "blackmailed" by Russia

   Inner City Press asked about the unrest in Georgia, and also whether the country recognizes Kosovo's declaration of independences. Lomaia, whose predecessor Irakli Alasania is now a major opposition figure, said that Georgia respects the rights to free speech. On Kosovo, he said as he had to that Georgia does not recognize Kosovo's independence. When Inner City Press pointed out that on this, non-recognition of Kosovo, Georgia has the same position as Russia. Lomaia scoffed. He said that unlike Georgia's, Russia's commitment to sovereignty and territorial integrity is selected.

  Comparative analysis: Given Russia's support of the Abkhazians' and South Ossetians' breakaway from Georgia, Russia's decided opposition to independence aspirations by Tamils in the northern part of Sri Lanka is striking. Russia focuses on the LTTE as terrorists, and anaogizes to Chechnya or the terrorist taking of the school in Beslan. Georgia claims that Abkhaz and South Ossetians engaged in ethnic cleansing, but does not use the word terrorism. Selectivity is everywhere. Watch this site.

Diplomatic footnote: after a by-invitation only briefing at the US Mission to the UN Wednesday afternoon, unrelated wire service  stories were published quoting unnamed... "U.N." diplomats that an agreement in principles on sanctions against North Korea had been reached. On May 28, France's Ambassador briefed selected journalists in the UN Delegates' Lounge, reportedly leading to a protest by uninvited television journalists perceived to be more interested in the Middle East. By contrast, Georgia's Ambassador Lomaia made his charges on the record on UN TV and took questions from any journalist who chose to come.

   Russia is somewhere in the middle: Ambassador Churkin spoke only briefly in English on UN TV -- Inner City Press asked for Russia's view on Ban's security zone proposal, Churkin said, Too early, video here from Minute 1:11 -- but then long longer to Russian media. It was translated for Inner City Press as including that Russia will seek an embargo against offensive weapons to Georgia. Lomaia bristled that Georgia has a right to reach what agreements it wants. And to say whatever it wants, apparently. We will continue to cover this.

Update of May 28 -- the following was put out by the UN:

Subj: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Georgia
From: unspokesperson-donotreply [at]
To: Inner City Press
Sent: 5/28/2009 1:33:57 P.M. Eastern Standard Time

The claim by the Georgian Permanent Representative that the Secretary-General amended his report on Georgia in response to “Russian blackmail” is categorically rejected. The statement itself is very unfortunate.

The principal concern of the Secretary-General in the drafting of his Report has been that all concerned parties should engage on the substantive issues in question, more specifically on a mechanism to guarantee safety and security in this troubled region. The adoption of the title was meant to avoid unnecessary politicization of the debate among members of the Security Council and reflected his view of what all members could live with.

The Secretary-General rejects any suggestion that any threats were made to him in this connection.

   Note the phrase "any" threats...

Update of May 28, 6:20 p.m. --
Russian Ambassador Churkin came out of the Council's North Korea consultations to speak, not about the draft DPRK resolution which Inner City Press obtained and exclusively published Thursday morning, but rather about Georgia, and mostly in Russian. Inner City Press asked if he denies Georgia's claim that Russia blackmailed Ban Ki-moon into changing the title of the Secretariat's report on Abkhazia / Georgia. Yes, he denies it. Amb. Churkin asked, You don't speak Russian yet? Watch this site.

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.

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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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