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At the UN, Friday Night's Alright for Fighting, But Bolton Goes Missing

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee at the U.N.

UNITED NATIONS, July 1 -- "If it's all night, it's all right." So said John Bolton at a 5 p.m. Security Council stakeout. But in the General Assembly from nine to eleven p.m. he was nowhere to be seen. The major vote was left until last. Four member states disassociated themselves from the raising of the UN budget cap: the U.S., Japan and Australia, and a last-minute addition, Canada. Speaking to reporters just after the vote, outgoing Canadian Ambassador Rock predicted slow progress on management reform and mandate review. "Next week is only three days," he said. For John Bolton, the weekend started early.

  Bolton's foil Mark Malloch Brown conferred with two advisors in the lobby outside the G.A.. Inner City Press approached and asked if Canada's vote had come as a surprise. MMB, as they call him, stayed Sphinx-like. His colleague said Canada's eloquent speech spoke for itself.

  Among the U.N. press corp, only Japanese media, AP and Inner City Press remained on the scene. In garbage time the G.A. President was asked about the strange-shaped gavel he uses. "It's a gift from Iceland," he answered. Thursday afternoon he'd said he'd cancelled Friday plans. But in New York at 11, the night was still young.

  In under-the-radar diplomatic skirmish news, a vote on Lebanon turned on paragraphs about Israel, debts from '96. The U.S. and Israel were joined by Palau in opposition. The Marshall Islands were nowhere to be seen. The development resolution passed, but with Qatar excluded from paragraph 62.

 Earlier in the afternoon, two lower profile Ambassador briefed on background about this resolution on development, with its over sixty operational paragraphs, include three which gentle chide the World Bank and IMF. They said optimistically that it would be voted on at 4 p.m., it fact it got tied to the rest, and began at nine p.m.. A speech by UAE began without translation.  The gavel from Iceland banged down again and again.

  Before he left the building, at the 5 p.m. stakeout John Bolton declined to call the kidnapping a month ago of UN troops in Ituri an act of terror. He didn't criticize the UN's slow approach, saying only that events are being closely followed.

  On other African topics, during the U.S. holiday there'll be news from the African Union in Banjul. Before he left, Inner City Press shout-asked the Secretary General if he'll be meeting with Robert Mugabe. After a pause, Mr. Annan answered "yes." (Click here for the video; Mugabe's at Minute 6:15.) Annan's spokesman's office followed this up with two earlier statements, and a no-comment as to any visit to Zimbabwe.

Update: On July 1, it's reported that the UN Secretary General met for 40 minutes with Robert Mugabe. Also in the meeting held at the Sheraton Hotel were foreign affairs minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, justice minister Patrick Chinamasa, foreign affairs secretary Joey Bimha and the UN Under-Secretary General for African Affairs, Ibrahim Gambari (a/k/a specialist in the Kofi Annan legacy). Sudan and Somalia will also be discussed in Banjul - watch this site.

            Following up on violence against civilians in disarmament in Eastern Uganda, Inner City Press Friday at noon asked the director of the UN's Institute for Disarmament Research about UNDP's current halt of programs, "pending clarification from the Government of Uganda on the current disarmament approach in Karamoja." The director drew analogies to Mali and Iraq, and suggested a talk with UNDP's Robert Scharf, who's in New York for the small arms conference. Another person present at the noon briefing said she'd make Mr. Scharf available in the afternoon. As of 8 p.m., Inner City Press had not heard from Mr. Scharf. In the UN basement a table sat unmanned, with a sign saying "UNDP Promoting Security for Development."

Burning in Uganda, Questions for UNDP

            There is a request that if and when UNDP resumes funding disarmament in eastern Uganda, an announcement be made, in New York as well as Kampala. Kofi Annan's spokesman's office says it is not an enforcement agent. But who then holds a UN agency to the statements it provides, in this case about Ugandan government troops' abuses of civilians? And as reported on UN OCHA's IRIN, UNDP played a role in celebrating the destruction of weapons collected, presumably by voluntary and involuntary means. (Click here -- the article quotes UNDP's Bob Scharf.) In Kampala, the Minister of State for Defense Ruth Nankabirwa "denied reports that the UPDF has suspended the 'cordon and search' for guns." How much more clear does UNDP want it? And where else is it funding such programs?

            While the General Assembly provided only anonymous background on its development resolution, an on-the-record briefing was held on DESA's "Diverging Growth and Development" report. This report, like the resolution, approaches the Bretton Woods two with velvet bureaucratic gloves. A call is made for "gradual, country-specific and home-made institutional reforms," and for using for developing countries what shrinking space the WTO allows for protections. In 1950, Africa's income was 40% of the developed world's. The figure is now seven percent. The rich are getting richer and vice versa for the poor, this UN report concludes. Dog bites man, some say. From the World Bank / IMF to the Security Council's P-5, power talks and the rest of the world just walks and walks and walks. Or wait and votes 'til late on Friday night.

        In his last UN talk, outgoing German Ambassador Gunther Pleuger said the budget cap games put pressure on the wrong target: the Secretariat. He said he had no regrets about his G-4 gambit. Days earlier in the half-hit Council stakeout, he'd opined that Japan walked behind the U.S., until the chips are down. He said not to quote him until he leaves his post, which has just happened. Buena suerte!

In lieu of fireworks, and speaking of the need for reform and impunity's end, we offer this blind item: Which outgoing SRSG was pushed rather than jumped due to an illicit taste for the topic of his charge? Just throwing in the word conflict does not make it go away...

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

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee at the U.N.

UNITED NATIONS, June 29 -- The rights of Ugandan civilians have been abused by government soldiers, leading the UN Development Programme to halt its programs in eastern Uganda, Kofi Annan's spokeswoman Marie Okabe stated on Thursday. (Video is here, answer is Minute 11 to 13:35.) While clearer than before in acknowledging abuses by the Ugandan People's Defense Force, which Inner City Press has reported on for the past eleven days, this statement does not address what the Ugandan government's funders knew and when they knew it. UNDP has repeatedly declined to answer this question, which has been put to it in writing and orally, or has left its answers vague and not, it's said, to be quoted. Here however is AllAfrica.

            A UNDP statement issued in Kampala on Thursday, three paragraphs in length, waited until its last terse sentence to disclose that "pending clarification from the Government of Uganda on the current disarmament approach in Karamoja, UNDP Uganda has suspended its support to activities related to the KIDDP."

             This last stands for the Karamoja Integrated Disarmament and Development Plan, a copy of which Inner City Press has obtained.  The KIDDP lists a number of funding partners, including the Danish International Development Agency, the European Union, the World Bank, the government of Italy, Germany's GTZ, USAID, Netherlands' SNV, Ireland's DCI, and the UN agencies World Food Programme and UNDP. Since UNDP initially named Denmark as the funder of disarmament programs in eastern Uganda, Inner City Press last week asked the Danish mission to the UN for its comment on specific allegations of abuses in Karamoja. "It will take time to look into," the mission's spokesman said. On Thursday Inner City Press asked the Danish Ambassador to the UN, the outgoing Security Council president. The World Food Programme was asked for comment a week ago but no response has been received. The inquiries will continue.

  With regard to UNDP, the statement is undated, and cannot itself be the warning which UNDP states it has given. Some surmise that the abuses were to meet the aggressive gun-collection targets, even to provide a photo-op. As with photography, transparency would have been better from the beginning, and is still being called for.

Inner Asia

            Also at the UN on Thursday, the Ambassador of Kazakhstan spoke to the press about the June 17 meeting in Almaty of the 18 member Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia, called CICA and pronounced seek-a. Thailand is a member; the Ambassador said diplomatically that the Thai deputy foreign minister is an attractive candidate to become UN Secretary General. Kazakhstan has reportedly pledged its support to Bangkok, just as Uzbekistan has opened traded its vote to South Korea in exchange for an ongoing energy sales deal.

            It was about Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan's pattern of returning dissidents to that country to face torture, that Inner City Press questioned Ambassador Yerzhan Kazykhanov, specifically about the recent arrest of Gabdurafikh Temirbaev.  The Kazakh Ambassador's response, after saying that Kazakhstan gets along fine with UNHCR, was that Kazakhstan wants and needs prosperous and stable neighbors. One could infer that he meant that returning dissidents to Uzbekistan makes that country and its Karimov regime more stable.  Through the OSSG, Inner City Press has asked what the UN and UNHCR are doing to stop the trend of refoulement to Uzbekistan, which has already taken place from Ukraine and Kazakhstan, is constantly threatened from Kyrgyzstan, and is now said to be happening in real (media) time to a person, Gabdurafikh Temirbaev, who UNHCR reportedly on June 16 deemed to be a refugee?  What guidance might the UN or UNHCR give to the organizations and members in the CICA and of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization?  Kofi Annan at his June 15 press conference answered that he is aware of those facing refoulement from Kyrgyzstan, the transcript is online -- but what about Kazakhstan's refoulements of Uzbeks? We'll see.

  This time the stories connect, thusly: despite Uzbekistan's record, and UNHCR being tossed out of the country by Karimov, UNDP has not retracted its praise of the regime. And so it goes...

In Uganda, UNDP's Belated Announcement of Program Halt Leaves Questions Unanswered

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee at the U.N.

UNITED NATIONS, June 28 -- On June 29 in Uganda, ten days after Inner City Press' questions about disarmament abuses began and two days after a more quiet announcement, the United Nations Development Programme is slated to go public with the news that it has suspended its programs in eastern Uganda. This follows the newspaper The New Vision picking up on Inner City Press' reports (click here to view; the AP in New York has also followed up). In the field of public relations, the advice is often to get out in front of events, rather than play catch-up. When that is missed, it's spin, spin, spin.

  In the Kampala-based New Vision, Ugandan People's Defense Force spokesman Felix Kulayigye is quoted as disputing Inner City Press' reports, stating that "statistics showed that the cordon-and-search had been more successful than voluntary surrendering of guns" and that "this month, the UPDF recovered over 1,100 guns compared to 636 guns recovered in two years ending March 2006."  It all depends on the tactics used... The AP has UNDP's spokesman declaiming that "our operations in the region have halted due to a continuing difficult security situation and concerns about Ugandan military operations in the area." UNDP's letter goes further, referencing recent reports of "killings, beatings, arbitrary detention, intimidation and harassment."

    Wednesday in New York, nine days after Inner City Press first raised these questions, UNDP's spokesman came to speak to Inner City Press for over an hour, describing the announcement to slated for Thursday in Kampala, saying it will refer to "security" issues rather than human rights abuses, and arguing that UNDP was and is a "small player" in Uganda's Karamojo region. The spokesman congratulated Inner City Press for raising the issues, and asked in essence what more could the UN do at this time?

      Plenty, according to a source in the Prime Minister's Office (OPM) in Kampala. In a second email to Inner City Press, the source paints a picture quite different from that offered by UNDP's spokesman in New York, writing that

"OPM terminated the contract of the 4th advisor, Techeste Ahderom, because of management and performance issues arising out of this situation. We have brought these matters to UNDP attention but have received no constructive feedback. As a result the program, support to implementation of the IDP Policy, which Techeste was managing has suffered serious setbacks. The human security / Karamoja program is having similar problems and Robert Scharf has been warned on a number of occasions. One of Robert's main responsibility was to support coordination of the implementation of the KIDDP at the highest level including ministry of Defense and internal affairs. For over six months now he has failed to convene a single meeting - OPM role in the promotion of voluntary disarmament has been compromised... In the Mine Action Programme a UK based NGO was recruited to conduct mine assessments in northern Uganda - more than 90% of DFID money has gone to contracts of so called experts. They have failed to produce a credible report and the financial accountability is questionable but UNDP continues to disburse funds to this NGO."

            On the question of UNDP's use of funds, the agency's spokesman did not bring any budget documents during his visit Wednesday to Inner City Press. Asked to explain the use of the $293,000 spent before the program was suspended, the spokesman referred to start-up costs, including the need to "set up offices in huts." He stated that now no UNDP program staff remain in the field.  He congratulated Inner City Press for raising the issues, which have now been picked up by Ugandan press, click here for The New Vision, and with more UNDP involvement, the AP.

This news travels

   On Wednesday in New York, UNDP's spokesman urged Inner City Press to shift the focus of its two week old inquiry, to turn to wider programs and other funders. The story and its implications are certainly wider than UNDP, and will be followed where they lead. But here are a list of questions provided to the UNDP spokesman prior to his hour-long presentation, and still not answered:

-On what date did UNDP suspend its support of programs in Eastern Uganda?

-What if any are the conditions of the suspension?

-What is the overall spending figure for UNDP's programs throughout Uganda for 2006?

-Your 6/27 message states that 'cordon and search' operations "undermine the possibility of achieving lasting peace and development for the region" and that "UNDP has joined with other development partners in Uganda to voice concern about this exercise to Ugandan authorities." Who are the "other development partners in Uganda" referenced in this statement?

-Your message states that UNDP "is aware of the allegations of abuse by the Ugandan military... including the ones you have raised" but further claims that UNDP "does not have the mandate to independently investigate accusations of human rights abuses by a national military against citizens of that country."

-If UNDP does not "have the mandate to independently investigate accusations of human rights abuses by a national military against citizens" of a country where UNDP operates, who in UNDP's opinion does have such a mandate?

-UNDP's then-Country Director, Cornelus Klein, made a speech on May 25, 2006 where he applauded Ugandan Government efforts at disarmament and specifically singled out the work of the UPDF with praise. He said "Uganda… is seizing the opportunity to address small and light weapons concerns. While UNDP currently provides modest support to the nation, it is Uganda that can support and lead other countries in doing the same. Let me take this opportunity, therefore, to applaud the Government for its strong leadership and commitment. I also wish to express our thanks to the National Focal Point, the UPDF, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Safer Africa whose excellent work we have all seen this morning, and all other partners that have worked collectively towards this important achievement. I hope that the well trained, hard working and dedicated people we have seen handling this process will remain busy for a long time so that all illicit weapons in the country are destroyed."

    Six days prior to Mr. Klein's speech, as recounted in my first message to you nine days ago, the first reported attack by the UPDF in Kotido sub-county, where on May 19th the UPDF encircled a village and attacked to force the residents to turn over their weapons, resulting in four people being killed by the UPDF or its local defense units, including a 15-year old girl. Over 100 homes were burned and the village's protective fence was destroyed. Many residents were taken and detained in the UPDF barracks in Kotido. On the same day, May 19th, in Nadunget sub county, the UPDF reportedly encircled a village at 4 a.m.. People were ordered out of their huts and beaten while the army searched the village. Although reportedly the army found no weapons or ammunition, ten men from the village were taken and detained at the Moroto army barracks.

 Question: When he gave his speech on 25 May 2006, was Mr. Klein aware of these separate attacks by the UPDF some six days earlier?

--Reportedly, Mr. Klein left Kampala "at the end of May, after eight months in Uganda." Where is Mr. Klein now? Can he and his successor Theophane Nikyema be interviewed?

            Beyond these still unanswered questions, there were questions that were half-answered, or answered through Internet research:

Does the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights have a presence in Uganda and a mandate to review Ugandan Government military operations against Ugandan citizens?

            The answer is yes - click here to view, and to read on pages 61-63 that

"In the sub-region of Karamoja, in northeastern Uganda, the traditional culture of cattle rustling with its increasingly violent modern expressions, persistent Government neglect, and an unsuccessful disarmament programme have led to serious security concerns, human rights violations, violence, and a total lack of protection for civilians. Administration of justice structures, law enforcement institutions, and other central Government services are virtually non-existent in the sub-region; as a result, a parallel system of traditional justice, based on reprisals and revenge, has emerged instead... In recognition of the need to consolidate peace with the need for justice, accountability, and reconciliation, OHCHR will establish itself as the lead agency within the United Nations Country Team, in cooperation with civil society actors and the Amnesty Commission, to help to develop national reconciliation strategies, which could include truth-telling, repentance, and compensation, to complement the ongoing peace process. In the Karamoja sub-region, OHCHR will explore ways to enhance the protection of civilians, combat impunity, help to restore security through community-based mechanisms, and facilitate inter-ethnic dialogue on peace and human rights education. These activities will be conducted in partnership with the United Nations Country Team, which is deepening its engagement in Karamoja in response to the Government's Karamoja Integrated Disarmament and Development Programme (2006–2008)."

   We will have more on this wider plan; for now we note that the UNDP spokesman on Wednesday stated that while UNDP is usually publicly quiet, it raises the human rights issues it sees to the head of the UN Country Team, who in turn forwards the information to UN Headquarters. In this case, UN Headquarters has yet to make a comment.

Question: When UNDP becomes "aware of allegations of abuse" by the national military of a country where it works, does it provide this information to any UN entity with a mandate to independently investigate such things?

            This question, Inner City Press asked to two representatives in Kofi Annan's spokesman's office, without on-the-record response. UNDP's spokesman described to Inner City Press UNDP's desire to stay quiet in order to be able to continue to work in countries, as it does in Myanmar on HIV/AIDS. Asked about the wisdom of such silence, or even incongruous UNDP praise, for as for the Millennium Development Goals progress of Uzbekistan, also known for torture, the spokesman only answered, "good question." But what's the answer?

            At the noon briefing, Inner City Press asked Kofi Annan's spokesman to comment on UNDP's suspension of programs in eastern Uganda due to disarmament abuse by the government. The spokesman said that UN agencies are expected to monitor and ensure that funds are not misused; on UNDP's suspension of programs in eastern Uganda, he said there'd be no statement "yet." Perhaps UNDP's press release slated for June 29 in Kampala will trigger some response by the Kofi Annan's spokesman, even during the Secretary-General trip, which will include the African Union's weekend meeting in Banjul, where Mr. Annan will, he responded, meet with Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe.

Endnotes: most UN reporters on Wednesday covered the lifting of the budget cap. Freer pundits opine that the fireworks are still to come, Friday before the 4th of July (for which UN grounds passes are much in demand).

  Mid-afternoon, both co-chairs of the S-G's Alliance of Civilizations took questions from reporters. Fox News asked how the Alliance is funded. "We're transparent, ask the Secretariat," was the answer. Inner City Press asked if the Alliance or its High Level Group has discussed the crackdown on the Uighurs, Muslims in western China's Xinjiang province. "I like that question," Spain's foreign minister said. But he then did not really answer, except to note that both China and India are represented in the High Level Group. But what about the Uighurs?

UN Global Compact Board Holds First Meeting, Closed to Press

  In undercovered United Nations news, the Global Compact Board met on Wednesday. Among other things, member Mary Robinson suggested a working group on human rights. In terms of transparency, despite assurances that its members could be interviewed, Sir Mark Moody-Stuart proved unavailable at the meeting's conclusion, heading he said to Washington, DC. While the meeting was closed to the media, Inner City Press has learned that three of the ten corporate members of the board were absent: Anne Lauvergeon of France-based Areva, Mr. B Muthuraman  of India-based Tata Steel, and Hiroyuki Uemura of Japan-based Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Company. In baseball, that Middle American sport, getting a hit three times out of ten is good. And speaking of baseball and coming full circle (or around the bases), UNDP on Thursday, the same day as its Kampala announcement, is celebrating for Dominican hurricane assistance one of the owner of the Boston Red Sox, the corporate jet of which was used for extraordinary rendition flights whisking terrorism suspects without any process to parts unknown. And speaking of kidnapping, while clashing continues for one soldier taken hostage, five UN soldiers from Nepal remain captive in the DR Congo's Ituri region, now for more than one month...

From today's mail bag, from within Uganda's Office of the Prime Minister

Subject: Re: Uganda's Involuntary Disarmament

From: [Name withheld]

To: Matthew Lee [at]

Sent: Wed, 28 Jun 2006 08:58:47 -0700 (PDT)

Hi Matthew, 

 Several Issues. Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) was not involved in the selection and recruitment of advisors/managers (2 in the Mine Action Programme - Hartmut Thomas and Jane Brouillette and 1 Human Security - Robert Scharf). These advisors/managers are paid from project resources to work with and build the capacity of OPM. In practice these advisors do not recognize OPM structures and prefer to report and take direction from UNDP while based at OPM. OPM terminated the contract of the 4th advisor (Techeste Ahderom) because of management and performance issues arising out of this situation. We have brought these matters to UNDP attention but have received no constructive feedback. As a result the programme (support to implementation of the IDP Policy) which Techeste was managing has suffered serious setbacks. The human security/Karamoja programme is having similar problems and Robert Scharf has been warned on a number of occasions. One of Robert's main responsibility was to support coordination of the implementation of the KIDDP at the highest level including ministry of Defense and internal affairs. For over six months now he has failed to convene a single meeting - OPM role in the promotion of voluntary disarmament has been compromised...

   UNDP has imposed a DEX execution modality that has not allowed us any say in the manner in which resources are managed - in the Mine Action Programme a UK based NGO (Mine Action Trust) was recruited to conduct mine assessments in northern Uganda - more than 90% of DFID money has gone to contracts of so called experts. They have failed to produce a credible report and the financial accountability is questionable but UNDP continues to disburse funds to this NGO. Reliable sources tell us that this NGO used a local CBO to get registered with the NGO board and later sidelined them when the UNDP contract was awarded.

  These advisors continue to mobilize resources to justify extension of their contracts. If these advisors work for OPM should we not have a say in these matters? It is common practice for proposals to be written and sent to donors without our input. We are forced to accept this kind of support because we do not have enough resources of our own but is it fair?

  We are disappointed that such malpractices continue to tarnish the good name of the UN. If UNDP genuinely believes in building national capacity this is not how to do it and stories such as the one you wrote can only get worse. I hope you will use your good offices to put an end to all this malpractices.

         Ending malpractice(s) is one of journalism's missions.

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For reporting about banks, predatory lending, consumer protection, money laundering, mergers or the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), click here for Inner City Press's weekly CRA Report. Inner City Press also reports weekly concerning the Federal Reserve, environmental justice, global inner cities, and more recently on the United Nations, where Inner City Press is accredited media. Follow those links for more of Inner City Press's reporting, or, click here for five ways to contact us, with or for more information.

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