Monday, March 23, 2009

UN Still Won't Answer Who Funds Somali Government, Ould Abdallah Bemoans Media

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

UNITED NATIONS, March 21 -- While Somalia's new foreign minister Mohamed Abdulahi Omaar painted a strangely upbeat picture of the last two months in Mogadishu, UN envoy Ahmedou Ould Abdallah stood by but clarified his call for a moratorium on reporting of the killing of civilians by peacekeepers. Neither man would say on-camera who funds the new Somali government. 

  Inner City Press asked Mohamed Abdulahi Omaar, who responded that the airport is now under government control and can be taxed. Is that enough to pay the Parliament, the number of members of which has recently doubled? No, he conceded, it is not. He said the "international community" is making up the difference. Video here, from Minute 6:16. More generally, he called for more peacekeepers, from Uganda and Burundi.

   Ould Abdallah, whose comments likening those who reported on the killing of bystanders by African Union peacekeepers with the Milles Collines radio station in Rwandatriggered calls by human rights and press freedom groups for retraction or resignation, expressed frustration that every time there is good news about Somalia, "some Somali grabs the headlines" with a violent act. He said he had "expected a grenade" to be thrown on Friday, to overshadow the UN Security Council proceedings. Video here, from Minute 4:53.Coverage after the meeting criticized Mohamed Abdulahi Omaar's call for more peacekeepers.

  Ould Abdallah graciously asked Inner City Press about its June 2008 visit to the Somali peace talks in Djibouti. Who paid for the talks, Inner City Press asked for the second time. Ould Abdallah referred the question to his spokesperson Susie Price. But when Inner City Press followed up with her off-camera, all she would say is "ask UNDP."  An email to UNDP resulted in a generic statement to look on UNDP's website, or to await some subsequently answer, which will be reported after receipt.

FM of Somalia under Ould-Abdallah's watchful eye

   In 2008, it emerged that the UN was paying at least $14 million to the Somali government. But from which donors did the money come, and what was is used for?  After the stakeout on Somalia, an advisor to Ould Abdallah told Inner City Press that while the government now controls the port, opponents are opening for business another port, which will deny revenue to the government.

  Inner City Press asked Ould Abdallah about the disclosure in the UN's most recent report on Somalia that a UN staff member had been held by kidnappers since mid-2008. This is an important question, Ould Abdallah said, promising to look into it and give an answer by telephone. Video here, from Minute 10:04. We'll be waiting for the call.

Historical footnote: the UN agreed in 1962 regarding Somalia to

"undertake, within the financial resources available to it, to provide administrative facilities necessary to the successful implementation of this Agreement, specifically including the payment of stipends and allowances to supplement, as appropriate, the salaries paid the officers by the Government under Article IV, paragraph 1, of this Agreement, and upon request, effecting payments in currencies unavailable to the Government, and making arrangements for travel and transportation outside the Somali Republic when the officer, his family or belongings are moved under the terms of his contract."

  Plus ca change, plus c'est le meme chose...

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