Missing UN Envoy Visited UN-Founded Mine in Niger, Uranium
Extraction by Canadians Questioned
Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of
Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
December 17 -- While in the wake of
the disappearance in Niger of Robert Fowlers, belatedly described as a
envoy, questions mount about Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's
stealth envoys and their seeming conflicts of interest. Fowler was
with an employee of the Canadian government Louis Guay and what's
a UN Development Program driver, but no security. Niger's
Minister Ben Omar has said
"they had visited the Canadian-operated Samira
Hill gold mine." This is owned by a Canadian firm named Etruscan
this constitute UN business? The UN still has not answered. But
it emerges that
Fowler's mission, while never announced to the press, was tucked into a
budget document last month for $390,700, as "Special Envoy of the
Secretary-General to the Niger" (sic),
click here to view, under
Section 3, Political Affairs.
as partners, beyond the Canadian firm Etruscan, the UN
Development Program, the Government of Niger and another
Canadian company known as
Semafo, which is also involved in uranium extraction in Tuareg
areas. See, "Nuclear
and the Seizure of Agricultural Lands and Tuareg Grazing Areas by
companies." Some think these connections might explain rebel distrust
Fowler. Others question the UN
sending a Canadian to Niger where he dealt with Canadian-owned mining
But the UN
system connections to mining in Niger are stranger still. UNDP
develop the gold mines in Samira Hill: "Etruscan got involved in
Samira Hill deposit after it was initiated by an United Nations
programme and Etruscan then acquired the Libiri deposit about three
from Ashanti Goldfields... Etruscan, through its 50% interest in AGMDC
participate in the development of this entire gold belt, which is
by the Tiawa, Saoura and Datambi permits."
involvement in this mining in Niger has extended to financing "aerial
geophysical survey on a large portion of the greenstone belts of Tera
Sirba." In fact, Etruscan's
exploration team includes at least
former UNDP employees, Pascal Van Osta previously of UNDP, and
previously of UNDP and AngloGold/Ashanti.
was Fowler doing in Niger, and why wasn't his appointment
announced at the time
it was made? Wednesday at the UN, Inner City Press asked the Africa
of a Security Council member if he had ever been informed of Fowler's
appointment. No, he said.
UNDP's Kemal Dervis in Niger, mining and
Fowler not shown
Ki-moon held an hour-long press conference on Wednesday, for which
Press signed up to ask a question, and kept hand raised throughout.
Nevertheless, Ban's spokesperson Michele Montas never allowed the
be asked. The question, as prepared, was:
"Robert Fowler, your special
envoy, is missing in Niger, along
with two people described as a UNDP driver and an employee of the
government. It turns out that this mandate is in a budget document from
month, at $400,000. But it's reported that they were visiting a
First, what was their mission? With
what parties had it been discussed? Now, what is being done to find and
Second, what safeguards have you
put in place that your envoys, ranging from former Nigerian president
through Tony Blair to Alexander Downer, are free from the appearance of
conflict of interest?
Third, why was Mr. Fowler's
appointment never announced or disclosed to the press when it was made
summer? We're told that there is a list of all of your envoys, that it
formally confidential or shouldn't be publicized. Can you explain how
transparent? To what other
conflicts not on the Security
Council's agenda to you have stealth envoys?
question was not allowed, it will have to be pursued in other ways. Ms.
Montas' Office has begrudgingly told another journalist that the UN was
also paying Louis Guay, along on what basis and
at what rate in not yet known. UNDP's spokesman's response to other
UNDP questions asked six days ago was that answers would have to be
harvested, which has yet to happen. When they are, and when a statement
on UNDP's involvement in mining in Niger and UNDP staff or consultant
presence in connection with the recent disappearance, all will be
reported on this site.
Wednesday, Inner City Press asked the head of Ban Ki-moon's Global
Georg Kell, to comment on the involvement in uranium mining in
northern Niger by Areva, whose CEO is on the board of the Global
responded that some companies have "conflict-sensitive business
practices." Video here.
City Press asked to be provided with information
about Areva's (and Canadian firms') practices in this regard, Kell said
check the "OECD mechanism," which is a rarely used complaint process.
We will continue on this issue, despite requests to "leave it alone."
Watch this space.
speculate that the Government of Niger used
Fowler to lure out the rebels with whom he was supposed to meet. Others
quote rebel leaders that Fowler was too pro-government, and that the
government of Niger gets weapons from Canada. "There were conflicting
reports as to the exact nature of his business in Niger, Vesperini
said. One version suggested he was on official business for
consultations with the Niger government, while another said he was in
the country for a private visit." There is a need for far greater
transparency by the UN, and we will seek it.
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
Click here for Inner City
Press Nov. 7 debate on the war in Congo
Watch this site, and this Oct. 2 debate, on
UN, bailout, MDGs
and this October 17 debate, on
Security Council and Obama and the UN.
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