Tuesday, March 8, 2016

On Somalia As US Drone Strike Said To Kill 150, Inner City Press Asks, UN Silent

By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, March 8 -- Even where the today's UN has peacekeeping missions, it has become irrelevant. On March 8 Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Stephane Dujarric, video here,UN transcript here:
Inner City Press: On Somalia, I'm sure you've seen the reports, the US said it conducted a major drone strike on, they said, Al Shabaab targets.  They say they killed 150 people.  It seems like the UN has a mission there. The Special Representative, does he have any comment on this?  What does he think of--

Spokesman:  I haven't seen… I don't they have confirmation of the attack, but we'll check with the Mission.
  Six hours later and counting, nothing.
When UK Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond came to the UN to chair a meeting on Somalia, then out to the stakeout to take questions, one assumed they would include Somalia.
 But no.
 Hammond's spokesman, standing up in not wearing a poppy, picked four questions: the first from the BBC, repeating David Cameron's comments about the European Union; the next about Iraq and Syria; the third about when British "holidaymakers" may return to Egypt, and the fourth about Vienna, Syria and ISIS. 
 Before the third and fourth, Inner City Press said, "Question on Somalia?" And as Hammond walked off, Inner City Press asked more loudly, "Somaliland?" Nothing.
 That was it. This on a day when the Security Council is to belatedly meet about Burundi, on which the UK has cited threats of genocide. After Hammond's non-Somalia questions and answers, the media stakeout was nearly empty when the UK Presidency adopted a Presidential Statement on DR Congo, without even reading it out. What does this say about the place of Africa?
  Back on June 3 when the UN's (now outgoing) envoy in Somalia Nicholas Kay took questions via Twitter, Inner City Press asked him what the UN is doing to preserve the ability to send remittances to Somalia, as well as questions about Burundian "peacekeepers" and Somaliland. 
 Kay answered the remittance question: "@innercitypress Raising our voice to sound alarm on impact if  Somali remittances stop. Urging search for solutions. #UNSomTwoYears."

  Inner City Press notes the cut-offs of remittances not only by Barclays Bank in the UK and Merchants Bank of California and new First American Bank in the US, but also Westpac, which is a member of the UN Global Compact. Should it be?
 On the Somaliland question, while Kay to his credit has answered informally, the request for an #OnTheRecord statement was not responded to at this time.  (Kay will be in New York next week, including at IPI.)
 A question that he did not respond to, but others did, was this: "What's the impact of situation in Burundi on continuation of country's 'peacekeepers' in AMISOM?"
  There are photographs of Burundian "peacekeepers" returned to shoot live fire at protesters, and another being referred for a D-1 post in Herve Ladsous's mission in Mali, MINUSMA. We'll have more on this.
  Inner City Press received this communication / request, and published it here:
"I follow your investigative work and applaud the questions you pose to UN officials. I am writing to you because I would like you to follow-up with the UN, specifically UNSOM, on the press release that was issued by my family on the tragic and targeted killing of my uncle, MP Yusuf Dirir. Below you will find a copy of the same press release that was forwarded to Mr.Nicholas Kay. We have not received a response and as you can imagine, we are frustrated by UNSOM and the UN's silence on this issue."
  This didn't fit in a tweet, but it should be answered. Watch this site.
Back on May 9 when the UN's outgoing humanitarian coordinator for Somalia Philippe Lazzarini held a press conference at the UN in New York, Inner City Press asked him about the impact of money transfer and remittance being cut off, about the future of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya -- and about Puntland and Somaliland, where people fleeing Yemen are landing. Video here.
  Lazzarini said that remittances have been cut from the UK, US, Australia and more recently Kenya; the latter country might reinstate some of the money transfer companies, he said. Returns to Somalia from Dadaab should be voluntary.  
  In response to Inner City Press' question about the involvement of some parts of the UN, and of the International Organization for Migration in screening refugees including for “counter-terrorism,” Lazzarini said that the government of Somalia is concerned about returnees who might have joined certain groups while in Yemen. Can you say, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula? There is more transparency needed, however, particularly from IOM.
  Lazzarini has previously answered Inner City Press about Somaliland's airspace. On May 8 when Inner City Press asked about the UN's dealings with Somaliland and Puntland, he said it is a big topic, but concretely the deadly attack on UNICEF in Puntland means one can no longer say Puntland more safe than, say, Mogadishu. But what about Somaliland? We will have more on this.

  Lazzarini is headed next to Lebanon; we'll continue to cover his and the UN's work there, and wish him luck.