Matthew Russell Lee, Inner City Press at the UN, November 13, 2006
UNITED NATIONS – In the name of disarmament, the Uganda People’s Defense Force is dropping bombs in Eastern Uganda, most recently killing ten Kenyans near the border. Since the UN Development Program was, as of mid-2006, funding the Ugandan government’s disarmament programs, on Monday at noon Inner City Press asked the UN Spokesman what the engagements of UNDP, UNICEF and other UN agencies are with the Museveni government’s violent disarmament push. Inner City Press emphasized that it had taken weeks to get UNDP to address the first flaring of the issue, and that now faster inquiry is needed.
“We will actually do something,” the UN spokesman said. Video here, from Minute 26:08. We’ll see. By 6:45 p.m. on Monday, no response had been received.
Of “The Best of Intentions” by James Traub
Elsewhere in UN Headquarters on Monday, James Traub, author of an authorized and laudatory biography of Kofi Annan, “The Best of Intentions” (FSG 2006), took questions from reporters in the UN Correspondents Association club. Inner City Press asked Traub to opine on why Kofi Annan had resisted filing a financial disclosure form, even after his spokesman had said he would. (Click here for more on the issue.)
Mr. Traub said “I don’t know anything about that” because “it came along after I finished my reporting.” He went on to speculate, however, that Kofi Annan is reluctant to do things if he feels he did no wrong. “Why this inquest? I’m the UN. I decided not to earn a lot of money,” Traub continued, channeling Kofi Annan and then his sidekick Iqbal Riza. “A complete nonchalance about what things look like,” was Traub’s diagnosis of Riza. “Not caring what people think, especially people you don’t care about, like the press.” Traub quickly added that Kofi Annan is not guilty of failure to care about appearance.
Since Mr. Annan was presented as taking stands on human rights, Inner City Press asked about Zimbabwe, and, as an example, about the Annan UN’s recent unequivocal praise of Dow Chemicals, which beyond Argent Orange and other issues has refused to pay off the Bhopal-related claims against Union Carbide, which Dow bought.
“I don’t see how his views on human rights are tempered by commitment to corporate profits,” Traub said. On Mugabe Traub laid the blame on Zimbabwe’s neighbors, particularly the ANC in South Africa. Mugabe is “an unspeakable tyrant,” Traub said, whose impunity represents “a grotesque failure.” But no failure of Kofi Annan’s, apparently. Still unaddressed is the legitimatization function for Mugabe played by UNDP, among others – a function that continues, explained by little more than boilerplate, even as local NGOs denounce UNDP.
Back in the UN’s second floor, from the Security Council more facts emerged about Friday’s evening meeting which canceled the Council’s trip to Addis about Darfur. Sources tell Inner City Press that the U.S. representative to the Council on Friday night simply announced that the trip shouldn’t happen. When asked to explain, he said he didn’t have instructions. When others asked him to call and get an explanation, he pointed to the upcoming holiday — Veteran’s Day. When others argued that the U.S. had in the past not shown such deference to others’ holidays, the U.S. representative picked up a newspaper and read it. And so time later, the Council trip was cancelled. To this things have descended.
Across First Avenue a people’s tribunal on Darfur was held, complete with defense attorneys and witnesses who could not be named. Al-Bashir’s assigned counsel argued against trial with Al-Bashir absent. President Judge Wole Soyinka, through an expert, dismissed the argument. And with the wind whipping the flags across the street, the people’s trial began. And if the same were done for Mugabe?
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