Wednesday, March 25, 2009

In Somalia, UNDP Said to Take Sides, No Financial Answers, UN Post Intrigue

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

UNITED NATIONS, March 24 -- Optimism about Somalia is a new trend in and around the in UN in New York. Days after the country's new foreign minister -- himself British -- told the Press outside the Security Council that one month of receipts from the Mogadishu port portends well for the paychecks of the Transitional Federal Government's ever multiplying number of parliamentarians, the International Peace Institute presented two experts, both upbeat about the negotiations in Djibouti and the UN which sponsored them.

  As at the Council, however, no one would say how many the UN paid, from or to whom. IPI's two presenters, Ken Menkhaus of Davidson College and Somali expert Jabril Abdulle, both said that the Shabaab rebels are on the run, the port is in government hands and the future is rosy. Inner City Press asked for an assessment of the performance of UN envoy Ahmedou Ould Abdallah and the UN's Group of Experts on sanctions. The former called for a moratorium on reporting from Somalia; the later reported a few years ago that Somali militants were in South Lebanon for training, which made more Somali-watchers laugh.

   Menkhaus defended the Group of Experts recent work, dismissing the Lebanon error -- since 2006 -- as "in the distant past." He did, however, sound a cautionary note about the role of the UN Development Program, which he said has been paying the salaries of security forces in Somalia. Abdulle added that the UN paid to transport the bloated Somali TFG contingent from Djibouti to Mogadishu. On Friday, Inner City Press' question to Ould Abdallah about what the UN pays for in Somalia was referred, through his spokesperson Susie Price, to UNDP. Four days after promising an answer, UNDP has still not answered.

Somalia's FM in UNSC on March 20, financial disclosure not shown

  Menkhaus noted the attack on UNDP last year, and said the agency is perceived as taking sides. Perhaps this partiality is mirrored in an unwillingly to provide basic financial information about what is spends in Somalia, and on what.

Footnote: The head of IPI, Terje Roed Larsen, was not in attendance on Tuesday. Inner City Press has asked UN spokespeople for reaction to Syria's critique of Roed Larsen as exceeding him mandate as UN envoy under Security Council resolution 1559. Roed Larsen is also one of the most senior UN officials who has rebuffed Ban Ki-moon's call to make basic public financial disclosure. Now, Roed Larsen's wife Mona Juul is rumored as a closed by failed candidate for the vacant Assistant Secretary General post in the UN Department of Political Affairs vacated by Angela Kane. The post, sources say, is slated for UNDP's previous Middle East operative, Oscar Fernandez Taranco, well imbued in UNDP's culture. We'll see.

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