By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, March 30 -- The UN held a Mine Action Day event in the General Assembly Lobby, complete with actor Daniel Craig (of James Bond 007 fame) on March 30, photo (from early portion) hereand here.
Inner City Press expected to be able to cover it as before, including on the question of Mine Action Service rogue employee David Bax, about whose purchase of an anti-aircraft gun in Somalia Inner City Press last year asked Nicholas Kaye, now with the real UK FCO.
Due to a retaliatory cut in accreditation by UN official Cristina Gallach, most recent March 30 threat letter here, Inner City Press could only attend the first portion of the event, having to leave at 7 pm before there was any opportunity to interview anyone. This is what Gallach calls “full access,” to Tamils and a Nobel Prize Winner (Jose Ramos Horta) and others who contact her. It is false.
It was ironic: Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson was mock-finding a mine just as the clock hit 6:58 pm and Inner City Press left. Guards who have previously at Gallach's command thrown Inner City Press out onto First Avenue cast glares; others who write no stories remained.
To be an investigative reporter in the UN, as the loose tightens, is like walking through a mine field. And Gallach has made it clear which side she is on. Watch this site.
Back on June 8, 2015 Inner City Press asked then UN envoy to Somalia Nicholas Kay about the UN Office of Project Services report(s) on UN figure David Bax on which it has exclusively reported, this time that Bax while in Somalia purchased an anti-aircraft gun SA-7. Video here.
Kay was handed a piece of paper and read out that this allegation is under investigation and therefore he can have no comment at this time.
Inner City Press replied it has heard the UNOPS report is finished, and asked in any event if it or a summary will be made public. Kay said what he had read was all he could say.
Inner City Press also asked Somalia's prime minister and Maman Sidikou, Special Representative of the Chairperson of the AU Commission for Somalia about the geographic scope of the AMISOM mission, including in Somaliland and Puntland (there was no answer on either) and about US stated plans to send an ambassador. Watch this site.
When the UN Mine Action Service held its annual press conference on April 1, Inner City Press wanted to ask UNMAS Director Agnes Marcaillou about landines in South Sudan and UNMAS' promotion of multiply-accused deminer David Bax from Somalia to Gaza.
But also at the press conference were Japan's Deputy Permanent Representative and the Dutch Permanent Representative Karel van Oosterom, who it was said had to leave early, to meet with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
So Inner City Press first asked van Oosterom if Dutch Queen Maxine, in Myanmar, would be raising the landmine issues in that country.
No, van Oosterom said, the Queen is in Myanmar in her capacity as UN Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development. But he (and UNMAS' Marcaillou) assured that she and other Dutch official raise the landmine issue wherever they go.
Later, Inner City Press asked Marcaillou about the reported use of landmines in South Sudan and about the disposition of the investigation(s) into David Bax, who whistleblowers in Somalia alleged shared DNA information about Somalia bombers with US intelligence, as well as engaging in conflicts of interest. (Video and background here.)
Marcaillou spoke passionately about South Sudan, where UNMAS found cluster bombs were used but could not find by whom. She said UNMAS coordinated a statement on the landline allegation, by IGAD with the UN Mission UNMISS. Later she said that UNMAS dogs were used to check if explosives were being brought into UNMISS protection of civilians site.
On Bax, the answer was less convincing. Marcaillou as she did last year pointed to an investigation by the UN Office of Project Services - but this time acknowledged that she had not seen the whole UNOPS report.
This is the case even though Bax is a UNMAS employee - it's that UNMAS outsources its human resources activities to UNOPS. But shouldn't Marcaillou as UNMAS director have access to investigative reports about UNMAS staffers? We'll have more on this.
Footnote: After the briefing, Inner City Press mused whether the Netherlands, running for one of two Western European and Other Group seats on the UN Security Council against Italy and Sweden, would be upping its contributions to UNMAS.
Karel van Oosterom replied that “currently, tender process under way for for years 2016-20. Share UNMAS will depend on quality its proposals.”
This level of detail is appreciated. And wouldn't one think that assessment would include UNMAS' transparency, including whether it demands and gets access to investigative reports about UNMAS staff like Bax and the issues raised? We'll have more on this.