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Sahrawi ADR:

 

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 22nd, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

A Solar-backed Currency for the Refugees of Western Sahara.

By Mel Chin | Creative Time | April 30, 2014

 www.policyinnovations.org/ideas/i…

View of Smara, one of the Sahrawi refugee camps in Tindouf, Algeria. CREDIT: Mel Chin, 2011.

What the world needs now is the first Bank of the Sun.

The HSBC ads at Newark International Airport could not have been more appropriate for my trek to the Sahrawi refugee camps in Tindouf, Algeria. As I ambled through the jet bridge with my carry-on, color-coordinated images of demure North African women met my eyes, accompanied by some facts assembled by the bank—”0.3% of Saharan solar energy could power Europe”—and a self-aggrandizing but, for me, prescient message: “Do you see a world of potential? We do.”

It was the fall of 2011, and I was on a string of flights from North Carolina to Algeria to participate in an ARTifariti convening of international artists presenting human rights–related projects at the Algerian camps and in Western Sahara. During previous gatherings, a New York–based art critic had presented a slide show to international artists and Sahrawi refugees, sharing pieces by activist artists and filmmakers such as Ai Weiwei and Spike Lee. The get-togethers offered a forum to consider artists who might do a project in the camps.

And in the end, the refugees had chosen a Chinese Texan who had spearheaded Operation Paydirt’s Fundred Dollar Bill Project, an artwork that prompted Americans to draw their own versions of $100 bills (in order to raise awareness of and prevent childhood lead poisoning). Essentially they said, “Bring us the guy with the money.” So I packed my bags and left for the western lands of North Africa.

Mel Chin

Operation Paydirt’s Fundred Dollar Bill Project in St. Roch, New Orleans. CREDIT: Amanda Wiles, 2009.

At an unknown hour on a starless night, I arrived in the 27 February Camp—one of Algeria’s five Sahrawi refugee camps (named after the date in 1976 on which the Polisario Front declared the birth of the Sahrawi Democratic Arab Republic)—and was led to the home of our host, Abderrahman. As we entered his compound, the seasoned warrior, dressed in a blue darrâa, emerged from a UN tent, unfurled a carpet over the sand, ignited charcoal and began to prepare the customary tea for us. We attempted to translate from Hassaniya Arabic to Spanish to English over tea, getting a taste of enthusiastic nomad hospitality.

That night I heard firsthand the history of the Sahrawi people, who today are divided between Algerian refugee camps and a sliver of Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara that they call the “liberated territories.” For nearly four decades, warfare and political powers have trapped more than 150,000 Sahrawis in the camps and separated them from their family members in the liberated territories, which are bounded by the Moroccan wall to the west and Algeria’s border to the east.

When Morocco and Mauritania invaded Western Sahara in 1975 (Mauritania withdrew in 1979), they split up the land and seized the Sahrawis’ natural resources—water, rich fishing grounds and the world’s largest phosphate mine. Now, inhabiting either the arid, landlocked region of Western Sahara or the bare-bones camps of Algeria, the Sahrawi people depend entirely on international humanitarian aid for food, water and medicine. And while Western Sahara has none of the lead-poisoning problems of postindustrial America, its liberated territories have more landmines than any other place on the planet.

Mel Chin

In the tent of Abderrahman and his family. CREDIT: Mel Chin, 2011.

In the morning I awoke from this harrowing chronicle in a land of sand and rock that was brutally burnished by the sun—and I can guarantee that there was no bank in sight. I soon learned why the Sahrawi people were so interested in the Fundred Dollar Bill project: they have no currency of their own and deal mostly with Algerian dinars. In response, we created a background template for their currency, printed thousands of blank bills and distributed them through the camps, announcing a design opportunity. After we curated their drawings, the Sahrawis would vote on the designs for what might become their first currency.

The denominations for the currency, called “sollars,” were 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100. Children and teens drew the 5s and 10s; young adults, the 20s; and of course, the elders, the 100s. But the designs for the 50s would have two adult versions, one male and one female. The survivalist family culture that has emerged from the hostile desert climate has enforced a long-standing code of equality between the sexes. In a region where food is scarce and hot summer temperatures and freezing desert nights can kill, whoever survives the elements must be allowed equal rights in the tribe to barter and represent the family, regardless of religious dictates.

Mel Chin

The children’s school at the 27 February Camp. CREDIT: Mel Chin, 2011.

While I was in the camps, I came to understand that the symbolic and therapeutic benefits of designing the first Sahrawi currency with the refugees were not worthy enough goals. The Sahrawi people need a real economy. And to make that happen, the fictional currency I helped the refugees design had to be backed by something real and exchangeable on international markets.

As I mulled over the problem under the blazing sun, I realized that the desert holds the potential to bring Sahrawis economic and political independence—and the leverage necessary to help us all combat climate change.

What the world needs now is the first Bank of the Sun. The first solar energy–backed currency in the world could bring the Sahrawi people an independent economy and offer a major breakthrough in an environmental quagmire. We would create a new model of banking and currency, free from the dominance of gold and oil, for first-world countries to follow.

And this model would be delivered by the Sahrawi people, who have been waiting for freedom and self-determination for 39 years! By achieving worldwide renown for freeing people from hydrocarbon dependency, the Sahrawi could then barter with the global community for another form of independence: their right to self-determination.

Mel Chin Bank of the Sun Western SaharaFreedom is the concept propelling my action with the Sahrawi people. The sun on this poster for the Bank of the Sun is composed of the Arabic word for “freedom,” repeated 38 times—once for every year the Sahrawis have waited for the right to self-determination (as of last year). CREDIT: Mel Chin, 2013.

I admit that it was a pretty far-out and grand idea, but I suppose I did see a world of potential in Saharan solar energy, just like the jetway HSBC ad said. I was thinking like a bank.

After getting back from the Tindouf camps, I found myself in Texas, accepting a national award for my efforts in public art and, most likely, boring everyone with crazy talk about a Bank of the Sun in landmine-laced Western Sahara. My friends were more concerned about my diminishing sense of self-preservation than about anything I said—especially after I told them that my trip to Tifariti had been interrupted by the armed kidnapping of three foreign-aid workers from a neighboring refugee camp. They didn’t even entertain my ideas with any questions about how the bank idea could be pulled off.

As with most such gatherings, there was not much left to do after the award ceremony but drink and dance. So, with friends in tow, we honky-tonked through San Antonio, taking over a bar by the River Walk and proceeding to do what had to be done. While taking a break from the floor, I noticed a man about my age sitting at a table with a beer, tapping his feet to the bluesy beat. I had my posse pull him onto the floor. He began to move in a calculated way, like an engineer. Intrigued, I joined him and the party on the floor.

Over the din, I shouted, “What do you do?”

He shouted back, “I’m an engineer.”

“Really?” I asked. “What kind?”

“A solar engineer.”

I challenged Texas style: “So, ever heard of Western Sahara?”

Matter-of-factly he replied, “Yes, we designed a power station for the refugee camps there.”

For me, a light flicked on, burning away the haze of booze and turning the blaring R&B into a background of sweet birds; the bodies in frantic motion seemed to stand still. I urged him off the dance floor. He told me, in an Australian accent, that he was Dr. Richard Corkish, head of photovoltaic engineering at the University of New South Wales in Australia. Not only that—his colleague had just been in the same refugee camps I had visited, advising on how to power a women’s clinic. It was a profound coincidence, to say the least. We closed the bar, and I left clutching Dr. Corkish’s business card.

For me, a light flicked on, burning away the haze of booze and turning the blaring R&B into a background of sweet birds.

Since our night on the floor, Dr. Corkish has been an adviser to the Bank of the Sun, which is on its way to becoming a reality. He has assigned students the project as part of his curriculum and counseled us on the design of a modular, pragmatic stand-alone solar power plant in Western Sahara, as well as a cost-effective method for transmitting power. Following Corkish’s methodologies, we could generate more than enough energy for Sahrawi needs, creating a surplus to sell to neighboring countries or even to Europe. By working in the Western Sahara to retool our approach to energy, we would prove that the most advanced methods of solar-power storage and delivery are feasible even in a place with no infrastructure. The most appropriate technology for us all could be built from the sand up.

In February 2013 I discussed the project with Ahmad Bukhari, the Polisario representative to the United Nations, and later with Mohamed Yeslem Beisat, the ambassador to the United States for the Western Saharan people. Skeptical at first, they have both become advisers and creative collaborators.

To make the first Bank of the Sun a reality, we have to find a place where electricity can be generated that is both safe from armed conflict and close enough to someone interested in buying energy. Bukhari suggested placing the stand-alone solar power plant not in the camps but in Mijek, a nomadic outpost in the liberated territories. Mijek continues to be the most likely site because the energy could be sold to Zouérat, a town in northern Mauritania where an iron ore mine needs more power than is available. The Mauritanian ambassador recently confirmed that the country would buy any energy offered. I have started to seek funds for a fact-finding trek, during which I will finally step on the sands of Western Sahara.

Mel Chin

The site and plans for the potential Bank of the Sun. CREDIT: Mel Chin, 2013.

During my time in the Sahrawi refugee camps, I relearned a lesson I picked up in the flood-wracked and environmentally poisoned parts of New Orleans: you are not inspired by tragedy or human suffering—you are compelled.

My brilliant translator, a young man named Mohamed Sulaiman Labat, was born in the camps and has never traveled beyond his host country, Algeria, or the shameful wall of sand and explosives erected by Morocco in Western Sahara. Sulaiman is majestic in his capacity for optimism and his aptitude for imagining alternative futures based on ideas we discussed during my stay. On our last night together, he spoke with me about staring each night into the vast sky above the camps. He then asked, “No disrespect, but why is it so easy for an artist to see our need for justice when the rest of the world can’t?”

A question like that makes you think about what could be and about how our humanity is challenged if we don’t take action to amplify his question—and to force an answer.

———————–

This piece from Creative Time Reports is republished without trying to track down permission. Climate Reports is made possible by the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation. This series is produced in conjunction with the 2013 Marfa Dialogues/NY organized by Ballroom Marfa, the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation and the Public Concern Foundation. We hope that the authors will not mind our trying to publicize their very sound dream for a mos reasonable future. The only question is if the world will be enlightened enough to see that the true realists are the dreamers of today.

 

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 1st, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

 

Back at the end of January 2013 we posted – based on an article in “Der Spiegel” – that reached us via the UN Wire – that there was in the making an Islamistan, much more dangerous to the West then the AfPak (Afghanistan & Pakistan) region. This will be a Sahelistan ranging from Mauritania to Somalia, right there as a second southern complete layer to the Mediterranean shore Arab States that stretch from Morocco to Egypt. We call this the SAHELISTAN. Its front line is in Mali, Niger, and Chad.

This layer of Islamism is a combination of conservative Islam used as mortar to bind together locally inspired aspirations to free themselves of the Arab century old imposed rulers and like in the Maghreb States and Libya and Egypt, is supported by the religious leaders out of pure opportunism.

Our old posting is:

Now, in Vienna, I realize further the influence of this newly evolving threat and the reality that Europe is happy to let France, the former Colonial power in that region, shoulder the problem by itself. Further, it is France that running its National energy network on nuclear power, is totally depended on the Uranium they get from those countries, while other Members of the EU have no such dependence.

Further, as we noted last month, at the time of the Vienna Conference of the “Alliance of Civilizations” – as shown by the regional division among the Workshops in that meeting, the Central European States have sort of distanced themselves from the Mediterranean States by showing their economic interest as an extension from Central Europe to Central Asia – that is the Black Sea – Caspian Sea and beyond to the other smaller Muslim States that were part of the former Soviet Union. This leaves the Southern EU States to worry about the Muslim MENA region (Middle East – North Africa) and Turkey – if it has to be.

We also suggested a third tier – the Northern tier – and that is the line that connects the Scandinavian countries – Germany – Poland – with Russia.
That will eventually be the route to bring Russia to the EU when it becomes clear that you must have one billion people at least in order to have a weight in the global economy in just a few years from now.

But that is not where Vienna left this part of the world.

In March I participated further at two wide scope events:

(1)  March 11, 2013, the Austrian Institute for International Politics (OIIP) where Editor Walter Haemmerle of the Wiener Zeitung, was the moderator between three Members of OIIP – all Professors at the University but coming from different areas of interest – Prof. Heinz Gaertner – a political Scientist, Prof. Jan Pospisil for the Arab Space – in particular North Africa, and Prof. Cengiz Guenay, for the Near East/ Middle East Space.

The topic was USA – Near East – Mali – in context of  Changes of International Applications of Power.

(2) March 21, 2013, the Vienna Institute for International Dialogue and Cooperation (VIDC) – www.VIDC.org – using the space at the Bruno Kreisky Forum for International Dialog – dealt with a more limited topic – and therefore could go down to quite some depth – “Mali: Perspectives for the Political Come-Back.”
At this meeting, moderated by Marie-Roger Biloa of Cameroon, Producer and Editor of the Paris-based “Africa International” – and having published Development Magazines in Cameroon and Gabon,  held in place, with a strong will, three very different panelists – that included two different aspects of Mali, and the French Ambassador to Vienna – Mr. Stephane Gompertz.

The two Malians were – Ismaeel Sory Maiega, Director of the study Center of Languages and African Cultures, and the European Representative of the Tuareg-organized Insurgency MNLA – Mouvement National de Liberation de l’AzawadNational Movement for the Liberation of Azawad, Mr. Moussa Assarid.

Ms. Biloa is also the President “Club Millennium” in Paris – an African Think Tank and training place for leadership.

———————————

From the OIIP event:

The issue is the US – it is retrenching from the Reagan – G.W. Bush (the son) days of overextended global involvements – so issues like the insurgency in Mali and other Islamization aspects of North Africa, are to be from now on pure European problems. Even the Middle East will have to take care of itself – the most the US will do is to express encouragement for others to act. Professor Gaertner studied the US elections and his view of the Obama II Administration is very similar to what we wrote on our website. The US is readjusting to the Trans-Pacific Partnership – with China its main focus, so much of what goes on in the Muslim Space will have to be filled in by others. Europeans will have to look across the Mediterranean for their own sake.
This does not mean the US finds of a sudden France – but rather will not interfere if France wants to look for its own interests and put their money where they talk was for quite some time.

Dr. Jan Pospisil did his PhD thesis on US-German military cooperation and then looked at East Africa and Sri-Lanka. Like Prof. Gaertner he sees in Syria the biggest problem for the topic of human rights and both think that this is an area that Austria will pay attention as well. With this background it becomes interesting to note that the Austrian participation in Mali is with 9 people.

Dr. Cengiz Guenay wrote his PhD thesis on “Islam as a political factor in Turkey” and found Libya, Egypt, and now Syria as his main fields of interest and he is called in quite often to explain the situation to the media.

————————

The two main points I marked myself from this discussion were:

A. that Turkey is now a TRADING STATE and will do whatever Mr. Erdogan finds opportune for the literal moment.

B. The World – Instead of Multi-polarity – now it will be MULTI-PARTNERSHIPS.

———————-

 

Then at the VIDC/Bruno Kreisky Forum event we got to know Mr. Assarid a full blooded Tuareg, dressed to prove it,  who speaks about the Azawad State they want to carve out from the Northern half of Mali – the five towns – Timbuktu, Lere, Hombori, Gao, and Kidal. His bio says he is a writer, journalist and comedian – living in Paris since 1999. He has appeared on TV in several series as actor. He was saying that the Tuaregs have a National movement that is secular. They are not part of an Islamic uprising and their problem is rather that the other side – the present government in Bamako – that took over from an elected government by military coup – is the one that may help the North Africa Al-Qaeda – not the Tuaregs.

Listening to him, and to his opponent, Professor. Maiega, who is an intellectual – head of a Bamako Institute to promote indigenous languages and African Civilizations,  it seems that in effect both of them are more interested in traditional African culture then in Islam, and in effect it is France’s interest in holding on to its previous Colony that is the most problematic aspect of this entanglement. Is it all because of the Uranium, coal, and other natural resources found in Mali? Will this move on to Niger and Chad? What would happen if Mali is allowed to split amicably into two States? Could this be worse then seeing it unravel in fighting that allows other groups to mix the boiling pot?

The French say they want to bring down their fighting troops from 4,000 to 1,000 by the end of April, and have by that time trained the Mali government troops, and the West African troops, that offered to help. I say – Do not hold your breath – I say.
It is easy to get in – it is much more difficult to get out –  and the French Ambassador did not impress us that he really thinks France wants to get out from Mali. Though let me add immediately that Ambassador Gompertz is Professor for classic literature and has a degree in Germanistic – this while in the French Foreign Ministry he was head of the sections on Africa and the Indian Ocean (2009-2012) when he was appointed to Vienna. Before 2008 he was Ambassador to Ethiopia, and with the North Africa and Middle East sections in the ministry – so he is well into the Mediterranean region.

The problem with the desert people maybe much more complicated then what was presented. There is money to be made from those natural resources, and from kidnapping people for ransom. The desert is big and people rather unemployed – so the few can muster the rest, and bamboozle with religion cooked up with social, ethnic, tribal arguments to boot – this works in a world that thinks very little of terrorism, as an accepted tool for those that feel downtroden, and the passage to the world here-after as a move to step up an imagined personalized ladder.

———

Recent History as reported today – April 1, 2013: The fighting reflected the difficulty of securing Mali after a French intervention in January that pushed the rebels out of their northern strongholds.

“Things are quiet this morning. The markets are open, traffic is on the streets, and people are out of their houses,” Timbuktu resident Garba Maiga said by telephone.

Malian military sources said soldiers were sweeping parts of the town to ensure there were no remaining rebel fighters.

At least one Malian soldier was killed in the clashes, along with more than 20 insurgents, according to a government statement on Sunday night. Residents said at least five civilians were killed in the crossfire.

An army spokesman said that groups of rebels had entered the town after setting off a suicide car bomb at a checkpoint, diverting the military’s attention.

Paris is keen to reduce its current 4,000-strong troop presence to 1,000 by the end of the year as it hands over its mission to a regional African force.

========================================================================================================

 

By coincidence – the following arrived in our Inbox and I find this relevant as it stresses US-Senegal relations. Senegal is a Muslim State.

04/01/2013 03:58 PM EDT

 

Remarks at Luncheon in Honor of Four African Democratic Partners.

Remarks

William J. Burns
Deputy Secretary
Martin Van Buren Dining Room
Washington, DC
March 29, 2013

 


 

Good afternoon. It is truly an honor to be here today with all of you. I want to thank Assistant Secretary Carson for hosting this luncheon. As you know, despite our best efforts to change his mind, Johnnie is leaving the State Department after a nearly four decades of exemplary public service. We are all deeply indebted to Johnnie for his leadership and stewardship of the U.S.-Africa relationship.

I would like to welcome President Banda of Malawi, Prime Minister Neves of Cape Verde, Foreign Minister Ndiaye of Senegal, and Foreign Minister Kamara of Sierra Leone. It is a pleasure to host you here at the Department of State.

Like Johnnie, I am an Africa optimist. I am an optimist because the tide of wars and civil strife is receding. I am an optimist because the continent continues to make steady progress in political reform — more than half of the countries in Africa have embraced democratic, multiparty rule and elections and term limits are now widely accepted norms. And I am an optimist because Africa’s growth rate will soon surpass Asia’s and seven of the world’s ten fastest growing economies are African.

The credit for this transformation belongs to leaders like you and courageous citizens across the continent. Looking back over the past two decades, the United States is proud of its modest contribution and steady support.

President Clinton worked with Congress to pass the African Growth and Opportunity Act, which helped create hundreds of thousands of jobs in the region. President George W. Bush created the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, and the Millennium Challenge Corporation, programs that saved millions of lives and brought hundreds of thousands of Africans out of poverty. Over the last four years, President Obama has built on this foundation by forming partnerships based on mutual respect and responsibility with governments, entrepreneurs, youth, women, and the private sector to strengthen democratic institutions, spur economic growth, promote opportunity and development, and advance peace and security.

Each of you illustrates the potential of these partnerships.

President Banda – in one year, you led Malawi out of a deep abyss, moving swiftly to stabilize the economy and elevate human rights. And as you did, the United States was pleased to restore its partnership with your government, including lifting the suspension of our $350 million MCC Compact. We look forward to continuing to work together further to strengthen Malawi democracy, address hunger and improve food security.

Prime Minister Neves – under your leadership, Cape Verde reached middle-income country status, joined the WTO, attracted significant foreign investment, and solidified its social safety net. We value our cooperation on maritime security and in countering narcotrafficking and are pleased to launch a second five-year MCC compact to accelerate economic growth.

Senegal is one of the United States’ strongest partners and a leading democracy in Africa. We applaud the Senegalese government’s commitment to improve governance, regional security, and bilateral cooperation. We deeply appreciate President Sall’s efforts for peace in the Casamance and his leadership on peacekeeping and regional security.

Last year, Sierra Leone held fair, free, and credible elections. We thank President Koroma and his government for their commitment to strengthening Sierra Leone’s democratic institutions. Predictably, the economy responded to your efforts, expanding by 30% in 2012. Let me also note our deep appreciation for your government’s troop contribution to the Somalia peacekeeping force.

There is no doubt that we face many challenges in the coming years – from the Horn to the Great Lakes, and the Sahel. This is why our partnership has never been more important. Fortunately, it has never been stronger.

Thank you very much.

 

====================================================================================================

File:Mali regions map.png

 

According to the Scottish explorer and scientist Robert Brown, Azawad is an Arabic corruption of the Berber word Azawagh, referring to a dry river basin that covers western Niger, northeastern Mali, and southern Algeria.[16] The name translates to “land of transhumance“.[17]

Flag of Azawad  the flag of AZAWAG

On 6 April 2012, in a statement posted to its website, the MNLA declared the independence of Azawad from Mali. In this Azawad Declaration of Independence, the name Independent State of Azawad was used[18] (French: État indépendant de l’Azawad,[18] ArabicDawlat Azaw?d al-Mustaqillah).

On 26 May, the MNLA and its former co-belligerent Ansar Dine – an Islamist group linked to Al-Qaeda – announced a pact in which they would merge to form an Islamist state; according to the media the new long name of Azawad was used in this pact. But this new name is not clear – sources list few variants of it: the Islamic Republic of Azawad[20] (French: République islamique de l’Azawad),[21] the Islamic State of Azawad (French: État islamique de l’Azawad[22]), the Republic of Azawad.[23] Azawad authorities did not officially confirm any change of name.

Later reports indicated the MNLA had decided to withdraw from the pact with Ansar Dine. In a new statement, dated on 9 June, MNLA uses the name State of Azawad (French: État de l’Azawad).[24]

The MNLA has unveiled the list of 28 members of the Transitional Council of the State of Azawad (Conseil de Transition de l’Etat de l’Azawad, CTEA) serving as a provisional government with President Bilal Ag Acherif to manage the new State of Azawad.

The Economic Community of West African States, which refused to recognise Azawad and called the declaration of its independence “null and void”, has said it may send troops into the disputed region in support of the Malian claim.[7][8]

Ansar Dine later declared that they rejected the idea of Azawad independence.[12] The MNLA and Ansar Dine continued to clash,[13] culminating in the Battle of Gao on 27 June, in which the Islamist groups Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa and Ansar Dine took control of the city, driving out the MNLA. The following day, Ansar Dine announced that it was in control of all the cities of northern Mali.[14]

On 14 February 2013 the MNLA renounced their claim of independence for Azawad; it asked the Malian government to start negotiations on its future status.[15]

All of this points at a very confusing situation that in effect backs what we heard at the meeting of March 21, 2013 here in Vienna.

File:Azawad in context.JPG

Above map suggests that the presence of Tuaregs which were nomads, is not limited to the north of Mali alone, but they are found in neighboring States as well. The history of the region involved wars that extended to Algeria and to larger Morocco. The area was part of empires that existed in Timbuktu and Gao.

Under French rule

Portal icon Azawad portal

After European powers formalized the scramble for Africa in the Berlin Conference, the French assumed control of the land between the 14th meridian and Miltou, South-West Chad, bounded in the south by a line running from Say, Niger to Baroua. Although the Azawad region was French in name, the principle of effectivity required France to hold power in those areas assigned, e.g. by signing agreements with local chiefs, setting up a government, and making use of the area economically, before the claim would be definitive. On 15 December 1893, Timbuktu, by then long past its prime, was annexed by a small group of French soldiers, led by Lieutenant Gaston Boiteux.[41] The region became part of French Sudan (Soudan Français), a colony of France. The colony was reorganised and the name changed several times during the French colonial period. In 1899 the French Sudan was subdivided and the Azawad became part of Upper Senegal and Middle Niger (Haut-Sénégal et Moyen Niger). In 1902 it was renamed as Senegambia and Niger (Sénégambie et Niger), and in 1904 this was changed again to Upper Senegal and Niger (Haut-Sénégal et Niger). This name was used until 1920 when it became French Sudan again.[42]

French Sudan became the autonomous state of Mali within the French Community in 1958, and Mali became independent from France in 1960. Four major Tuareg rebellions took place against Malian rule: the First Tuareg Rebellion (1962–64), the rebellion of 1990–1995, the rebellion of 2007–2009, and a 2012 rebellion. This alone should tell the world that the situation is not stable and that it can be adjusted only if autonomy is granted the Tuareg region.

In the early twenty-first century, the region became notorious for banditry and drug smuggling.[43] The area has been reported to contain great potential mineral wealth, including petroleum and uranium.[44]

On 17 January 2012, the MNLA announced the start of an insurrection in Azawad against the government of Mali, declaring that it “will continue so long as Bamako does not recognise this territory as a separate entity”.[45]On 24 January, the MNLA won control of the town of Aguelhok, killing around 160 Malian soldiers and capturing dozens of heavy weapons and military vehicles. In March 2012, the MNLA and Ansar Dine took control of the regional capitals of Kidal[46] and Gao[47] along with their military bases. On 1 April, Timbuktu was captured.[48] After the seizure of Timbuktu on 1 April, the MNLA gained effective control of most of the territory they claim for an independent Azawad. In a statement released on the occasion, the MNLA invited all Azawadis abroad to return home and join in constructing institutions in the new state.[49]

The National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) declared Azawad an independent state on 6 April 2012 and pledged to draft a constitution establishing it as a democracy. Their statement acknowledged the United Nations charter and said the new state would uphold its principles.[5][50]

In an interview with France 24, an MNLA spokesman declared the independence of Azawad:

Mali is an anarchic state. Therefore we have gathered a national liberation movement to put in an army capable of securing our land and an executive office capable of forming democratic institutions. We declare the independence of Azawad from this day on.
Moussa Ag Assarid, MLNA spokesman, 6 April 2012[51]

In the same interview, Assarid promised that Azawad would respect the colonial frontiers that separate Azawad from its neighbours; he insisted that Azawad’s declaration of independence had international legality.[51]

No foreign entity recognised Azawad. The MNLA’s declaration was immediately rejected by the African Union, who declared it “null and no value whatsoever”. The French Foreign Ministry said it would not recognise the unilateral partition of Mali, but it called for negotiations between the two entities to address “the demands of the northern Tuareg population [which] are old and for too long had not received adequate and necessary responses”. The United States also rejected the declaration of independence.[52]

The MNLA is estimated to have up to 3,000 soldiers. ECOWAS declared Azawad “null and void”, and said that Mali is “one and [an] indivisible entity”. ECOWAS has said that it would use force, if necessary, to put down the rebellion.[53] The French government indicated it could provide logistical support.[52]

On 26 May, the MNLA and its former co-belligerent Ansar Dine announced a pact to merge to form an Islamist state.[9] Later reports indicated the MNLA withdrew from the pact, distancing itself from Ansar Dine.[10][11] MNLA and Ansar Dine continued to clash,[54] culminating in the Battle of Gao and Timbuktu on 27 June, in which the Islamist groups Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa and Ansar Dine took control of Gao, driving out the MNLA. The following day, Ansar Dine announced that it was in control of Timbuktu and Kidal, the three biggest cities of northern Mali.[55] Ansar Dine continued its offensive against MNLA positions and overran all remaining MNLA held towns by 12 July with the fall of Ansogo.[56]

In December 2012, the MNLA agreed on Mali’s national unity and territorial integrity in talks with both the central government and Ansar Dine.[57]

Religion

Most are Muslims, of the Sunni or Sufi orientations.[citation needed] Most popular in the Tuareg movement and northern Mali as a whole is the Maliki branch of Sunnism, in which traditional opinions and analogical reasoning by later Muslim scholars are often used instead of a strict reliance on ?adith (coming directly from the Mohammed’s life and utterances) as a basis for legal judgment.[79]

Ansar Dine follows the Salafi branch of Sunni Islam, which rejects the existence of Islamic holy men (other than Mohammed) and their teachings. They strongly object to praying around the graves of Malikite ‘holymen’, and burned down an ancient Sufi shrine in Timbuktu, which had been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.[80]

Most of the 300 Christians who formerly lived in Timbuktu have fled to the South since the rebels captured the town on 2 April 2012.[81][dead link]

Humanitarian situation

The people living in the central and northern Sahelian and Sahelo-Saharan areas of Mali are the country’s poorest, according to an International Fund for Agricultural Development report. Most are pastoralists and farmers practicing subsistence agriculture on dry land with poor and increasingly degraded soils.[82] The northern part of Mali suffers from a critical shortage of food and lack of health care. Starvation has prompted about 200,000 inhabitants to leave the region.[83]

Refugees in the 92,000-person refugee camp at Mbera, Mauritania, describe the Islamists as “intent on imposing an Islam of lash and gun on Malian Muslims.” The Islamists in Timbuktu have destroyed about a half-dozen historic above-ground tombs of revered holy men, proclaiming the tombs contrary to Shariah. One refugee in the camp spoke of encountering Afghans, Pakistanis and Nigerians among the invading forces.[84]

History of Azawad
MNLA flag.svg
Gao Empire
Songhai Empire
Pashalik of Timbuktu
French Sudan
Tuareg rebellion (1962–1964)
Tuareg rebellion (1990–1995)
Tuareg rebellion (2007–2009)
Tuareg rebellion (2012)
Independent State of Azawad

 

National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad

from the MNLA point of view:

Mouvement National pour la Libération de l’Azawad
Participant in Tuareg rebellions
MNLA emblem.png
Active October 2011 – present
Ideology Secular nationalism[1]
Autonomy
Leaders Bilal Ag Acherif[2] (General Secretary)
Mahmoud Ag Aghaly (President of the political bureau)
Ag Mohamed Najem (head of military operations)
Moussa Ag Acharatoumane
Ibrahim Ag Bahanga
Area of
operations
Azawad/northern Mali
Strength 9000-10000 (MNLA sources)[3]
Part of  Azawad
Allies  Libya (under Jamahiriya)
 Libya (under NTC)
Opponents  Mali (2012)
 Algeria
Ansar Dine (since June 2012)
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb
Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa
Battles/wars 2012–present Northern Mali conflict

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 15th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Mauritania elected to un rights council

Dec. 11, 2012
National Post of Canada

Monday was Human Rights Day. It was also the day the United Nations chose to elect Mauritania, a country where 800,000 people live as slaves, as vice-president of the Human Rights Council.

Hillel Neuer, UN Watch executive director, said, “It is obscene for the UN to use the occasion of Human Rights Day, when we commemorate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to elect the world’s worst enabler of slavery to this prestigious post. The UN is making an arsonist head of the fire department.”

According to a recent report by The Guardian, “up to 800,000 people in a nation of 3.5 million remain chattels,”
with power and wealth concentrated among lighter-skinned Moors, “leaving slave-descended darker-skinned Moors
and black Africans on the edges of society.”

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 20th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

UN: Attacks on Darfur villages a ‘deliberate’ strategy.

from Geneva, Switzerland, by AF, and picked up on Mail&Guardian of South Africa.
 www.mg.co.za/articlePage.aspx?art…

20 March 2008 12:11

Attacks on four villages in West Darfur in January and February by the Sudanese armed forces amounted to a “deliberate” military strategy, the United Nations said in a report on Thursday.

The attacks resulted in at least 115 deaths, according to a report issued jointly by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN African Union Mission in Darfur.

“The scale of destruction of civilian property, including objects indispensable for the survival of the civilian population, suggests that the damage was a deliberate and integral part of a military strategy,” said the report.

The UN further condemned the attacks as “violations of international humanitarian and human rights law”, saying that they failed to “distinguish between civilian objects and military objectives”.

Sudan has been locked in a serious humanitarian crisis since ethnic minority rebels in Darfur took up arms against Khartoum in 2003.



Arab militias aligned to the Sudanese government have been accused of horrendous violence against civilians in quelling the rebellion.

The United States has described the violence in Darfur as genocide.

In its latest report, the UN detailed attacks in four villages which it described as part of “a major military campaign” launched by the Sudanese government.

It describes the campaign as an attempt to regain control of the northern corridor of West Darfur, and to drive out the Justice and Equality Movement rebel group.

It said that attacks by armed Arab militia on a village called Saraf Jidad took place on three occasions in January and resulted in the displacement of almost the entire population there.

Attackers opened fire at people and torched houses. Food reserves were also deliberately burnt.

At the other three villages of Sirba, Silea and Abu Suruj, aerial bombardments on February 8 were accompanied by ground offensives by armed militia as well as the Sudanese armed forces, it said.

Extensive looting was carried out and “consistent and credible accounts of rape committed by armed uniformed men during and after the attack in Sirba” were also highlighted in the report.

The UN said it was unable to report on similar attacks in Jebel Moon and other areas which also resulted in civilian deaths, as access to Jebel Moon was denied by the Sudan government until March 1.

This is a breach of the government’s obligation to allow UN officials access under an agreement signed in February, said the UN.

The report urged the Sudanese government to cease hostilities in the area, and to refrain from “launching deliberate and indiscriminate aerial attacks against civilians”.

It also asked all parties in the Darfur conflict to respect their obligations, and to refrain from the use of civilians as “human shields”.

The international community should also strongly condemn the attacks and urge all parties to end hostilities and abide by existing ceasefire agreements, the UN said.

The UN says at least 200 000 people have died in Darfur in the past five years and more than two million people have fled their homes. – AFP

——————–

Today we watched African Delegates celebrate another step in the 17 year long battle in Somalia – there the UN also hides behind the AU, and the AU does not have even a force there. The South African Ambassador said that today was a great day for Somalia because the UN even spent time in looking at the problem – asked about an intervention – he said that is still a long way off. So, what was he happy about? Shame on all of this so called UN Security Council, and on the UNSG as well – even though it was today his report to the UNSC that caused the Ambassadors to spend their time on this failed UN Member State. Simply said – the UN does not have the guts to stand up when Islamic States are involved in misdeeds. Is this the power of the oil exporters? What else?

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 8th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

SECRETARY-GENERAL’S PRESS CONFERENCE – Monday, January 7, 2008

UNITED NATIONS HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK.

First let us give the “boiler plate statement, then the verbatim Q&A, and at the end a little further insight.

The Secretary-General: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. First of all, I would like to send my best wishes for a very happy, healthy and prosperous New Year. I hope that 2008 will bring to all of you and your families best wishes, happiness and prosperity. It has been a great privilege for me to work with you during last year, my first year, and I count on continuing such a good relationship and friendship and exchange of ideas, including constructive criticism, even. Thank you very much.

By tradition, this is the season for taking stock—and for looking ahead.

We mourn the loss of 42 UN colleagues during the year 2007, including 17 killed in the Algiers terrorist bombing. Yet we enter 2008 with new determination—and new opportunities—to strengthen the UN’s role in the world.

You know that I am not one to speak easily of successes. The past year was one of immense challenges. But I think we have made certain progress. We opened a new chapter on climate change. We took on new and daunting challenges in peacekeeping, most specifically in Darfur.

We must build on this foundation. Protecting our planet and its people—our global commons—requires all our best efforts. So does the task of securing economic wellbeing, social justice, security and other global public goods. This requires sustained and coherent international action beyond what nations or markets can provide by themselves.

That is why I believe so strongly in the United Nations. Only the United Nations can take on the issues that affect us all, that shape the fate of the earth and its peoples.

These are powerful concepts: the “global commons” and “global public goods.” They are the basic building blocks of modern globalized society. If they are to have meaning, we must be mindful of the responsibilities they impose upon us.

We must address ourselves to the needs of the weak, the disadvantaged, those who have been excluded from the mainstream international community. I speak here of those who are most vulnerable to climate change. Those who suffer the most grinding poverty. Those who do not enjoy basic human rights.

And so I say, let 2008 be the year of the “bottom billion.”

That’s the phrase some economists use to describe the poorest of the world’s poor. They are the forgotten ones, the nearly one billion left behind by global economic growth. Most live in Africa or the small developing islands of Asia, eking out lives of hardship on incomes of less than $1 a day.

We must pay careful attention to these nations with special needs. We must heed the voices of the world’s poorest people, who too often go unheard.

For this reason, I shall work over the coming year to strengthen the UN’s role in development. We are at the mid-point of a great campaign to end world poverty, set forth in the Millennium Development Goals. Too many nations have fallen behind. We need fresh ideas and fresh approaches.

That is why, last year, I established the MDG Africa Steering Group. In April, world leaders will gather in Accra, Ghana, for the UNCTAD summit on trade and development. In September, we will host a high-level meeting at the beginning of the General Debate. The goal: to re-energize the world’s commitment to the Millennium Development Goals, with special attention to the poorest of the poor.

Last year, we used a similar forum to galvanize world action on climate change. This year, we will do the same for the bottom billion.

In the pursuit of the global good, human rights must be a core principle. It is fitting, then, that 2008 should also mark the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

As I have said before, I say again. Economic and social advancement is an implicit human right. I will use this milestone year, therefore, to call for the universal ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as well as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

I am determined to press ahead with the special tribunal in Lebanon and to work with the international courts to promote justice and oppose impunity. We will launch a new global awareness campaign on human rights, push more aggressively to better protect women and children against violence, and strengthen the office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights.

The demands on the UN grow ever greater. If anything, the coming year promises to be even tougher than the last. Look how it has begun, with turmoil in Kenya and renewed violence in Sri Lanka. We must nurture a fragile peace process in the Middle East. We must do more to help the people of Iraq emerge from conflict and rebuild shattered lives. We must stay the course in Afghanistan, so that it does not again fall into lawless anarchy.

In Darfur, we must do our utmost to push the peace talks to a successful conclusion. We must manage the very complex deployment of UN-African Union forces. To succeed, we need the full cooperation of the government of Sudan. We also need the Member States—including the Security Council—to live up to their commitments.

The road from Bali will be difficult as well. Two years is not a long time to win a climate change deal that all nations can embrace. I intend to keep up the momentum. We need a global grassroots public awareness campaign to focus political pressure and keep global warming at the forefront of public consciousness.

We therefore move into the new year with renewed commitment to our ultimate mission—building a stronger UN for a better world. As ever, I seek results, not easy rhetoric. Our watchword must be effectiveness. I will continue my push to modernize, revitalize and streamline the UN system, upholding the highest standards of ethics, performance and accountability.

I want to stress this word. Accountability is not a technicality. It must be the fundamental operational principle of the UN—for the Secretariat, the agencies and Member States alike.

We will continue our work to stiffen procurement and management procedures. I will shortly ask all senior executives to sign management compacts with me, laying out specific and measurable benchmarks for performance. Last year we re-organized our Department of Peacekeeping Operations. This year, we will do the same with our development-related bodies and the Department of Political Affairs. I want it to become more proactive in tackling global crises, especially in the realm of preventive diplomacy.

Member States, too, must hold themselves accountable. They must put up the resources to deliver on their mandates. We must deliver on our promises—openly, effectively and promptly.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Since my first day in office, I have sought an open and active dialogue with you in the UN press corps. You were the first people I met last year on my first day, and you are the first – after my Town Hall meeting with the staff this year – that I am meeting in this new year.

I look forward to our healthy, frank exchanges. They are valuable and, often, fun. Let me start by taking your questions. And again, my best wishes to you all for a very successful, rewarding 2008.

Q & A :

Question 1 – by tradition – from the UN Correspondents Association President (UNCA): Thank you very much for your kind wishes to the United Nations Correspondents Association.

On behalf of all my colleagues here, I would like to wish you and Madame Yoo Soon-taek all the best — and, of course, a very successful second year, despite the slow activities and results of the last year. You have set a lot of high expectations for this year.

So I wonder if you can tell us: First, there is a new crisis in Africa, in Kenya, where accusations of genocide and ethnic cleansing have become more and more visible now and heard all over the world. I wonder what the United Nations is doing to prevent another case of Rwanda in 1994, where the United Nations is limited to providing relief services while the killing went on?

The Secretary-General: I have been in close contact with Kenyan leaders, including President [Mwai] Kibaki and opposition leader [Raila] Odinga, and President [John] Kufuor of Ghana, in his capacity as Chairperson of the African Union, and many other international leaders to, first of all, calm down and stabilize the situation. I urged them strongly to avoid further killings of civilians. That was unacceptable, as I have stated in my two previous statements. I will continue to do that.

The United Nations has been doing our best efforts to provide the necessary humanitarian assistance to many people there who have been unfortunately displaced because of this situation in Kenya. Protecting human rights is very important and paramount for us. We are taking all necessary measures to prevent the further deterioration of the situation.

As for the specific question you raised, that will always be a high priority in my mind. We will try our best to ensure that no further casualties will happen there. And as the leaders of Africa – including President Kufuor, who is expected to have consultations with the Kenyan leadership — as well as some former presidents are also expected to visit there — I hope, through those international interventions, the Kenyan leaders will sit down together and resolve this issue in a peaceful manner.

——–

Question 2 from the UN Correspondent for The New York Times, Warren Hoge, a paper favored by the UN: Mr. Secretary-General, both you and the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping last month said that the force going in to Darfur would be at risk unless the Sudanese Government agreed to some of the troop assignments that you were requesting, and unless other countries gave you the transportation and logistics you needed. Neither of those two things has happened. You have had a formal change of command in Darfur, which basically is just changing the colour of the helmets. My question is: If this force is, as you say, at risk, how can you deploy them when they don’t have the capacity to protect civilians and don’t have the capacity to protect themselves?

The Secretary-General: That is exactly why I, as Secretary-General, and the United Nations as a whole, and the international community – Member States – must ensure a rapid deployment of the Hybrid Operation as agreed, to the level of 26,000, as soon as possible. We now have 9,000 re-hatted soldiers in Darfur. That is not sufficient. That is why we are very much concerned about this ongoing deteriorating situation in Darfur.

I had a long telephone discussion with President [Omar al-] Bashir last Saturday, and we agreed to meet again in Addis Ababa. Before that, before we meet again at Addis Ababa on the occasion of the African Union summit meeting, we will have a high-level consultation to resolve all these pending issues. There are, as you rightly said, two areas of pending issues, one to be done by the Sudanese Government. There are still many technical or administrative issues, to which the Sudanese Government must commit themselves as agreed, including a status of forces agreement and also composition of forces and other technical issues.

Then there are resources to be provided by the Member States in general, including critical assets like helicopters and heavy transport equipment. These are to be done by both sides: by the international community as a whole and the Sudanese Government. I will do my best to expedite this process. In fact, we have made a good framework to resolve these Darfur as well as Sudanese issues as a whole, including a peace process and the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

All those three tracks will move hand in hand. And we are also looking at the possibility of resuming the second peace process. But that may take a little bit of time. My Special Envoy Mr. Jan Eliasson and African Union Envoy Mr. [Salim Ahmed] Salim, they are working very hard. Jan Eliasson is also going to visit Khartoum next week.

——-

Question 3 from a correspondent from Morocco: Mr. Secretary-General, there have been statements threatening war in the African continent lately. The POLISARIO has been saying that this is the last chance that they give the Moroccans in the Western Sahara; otherwise the preparation for war is afoot. Also, we have the worrying aspect of Chadian aeroplanes bombing areas of Sudan, Darfur, in chase of Chadian rebels, so they allege. And there are obvious and frank threats from the President of Chad to enter Darfur to chase the Chadian rebels. Your thoughts on both subjects, please.

The Secretary-General: On the Western Sahara issue: As you may know already, I am going to issue a statement this morning that there is going to be another consultation in Manhasset, in Greentree, between the parties concerned. I appreciate all the parties concerned to have accepted my invitation. Mr. [Peter van] Walsum is going to organize as well as facilitate this dialogue. This is a painstaking and very complex issue, and I hope that this time they will be able to make good progress on these issues.

On the situation in Darfur and, again, the Sudanese relationship, I am going to discuss with African leaders, including President [Idris] Deby of Chad. I have spoken with President Bashir. But I would really urge the leaders and countries concerned to refrain from all these exercises – refrain from using military forces. This will only aggravate the situations in Africa. I am very much concerned about all these ongoing deteriorating situations – not only here but elsewhere, including Kenya, Sudan, Chad and other areas.

I really hope that this new year, 2008, will see bright hope. We have started with gloomy prospects: the situation in Kenya and elsewhere. I really hope that, with active cooperation and dialogue among the leaders of the world, we will see some better world this year. This is my firm commitment as Secretary-General.

Question – a follow up: But the POLISARIO is saying frankly, and their statements are very clear, that this is the last chance they are giving the Moroccans. Your thoughts on that; are you having any contacts with the POLISARIO? I understand that you hope that they will reach an agreement, but it seems the obstacles are too high and, in the face of these threats, it sounds like dire straits to me.

The Secretary-General: I would not make any comment on such kinds of very definitive declaration by any one of the parties. All the issues, they have their background and very complex nature of the issues. And it needs the parties concerned to be, first of all, patient and persistent and consistent and faithful in resolving this issue through dialogue.

——–

Question 4 from Japan: We know that you are a very humble person, but if you were to rate your first year’s performance on a scale of 1 to 10, how much would you give yourself, and why?

The Secretary-General: I am the sort of person – as you said, modest. I am the sort of person who is very strict to myself, officially and personally. Even in my home and my private life, I really want to be very strict to myself. When you set a guideline or rule, I want to be bound by that. I stick to that.

The assessment of my performance as Secretary-General during the last one year will be the role and duty of you and Member States and other public and private organizations, including many NGOs. I think that I have made certain progress. As I said, I am not a person who easily speaks about success, because one year may be too long or may be too short for anyone to assess my performance. All the issues which you may have seen last year, they are all ongoing projects, including reform of the United Nations, Darfur, climate change or all these Lebanese situations. All are ongoing and very complex, so we need to continue and step up our efforts. I think I have established good tracks on the basis of which I can move ahead on these projects.

———

Question 5 from Frank Ucciardo of CBS: Mr. Secretary-General, in your opening statement you talked about pressing on with the investigation in the Hariri assassination and the Lebanon tribunal. As you know, the family of Benazir Bhutto has asked for United Nations participation in the investigation of her murder. I would like to get your thoughts about that. And do you feel that the United Nations should be the one organization or agency in the world that is the place to go for such political assassination investigations?

The Secretary-General: In other places, you mean?

Question: Yes. In other words, Benazir Bhutto’s family has asked for the participation of the United Nations to investigate her murder and her assassination, and as you know, Scotland Yard has been invited in by the Government. But do you feel that the United Nations should be the place where the buck stops and where investigations start in such political assassinations?

The Secretary-General: First of all, the United Nations has not received any formal request from the Government of Pakistan, and as you may very well be aware, Scotland Yard are now providing technical assistance in the investigation process of this very tragic assassination case. Therefore, I am not in a position to comment on any request on a private, personal level. All this kind of establishing Special Tribunals should be, first of all, based upon the formal request of the Government concerned. And then that should be decided by the Security Council. That means that all Member States should decide. The assassination of Hariri case, which has been establishing this Special Tribunal, was a very special one, where the whole Security Council has made a consensus agreement on this.

——-

Question 6 from Ms. Raghida Dergham from Al-Hayat, London: Mr. Secretary-General, Happy New Year to you and your family, and thanks for welcoming constructive criticism. Actually, this is praise of what you have done in Paris, when you chaired the meeting in Paris on Lebanon. I am wondering if you are satisfied with the follow-up to that meeting you have chaired. And since you said you are pressing ahead with this tribunal on Lebanon, are you going to name the judges? You said you will accept the recommendations, but are you going to be naming the judges, and is the tribunal pretty much ready to be operational in February, as we have heard from the American ambassador? And is this tribunal now unstoppable?

The Secretary-General: We have made good progress on the establishment of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. The United Nations remains committed to the search for truth and justice in this case. On 21 December, after three months of negotiations, we signed a headquarters agreement with the Dutch Government on the Special Tribunal, to be headquartered at The Hague. I have also received and adopted the recommendations of the selection panel created to help me recruit judges for the tribunal. It is a panel of international judicial experts, which includes my Legal Counsel, Mr. Nicolas Michel. I will announce the names of those selected at an appropriate time in the future. The judges will assume their functions on the date I will also determine soon.

In this regard, I would like to speak more broadly on the situation in Lebanon, if you will allow me to say a few words. I continue to be in close contact with Lebanese leaders and, more broadly, with international and regional leaders to try to find a solution to the prolonged political crisis. I am deeply disappointed by the current situation, in which the Lebanese people have not been able to elect their own President for such a long time. There has been a prolonged constitutional vacuum by not having a President yet.

Failure to reach an early agreement would represent a betrayal of the expectations of both the Lebanese people and the international community. You have seen the international donors conference, which was held in January last year in Paris, which committed almost $8 billion, and you have seen this meeting which I convened last December in Paris on the occasion of the other international meeting. I am, at the same time, encouraged by the efforts of the League of Arab States, announced yesterday.

I once again call on Lebanese leaders to think about the future of their country, transcending sectarian and individual interests. And, on the neighbouring countries, I urge them to help the Lebanese people, so that they will be able to overcome this crisis on their own will, without outside interference.

Question: A follow-up for you, Mr. Secretary-General: Have you been in touch with a particular neighbour who is thought to be interfering in Lebanon, and there is a Syrian presidency or Syrian Government: have you had any recent contacts with them? And what do you mean when you say that in due time you will announce the names of the judges? Do you mean when the tribunal becomes operational? And will that be in February, like the American ambassador said?

Secretary-General: The tribunal is making good progress, including the funding. We have been receiving necessary funding from many, many countries. Therefore, first of all, the headquarters agreement should be ratified by the Dutch parliament. We need to have sufficient funding. We are talking about $120 million for the period of three years, out of which we may need at least $40 million or $45 million, I am not aware of the exact amount, for the first year. I think necessary preparations are going on well. As soon as all these administrative and legal measures are finalized, then I will be in a position to announce the names of the judges.

Question: And Syria?

The Secretary-General: As you know very well, I have been in close contact with many leaders in the region, including President [Bashar al-]Assad of Syria. I think I have spoken with him last month, and I will continue to discuss this issue with whoever is known to have influence or interest in the future of Lebanon.

——–

Question 7 – from Nigeria or Cameroon: Thank you, Secretary-General, and happy New Year. I wanted you to give me your perspective – or the perspective of the United Nations Secretariat – regarding the Greentree accord between Nigeria and Cameroon. The Nigerian Senate keeps saying that the treaty has not been ratified, but the treaty is already being implemented. Now, did that decision, or did the information that the treaty was not ratified, did it come to the United Nations, as a surprise? Is the United Nations supposed to implement a treaty that has not been ratified by the competent authority in one of the countries that signed the treaty?

The Secretary-General: I will continue to discuss this matter and urge the leaders of Nigeria and Cameroon to abide by this Greentree agreement, which has provided a good framework for resolving all these pending issues.

Question: Let me follow up with you. Are you surprised that the Nigerian Government did not ratify the treaty before it was implemented?

The Secretary-General: That was a source of concern last year, which I have been discussing with the countries concerned.

——-

Question 8 – ?: Mr. Secretary-General, are you watching any of the US presidential debates, and who do you think is going to win, and will it make any difference to the United Nations?

The Secretary-General: I hope you will be able to tell me what are your own views. I am watching and closely following all these debates, but I have to wait until the final choice of the American people, who will be elected as the President of the United States. I will be very happy to work with anybody chosen by the American people.

——-

Question 9 – From a Francofone from Africa: If you allow me, I will ask my question in French, and you can answer in either English or French.

The Secretary-General: In French? Yes.

Question (spoke in French): You referred, in your introductory remarks, to the attack that took the lives of 18 United Nations employees, and you mentioned other recent attacks in the region, which received less media attention. There was an attack carried out against French tourists, another against Mauritanian soldiers and a further attack against Italian soldiers, and also a recent attack targeting police officers in Algiers. Do you share the view that is held by numerous individuals in the region who believe that the Sahel region is an area of arms trafficking, and therefore constitutes a base for the various terrorist groups that are threatening the region, and, beyond that, threatening neighbouring countries?

The Spokesperson: The question, for those of you who were not following in French, is about Algeria: the recent bombing in Algeria, and the prospect of –

Question: I am actually talking about the Sahel region as a zone of lawlessness and the smuggling of arms. And a lot of countries and people in the region are worried that those attacks mean that the region may be considered as ground for terrorist groups that may threaten the region. Given the recent attacks in Algiers and also the attacks in Mauritania that led to the cancellation of a major sporting event, the Dakar rally, do you share the views of those who think that this Sahel region is becoming ground for terrorist groups that may threaten the stability in the region?

The Secretary-General: Let me practice my French.

(spoke in French)

Thank you very much for putting that question to me in French. I think you are well aware of my passion for the French language. Now, if you will allow me, I am not fully prepared – but if you will allow me to continue in English. I discussed matters with President [Abdelaziz] Bouteflika when I was in Algiers last month, last year.

(spoke in English)

These are serious issues for any country in the world, including those in the Sahel area. It is not only Algeria. I told President Bouteflika that, while it was a very tragic – and I was so sad and so shocked, and they were also embarrassed very much by not having been able to protect the United Nations staff and United Nations premises – this should be a global issue, not Algeria or any countries in the Sahel area. Therefore, this needs a global, concerted effort to address, fight against international terrorism. I think the international community must do more. Regardless of what their belief may be, there cannot be any justification whatsoever when it comes to terrorism. Terrorism is terrorism, and therefore that bombing in Algiers really strengthened my resolve to work more. I again express my strong commitment to work for that.

Question: I think the talks start today on the Sahara issue. Don’t you think that this issue is also contributing to this instability, since there is no prospect for a solution? Do you expect a breakthrough in this round, or whether those talks will …

The Secretary-General: All sorts of grievances coming from these conflict issues may be the source of some elements of terrorism. That is why we must resolve all the conflict issues through peaceful means, through dialogue. I cannot but be general on your questions.

———

Question 10 – Benny Avni from the New York Sun: This is also about Algiers, Sir. In the wake of the bombing, the Algerian interior minister said that there were warnings against bombing of international institutions, including the United Nations. There are also all kinds of reports about internal warnings that came around. The question is, why doesn’t the United Nations, as it did with the Ahtisaari case in the aftermath of the Baghdad bombing, why doesn’t the United Nations create its own independent investigation, as opposed to just investigate by [David] Veness?

The Secretary-General: First of all, the United Nations has never received any advance warnings from whatsoever sources on this issue. Then, I have instructed the Under-Secretary-General for the DSS [Department of Safety and Security] to report to me by 11 January, this week, about his own investigation and findings of this terrorist bombing incident. On the basis of that, we are going to strengthen the measures for the safety and security of our staff and premises, and I’m going to discuss with Member States in general about how to strengthen the safety and security of staff. This is a very paramount issue, as we have seen four years ago in Baghdad. This was the second such terrorist bombing attack against the United Nations.

At the same time, the United Nations also needs to do more in communicating with the international community in general: why the United Nations is there and what the United Nations is doing. We need to make the international community appreciate more what the United Nations stands for. The United Nations is not working for any group of nations over another. The United Nations is working for the benefit and well-being of many developing countries; we are working for the promotion of human rights and peace and security. So this must be correctly understood and communicated to the world. And in that regard, I have been doing, on my own, efforts to communicate with the international community in general.

Question: Don’t you think it’s imperative for the credibility of the United Nations that there will be an independent investigation that is not being done by the person who was in charge of security, to see whether security procedures were actually followed?

The Secretary-General: I will see; I will reserve my judgement until I have a full report from DSS.

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Question 11 by a correspondent from the Middle East also following up on algiers: Happy New Year, Mr. Secretary-General. Just to follow up on that, on the Algiers issue, were you ever made aware during 2007, or the time since you became Secretary-General, that the head of United Nations security in Algiers, Babacar Ndiaye, had made repeated requests to his superior in Algiers – that also reached New York – that there were, in his view, likely to be attacks on Algiers, not maybe making a specific date or a specific warning, but saying that they were a target of Al-Qaida and asking for specific precautions to be taken, such as the erection of concrete barriers or the raising of the phase level? Were you ever aware of that, that it had ever reached your office? And if that’s the case, that he did make these warnings, why wouldn’t that, combined with the Ahtisaari report after the Baghdad bombing and the threat that the United Nations is under, really compel an independent investigation?

The Secretary-General: That’s a good point. That is why we are now working very hard. I have talked at length with President Bouteflika. First of all, as host Government, the Algerian Government is responsible for taking all measures to strengthen United Nations safety and security, and he assured me that he will find accommodations for UNDP and UNHCR. And this is not only to the Algerian Government; this is what I am going to discuss with Member States in general. I will keep in mind what you suggested.

Question: Well, can I get an answer to my question? Did warnings and requests for greater protection from Babacar Ndiaye, who was the head of the United Nations security in Algiers and who died in the bombing, ever reach your office, ever come to your attention?

The Secretary-General: I’m not going to tell you anything on these internal procedures. But I’m very closely looking at this matter, and I have instructed Mr. Veness to look into this issue very seriously and carefully to make an overall report for me.

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Question 12 – someone with a Latin accent: It’s about Darfur. Last 21 December, the Fifth Committee of the General Assembly approved the budget about the hybrid force, and they were very concerned about the Lockheed-Martin contract, because it was without bids, and they asked for an investigation. And I don’t know now in what point is the process of this investigation. What are you going to do, and what do you think about this statement, this resolution of the General Assembly?

The Secretary-General: On what?

Question: On the Lockheed-Martin contract. You know, at the General Assembly, the members of the Fifth Committee said that they didn’t agree with the process used for doing this contract. And I only am wondering: what do you think about that?

The Secretary-General: I have answered this question, I think, at least two or three times already before. The situation in Darfur and all these preparations and constructions or procurement: the situation is a very difficult one there. You don’t have many vendors who are readily available to provide such service at a limited time. And that is why, in accordance with the necessary rules and regulations bestowed upon me as the Secretary-General, I have taken an exceptional decision. I am allowed to do that. And at the same time, I made it quite clear, when it comes to transparency and accountability, I will make sure that there should be a very transparent process of executing this procurement.

Question: When do you think you are going to inform the General Assembly about the process of the contract? I don’t know, because they asked, they made a request.

The Secretary-General: When they ask that question, as you do – Member States – this may happen in many national Governments too. You cannot always have all these open biddings, 100 per cent open biddings, as required. But this should not make any precedents, of course. But all the regulations – even in national Governments or other organizations, they have certain exceptional cases when you have to make such a decision. So I hope you will understand. But I’m not making to generalize this one.

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Question 13 from someone with a Slavic accent: Talking about strengthening the United Nations role in the world and the Security Council members to live up to their commitments, I was wondering, Sir, why it took you 10 days or a couple of weeks, to express your position towards the final status of Kosovo. And also, Sir, I remember last time, while you were in Portugal, as far as I remember, you advised them not to take any premature step by declaring their independence. I was wondering, what can you tell them this time?

The Secretary-General: I was mentioning in general, when there is a resolution, a mandate, for me to implement, there should be accountability, both for Member States and the countries concerned – and the party concerned. The Security Council has a particular responsibility: when they take necessary resolutions and decisions to deploy peacekeeping operations or any other security measures, then, in addition to my own work as Secretary-General, they should also help mobilize the necessary resources and funding. That is what I tried to mean.

Question: Would you tell us clearly, Sir, what is your position towards the issue of Kosovo? Do you still support Mr. [Martti] Ahtisaari’s plan? Do you call for new negotiations, and if so, on what basis? And is there a time schedule for these negotiations?

The Secretary-General: I will have to see and assess the situation as the situation unfolds on the Kosovo issue.

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Question 14 – from Matthew Lee, of Inner City Press: There seems to be a difference of opinion between yourself and the Security Council on the issue of Somalia, where they’ve called repeatedly for an advance team to go in for, really, for exploring, dealing with this issue that [Ahmedou] Ould Abdallah has called more serious than Darfur, very serious. So can you tell us where things stand in terms of the Secretariat’s following up on what the Council has asked it to do in terms of Somalia?

And one follow-up on my colleague’s question about that contract: PAE. The General Assembly itself put into its resolution that it noted with concern and asked for an investigation of the process. So I know you’ve said transparency, and I believe you, but since you’ve said transparency, we haven’t had any briefing by the people that pushed for the contract, by Jane Holl Lute. We haven’t had the contract disclosed. So I think the reason that you have been asked the question three or four times is that it doesn’t seem there’s been any transparency, and the General Assembly in its resolution on UNAMID seems to agree with that. So I just wanted to make sure you understand what the question is, and that it is not an attempt to ask the same thing again and again, but to say “where is the transparency?”

The Secretary-General: On Somalia, I don’t think there is any difference between me and the Security Council. I have been continuously consulting with the members of the Security Council on these very important issues. I have suggested to Security Council members that there should be a two-track approach. One is, first of all, the Somalis themselves: they should engage in a broader political dialogue at the leaders’ level for national reconciliation. And secondly, on the security track, the international community should help AMISOM so that they can have a better capacity to address the security situation there.

As for this advance team, I have made it quite clear, even, I think, to you some time last year, that we are considering dispatching a technical assessment team some time early this year. On the basis of the report of this technical assessment team, we will discuss again with the Security Council what measures should be taken to help the situation in Somalia.

On this transparency and contract fraud: transparency is one of my top mottoes to make this Organization work as a trusted organization by the Member States. You should not have any question about my commitment, personally and officially and organizationally.

As for some reports about procurement fraud which have appeared in some of the media, I would like to make it quite clear that I do not agree with all that has been reported. It is true that there was some fraud, which was found, investigated by our own OIOS teams. The amount which has been the subject of procurement fraud was sort of an aggregate sum, not the fraud itself, so there were some exaggerations and incorrect reporting. I feel it unfortunate that the United Nations has been perceived in that way. It was not in the amount of several hundred million dollars. That several hundred million dollars was the total aggregate sum of the project fund. So I hope there should be no misunderstanding. But this issue was also discovered and investigated by our own.

At this time I think the United Nations needs some strengthened investigative capacity. We have many different mandates, different organizations and different agencies, starting from the ombudsman, OIOS, the Ethics Office; and there are all the specialized agencies and funds and programmes. In November of last year, with my consistent efforts, we were able to have a standardized ethics rule which will be applied to all the agencies, funds and programmes. That was very good progress in terms of ensuring and strengthening transparency and accountability. That effort will continue this year and in coming years.

But I hope that Member States one day will consider how we can strengthen the investigative capacity. We don’t have such investigative capacity in the United Nations. We have been relying upon this Procurement Task Force. Fortunately, that mandate has been extended for another year.

Thank you very much. Again, I wish you all the best: happy New Year to you.

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So what we see here is that the Secretary General, in his presentation, says that 2007 was the Year of Climate Change, “I say, let 2008 be the year of the “bottom billion.” This because it is all about the “global commons” and “global public goods.” The intent is to make 2008 about development and to remember human rights also, because this year we celebrate 60 years to the Declaration on Human Rights. The other key word is “Accountability.” Otherwise the world is a work in progress.

In 2007 there was something talked about Darfur, Lebanon, the tribunal on the killing of Rafik Hariri, Kosovo, Somalia, Western Sahara and a few other places but the results are yet to show.

But a press conference is not really about what is presented before the journalists but what questions the journalists put before the presenter. So it is the Q & A that really counts and here we saw an interesting gradation in the questions put and the mood that the answers created.

The first question, by the president of UNCA, in our opinion was actually the worst question as it compared the killings in Kenya with the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. We argued in one of our previous postings that what goes on in Kenya is a political issue, it did not start out as the African endemic post-colonial tribal conflict. Actually it was created by Kibaki’s transgressions and his isolating himself from the country with the members of his own tribe the Kikuyus. The Kenya problem can be settled in the same way as the Iraq problem could have been settled five years ago – just tell the minority that usurped the government what is their right place on the national totem-pole. If you continue backing the usurper because you think this is better for you – you neither help ending the conflict, nor stop the killings. From here to genocide the distance is like from the understanding of a situation to the creation of a false image.

Two more questions were a bit of   line: One funny question asked the UNSG to rate himself, and he nicely avoided doing so, a second question asked him what he thinks of the contest in the US presidential primaries, and he very cleverly gave the only answer that he could give – that he will work with any US President that will be elected eventually.

There were a total of 14 questions including the above three. Some of the journalists had two follow ups, some asked a double question.

There was no question whatsoever on climate change and there was no question on development. The Journalists had pinpointed questions on what their outlets tend to publish.

We counted and found that among the remaining 11 questions – four questions contained elements of the Darfur problem, two about Lebanon, two about the Algeria/Sahel/arms traffic/terrorism issues, two about Western Sahara/Polisario, two about the Nigeria/Cameroon area, and one each about Chad, Pakistan, Kosovo, and Somalia.

The first questions passed by smoothly, but as time progressed, and questions came from a vaster net of journalists, follow up questions insisted on an answer, and the UNSG is a master at evading giving an answer, and it cannot be attributed to a conflict of language, but it might rather look like good diplomatic maneuvers when indeed there is no answer – this not because the SG does not want to answer – but rather because there is no answer that will cover on the intrinsic paucity of action at the UN. But then some subjects cannot be pushed under the UN red carpets easily.

17 people were killed in Algiers and the UN had warning that something is bound to happen. yes there was probably not a specific warning with a date attached – but there was a warning nevertheless – a head of security in algiers asked for reinforced walls and it was denied from headquarters – the man was among the dead.   A sequence of two journalists tried to extricate an answer – what will the UNSG do to investigate the security of the UN personnel that is being sent in the harms way without protection. This happened clearly in Baghdad, and the journalists want to know if this was the case also in Algiers.

In above process we also saw the following exchange:

“The Spokesperson: The question, for those of you who were not following in French, is about Algeria: the recent bombing in Algeria, and the prospect of –

Question: I am actually talking about the Sahel region as a zone of lawlessness and the smuggling of arms.”

We do not intend simply to pound on Spokesperson Michelle Montes, but this shows what happens quite often in Room 226 at the UN. The Spokesperson jumps at saying what she wants to say, and does not try to answer clear questions. In effect this is a rather common trend within the UN Information system, and it works counter-productive to Mr. Ban Ki-moon’s own stand, as we pointed out many times in regard to the topic of climate change.

Darfur has produced a lot of wind at the UN, but were are the helicopters to ferry the non-existent troops? And why was there a contract given to Lockheed without others having access to compete? There is a lot of money in this, and the fame of oil-for- food was not forgotten. It took four journalists in Sequence to hammer on this point and to make the UNSG quite uncomfortable. It showed eventually on his face.

Why can he not intervene in Pakistan to find a way to investigate the Bhutto killing, is the UN so restrictive that for even such events they have to wait for the invitation of the transgressing government in order to tell the truth to the world, and to the country that was hit – this might indeed be the only way to stop internal riots and killings. What will it take to turn the UN into an element of truth?

So, what will bring 2008? You can bet on it – more States will start to unravel – this because of climate change induced environmental disasters, and a decline in the world economy. The moment people suffer they tend to act and they may tend to take the wrong actions, kill and justify later. Will the UN be allowed to reorganize so that it can intervene even without invitation?

And What Did The Morning Papers Write About the Press Conference? What I can say for now – I did not see an article on Darfur in the New York Times, neither an article on any other item from the above.

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