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As Kenya Confirms Naval Shelling of Somalia, Wittig Reserves Judgment

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 5 -- After the top human rights official at the UN in New York, Ivan Simonovic, intoned Wednesday morning that if force is used to protect civilians it should be applied very carefully, Inner City Press asked the UN for the third time in a week about the Kenyan Navy shelling Kismayo in Somalia.

  This naval shelling, now admitted by Col. Cyrus Oguna of Kenyan military, is ostensibly being done to protect civilians. But after in mid August the shelling killing a pregnant woman and two children, there was no response or explanation.

  The Security Council on August 29 issued a press statement about Somalia without allowing any opportunity for questioning of the Council president at the time, Gerard Araud.

   On Wednesday Inner City Press asked incoming Council president for August Peter Wittig about the Kenyan Navy's shelling.

Wittig replied that when the Council last heard from UN envoy Augustine Mahiga there was "good news" that "AMISOM has reconquered territory."

   This shelling of Kismayo is part of that campaign.

   Wittig said that on these "recent skirmishes" it is "too early to comment," that he is "reserving judgment." For how long? Until it is over?

  Back on August 30 Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's associate spokesman Farhan Haq:

Inner City Press: there has been a report that the Kenyan navy was shelling Kismayo and that they are not part of AMISOM [African Union Mission in Somalia]. They are in support of AMISOM military action there, but civilians have been killed. I just wondered if Mr. [Augustine] Mahiga, or how the UN views essentially the Kenyan navy shelling Somalia.

Associate Spokesperson Haq: There has been no comment from Mr. Mahiga thus far, but we’ll check and see whether there is anything he says further about these reports.

But in the four days afterward, there was no further response. Rather, there were new reports of shelling, even indirectly confirmed by Kenyan Army spokesman Emmanuel Chirchir.

And so at the next UN noon briefing on September 4, Inner City Press asked Ban's lead spokesman Martin Nesirky:

Inner City Press: there seems to be now renewed shelling of Kismayo in Somalia by the Kenyan navy. Since this is African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), I believe, it’s either materially supported by DFS [Department of Field Support] and there is Mr. [Augustine P.] Mahiga. What does the United Nations say? Some people are saying these are random; it’s not a targeted shelling, it’s just a simply shelling of a town in the name of peacekeeping. Is there some UN response to this?

Spokesperson Nesirky: I believe this has been raised already. To my knowledge, there is not a naval component of AMISOM. I will need to check, but to my knowledge there is not a naval component of AMISOM. But as I say, I will check.

  Twenty fourhours later, there had been no response - most importantly, on what does the UN say about this shelling of a city in a country in which it has long had a Political Office? Why does the UN speak out against such shelling in some countries and not others?

  At the September 5 noon briefing, Inner City Press again asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Martin Nesirky about the shelling. Video here, from Minute 4:15.

  Nesirky replied that "We are expecting to have something to say on this a little later." We'll see - watch this site.

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