On Somalia, UN Ban's Ould Abdallah "Takes All the Money," Bumbles in Politics

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 22 -- At the conference on Somalia in Istanbul, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon read out an unequivocal call for funding and support for that country's Transitional Federal Government, whose control over a few square blocks of Mogadishu is only maintained by Ugandan and Burundian troops shooting wildly including into civilian areas.

What Ban did not mention was even the Somali Parliament's opposition to UN Special Representative Ahmedou Ould Abdallah, who most recently bumbled by issuing loud support to a move by Somali's president which was nearly immediately reversed as illegal.

  The UN often says it will not comment on internal legal matters of sovereign states. But Ould Abdallah is allowed by Ban to do whatever he wants, including having called for a moratorium on media reporting of the killing of civilians by the Ugandan and Burundian troops.

   Inner City Press has been told by sources in the meeting that when the TFG contingent met with Ban last week, they complained about how Ould Abdallah is taking all the funding, leaving them with nothing.

  He gets $25 million, they said, while they get less than a million dollars. Ban said he'd never heard of this. Perhaps this explains his Turkey call for more funding to the TFG?

UN's Ban and Ould Abdallah, Somali complaints not shown or acted on

At the UN's May 18 noon briefing, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky:

Inner City Press: Yesterday there was a statement put out about the UN – let me see how to put it — backing the President of Somalia’s sacking of the Prime Minister of Somalia. It was put out in your Office that the UN supported the move by the President to fire the Prime Minister. Now the Prime Minister is saying that that was illegal under the Somali Constitution and that the President had no right to do it. What I am wondering is [Ahmedou] Ould-Abdallah essentially taking sides in an internal dispute of Somalia, is it something he did based on legal advice from OLA [Office of Legal Affairs]? Was it his reading — apparently it was — that this was a legal move by the President? And what does the UN say now that many in Somalia dispute the right of the President to make that move?

Spokesperson: First of all, Mr. Ould-Abdallah is well briefed — it’s his area of expertise. As you know, he was here and spoke to you last week. He will be present at the conference in Istanbul on Somalia this coming weekend, and I am sure at the latest at that meeting there will be a chance to discuss this particular matter. I do not have any further comments to add to what we have from yesterday.

Inner City Press: In the briefing that he gave with Mr. Pascoe, there was this question of 300 parliamentarians saying that Ould-Abdallah should in fact — that the UN should look into his actions there and should fire him — that is what they called for. He was the one that responded, and he said that was just a website. I mean, it’s Associated Press which does have a website. But I wondered, I’d wished Mr. Pascoe — and I guess I am asking you now on behalf of the Secretariat — what is the Secretariat’s response to a host country — 300 parliamentarians of a host country — saying that the SRSG should not be in the job? What is the procedure? I mean, I know that Mr. Pascoe said he is well seasoned or whatever he said, but what is, we often hear that the UN can only do things with the consent of a host country and a host Government, so what is the response to a complaint of the host Government in this case?

Spokesperson: As far as I know, there is a difference between the Government and Parliament in a country.

Inner City Press: Could it just be the President? As long as President Sharif… I mean, I am just wondering.

Spokesperson: I think you know how Parliaments and Governments work. There is a distinction between the two. But what is more important here is that Mr. Ould-Abdallah is the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and, therefore, clearly is there doing that job, not in Somalia itself as you know, posted in Somalia, but covering that topic because the Secretary-General wants him to.

But then, the President's move was reversed as illegal. The BBC cites experts that it undermine the credibility not only of the president but also of the UN. Inner City Press sought comment from Ban's Spokesperson and Deputy Spokesperson, but none has been received.

  Rather, just before Ban and his Spokesman Martin Nesirky headed to Istanbul on May 20, Inner City Press asked:

Inner City Press: Just one more on Somalia since you’re going to Turkey... Yemen…

Spokesperson Nesirky: Yeah, I am just about to run.

Inner City Press: Absolutely. Yemen has announced the death penalty against six Somali pirates. Given, you know, the role of the UN and of OLA [Office of Legal Affairs] and Patricia O’Brien and sort of suggesting to Member States how pirates should be addressed, what does the UN, does the UN Secretariat, OLA or Secretary-General, what do they think of these death sentences recently announced in Yemen?

Spokesperson: Well, there are two points. You are quite right that this is a topic — not the specific case, but the question of piracy — this is a topic that is clearly part of the agenda at this conference on Somalia in Istanbul on Saturday. The second point is, as you well know, the United Nations speaks out quite clearly on the use of the death penalty, namely that it should not be used.

Inner City Press: So, this is the speaking out clearly about these death sentences?

Spokesperson: I beg your pardon?

Inner City Press: I mean, is this the speaking out clearly about these particular death sentences?

Spokesperson: The use of the death penalty anywhere is something that the United Nations would not be in favour of. I am going to hand over now to Mr. Adlerstein with apologies for being slightly late. And also Marie, very kindly, is going to moderate. Okay, thanks very much.

Then neither Nesirky or Marie Okabe answered for two days this question:

"Now that the President of Somalia has reversed his firing of the Prime Minister after being advised it was illegal, and with the BBC reporting "Analysts say the row has severely weakened the president's credibility, and the UN's, which had backed him" (see below) - I want to reiterate my question from Tuesday, now on deadline:

was 'Ould-Abdallah essentially taking sides in an internal dispute of Somalia, is it something he did based on legal advice from OLA [Office of Legal Affairs]? Was it his reading — apparently it was — that this was a legal move by the President? And what does the UN say now'?"

If and when an answer is provided to this question, we will publish it. Watch this site.

* * *

On Somalia, UN's Ould Abdullah Dismisses 300 MPs as Web Sites, Hasn't Read Report

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 12 -- The UN's envoy on Somalia Ahmedou Ould Abdullah, fresh from being denounced and asked to resign by over 300 members of the Somali parliament, dismissed the criticism on Wednesday as being the product of web sites. "I don't consult web sites, except yours from time to time," he told Inner City Press.

He went on to say that the AP report of 300 MPs was "based on a letter not signed." He did not respond to the rejection of the Norway-funded deal he unilaterally made with Kenya, about Somalis' rights to their shelf continential shelf. As to the criticism that rather than mediating he has taken sides in the Somali conflict, he said "yes I take sides.. for peace, stability, legality, human rights." Video here, from Minute 21:33.

But he has in fact defended violations of human rights by Ugandan and Burundian troops in Mogadishu, who have fired into civilian areas trying to "drain the sea" to get at Islamist rebels. Ould Abdullah earlier called for a moratorium on the reporting of the killing of civilians by AU peacekeepers. Now he says reports by human rights groups are overblown.

Ould Abdullah on May 12, all critics are mere web sites

Speaking of reports, UK Deputy Permanent Representative Philip Parham told the Security Council on Wednesday that he would "like to register our disappointment that the Secretary-General’s report was issued less than 24 hours before this meeting."

  Ould Abdullah claimed that he had only read the first draft of his report, trying to explain why in person he was more dismissive of claims of aid diversion than the report was. What exactly is Ould Abdullah doing? He is a man of action. He does not read UN reports, he does not read web sites (except this one, from time to time). He is not based in Mogadishu but rather Nairobi, Kenya. Soon he will be in Turkey beating the drum for donations. But does he have support in Somalia? Apparently not. What is the UN going to do about this? Watch this site.

  Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

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 http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/17772?in=11:33&out=32:56

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.

* * *

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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