04/25/2001

Rwanda suspect in Kosovo operation: Who helped him?

It was common knowledge in Rwanda during the massacres that a particular locally recruited employee of the UN Development Programme shared in the complicity to commit genocide, not only against his own countymen who happened to belong to another tribe, but also against his own UN colleagues. When they went into hiding in fear of their lives, he traced their whereabouts and denounced them to their killers, generally known as the Interahamwe.

Somehow the suspect remained at the UNDP Office and, in an attempt to protect him, he was eventually posted as Chief of a Unit, no less in the Kosovo mission. As if that Balkan province needed more determined killers, or the UN needed more dubious characters, it took seven years before Callixte Mbarushimana was identified officially by the Arusha Tribunal and arrested while parading as an international emergency relief official.

Questions abound. Why did it take seven years to trace the suspect? Why was he still working at an ever more prestigious posting? What precisely was he doing in Kosovo? For whom, really? As such employment in Peacekeeping (?!!) Field Operations are usually subject to references, who recommended him? Who actually took the decision to employ him? Briefly, a UN Tribunal will have to ask a specific UN Office: Who are the culprits?

Deep thoughts by the Chef Dec

"I am thinking. The Secretary-General has too many friends. Too many, I tell you. I am thinking maybe I should be taking care of that problem".

Arlacchi's Moment of Truth

The combative Pino Arlacchi may now feel more confident despite attempts to drive him away through a diverse campaign and press stories. His troubles were compounded by a position taken by the Dutch Government's withholding of funds for the anti-drug programme pending the outcome of two reports. It is noted that a former senior officer in Vienna was a citizen of Netherlands. Another former senior aide may have provided the Inspectors with a negative version of events. And another former Director may have influenced yet another detrimental report. It seems that a combination of affected drug groups, disaffected staff, ambitious Italians and curious onlookers, in addition to those actually responsible for handling such matters, are in line to get Arlacchi. However, the two reports apparently cleared him of wrongdoing although one report raised certain management questions.

The experienced former Italian prosecutor seems to be facing all those cross currents with the nerves of a confident sailor. Incidentally, he had sailed single-handedly across the Atlantic last year in stormy seas. His boat is currently in the Caribbean. Recently, he was in New York. You know the story of a Manhattanite who was waiting all his life for his ship to come. When it did, he was at the airport. Pino Arlacchi clearly discovered how many enemies he made. He still, however, does have some friends. Don't count him out yet.

Petrovsky Renewed

Geneva Director-General Vladimir Petrovsky was given a renewed contract for one more year. The popular senior Russian has served admirably, first as Under-Secretary-General for Special Political Affairs with Dr. Boutros-Ghali, and then as head of the European Office for five more years with Kofi Annan. His staff seem to appreciate his thoughtful approach, and both Secretaries-General have seemed to appreciate his effective handling of delicate political matters.

Sign across the River

Pensive Secretariat staff looking out their windows across the East River may not face the red neon sign of Pepsi beaming in solitude. A new residential project will be surrounding it with parks, movie theatres, restaurants, cafes and a number of people who may be gazing at UN staff gazing at them.

New York visitors

Former Inspector-General Karl Paschke, now residing in his native Germany, took the opportunity of a meeting on the Brahimi peacekeeping report to enjoy the long Easter weekend in his former mid-town neighbourhood. An accomplished jazz player, Paschke has produced several professional CDs. Apparently, a further study of implementing the administrative proposals emanating from the peacekeeping report is bringing together a group of experienced personalities who could place their support behind their decision. Sir John Weston, former UK Ambassador, was also seen having more time to stroll down Madison Avenue with Lady Weston than he had when serving in the Security Council. His predecessor, Sir David Hannay, was also in the area earlier this year.

New Moroccan Diplomat

The irrepressible Ambassador of Morocco, Ahmed Snoussi, left New York after playing a particularly prominent role in negotiations over Western Sahara. He worked closely with the late King Hassan, who ensured that his two sons - the current King and Crown Prince - got a close association with the UN. Snoussi, who ran a tight ship, will have the opportunity to spend more time at his Kabilah resort close to southern Spain. His replacement, Mohammed Bennounet, already presented his credentials.

Will she, will she not?

After announcing her resignation effective end of this year. UN Human Rights High Commissioner Mary Robinson reportedly indicated her availability to stay further. It is not clear what will happen next. Will the Secretary-General or will he not insist on offering her an extension - in case of his own. The highly regarded former President of Ireland, the first head of State to leave office in order to join the UN, values her role and has proved capable of making an impact even in the most delicate of cases, sometimes putting her life at risk. The main event this fall will be the international conference against racial discrimination to be held in South Africa. It may be the most expensive international conference, but the funds will not be coming from the UN regular budget. This is a unique opportunity for the international community to highlight one of the proudest UN success stories. A great fight in the twentieth century was the victory over apartheid, where the UN played pivotal rewards, initially receiving so much abuse, but then overseeing finally the first free multi-racial election in South Africa, with Nelson Mandela as President. The UN should treasure and highlight that story, at whatever price.

Annan focus against HIV/AIDS

Two special events in April held by Kofi Annan underlined his enthusiastic role in combating the HIV/AIDS epidemic. He first convened a civil society meeting in Europe in early April to obtain a commitment by pharmaceutical industries to lower their rates and actively participate in the treatment process. Towards the end of the month, he was proceeding to Abuja to participate with Nigerian President Obasango in an African summit to review effective ways to deal with that epidemic.

Harare Airport blues: Yamani jumior addresses Mugabe senior

Although work on the new Harare international airport was finished in mid-April, reports accompanying its contracting continue to simmer. President Mugabe's son, along with several distinguished youth, were somehow mentioned with very little proof. Zimbabwe's opposition Daily News spearheaded a campaign on an atmosphere of bribery and corruption in high places nationally and abroad.

Apparently, that drove the group of influential sons to write a handwritten letter. Hani Yamani, son of the former Saudi Oil Minister during the oil embargo and petro-dollar years, seems to be a pivotal manager among the group, with offices in Geneva, Jeddah and several African locations. As Chairman of Air Harbour Technology, Yamani Jr. took exception with talk about bribery; and so he presented a handwritten 10-page letter to the Zimbabwe President. Asked by Arab daily "Asharq Al Awsat", Yamani indicated that he was deeply touched during a meeting at which President Mugabe's eyes filled with tears upon the mention of bribery funds. At any rate, he said that $3 million was not given as a bribe but somehow disappeared from his company's subsidiary office in Harare. Who took or accidentally found it is yet to be asked. Meanwhile, the Daily publisher and chief editor, together with two journalists, face a 5-years jail sentence for insulting the President.

April council presidency

U.K. senior delegate, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, presided over the Security Council during the month of April with characteristic efficiency media representatives were particularly pleased by the informative and swift manner in which he gave briefings. A true professional diplomat, assisted by an excellent professional press officer.

The UN works … well

Finally, a new feature entitled "The UN Works" appeared on its impressive website. "A little girl is back home; a soldier starts a new life; a village finds prosperity. These are stories of how the UN works…", indicated a well-designed cover page. A good start to be encouraged and pursued. Otherwise, it may face the fate of "UN Positive", a similarly hopeful indication of how the international organization has positive relevance to everyone's life. While Information professionals did their best, they ran out of steam when agencies, programmes and substantive departments who initially helped later withheld their supply. Anyway, it's an excellent start.

Radio S.O.S. : Get the Best

The vacated post of Director of UN Radio has brought over 100 very qualified applicants, particularly from Europe. That is an increasingly crucial post that will have to be filled with the most qualified professional - a tough assignment for the interim head of DPI, Shashi Tharoor. With earlier stress on the press (the printed word), there is an internal abundance of writers. Broadcasting did not produce similar results. It demands greater resources as it grows in impact, while intergovernmental bodies are intent on cutting down rather than increasing available resources.

Someone capable of connecting with broadcasters around the world to build needed partnership could help, particularly if he or she managed to inspire and mobilize existing staff. Learning the political ropes of an intergovernmental organization will also be required. A positive step was to merge the leadership of both Radio and TV. Both need every support they can get to come closer in gaining wider public access. In the absence of a clear internal candidate (the most qualified among them do not have adequate seniority), an outside candidate is most likely. Some European Governments are pushing very hard for their compatriots, but in this case the interim head of DPI has every right to stand his ground in choosing the best available candidate.

Annan accumulates Endorsements

Since he announced his availability in March, as had earlier promised, Kofi Annan has been picking up a wide range of endorsement. The African Group naturally visited him before his announcement, urging an early announcement, mainly to avoid confusion through the emergence of some Asian candidates. While some time was taken by the new U.S. Administration, the expected meeting with President George W. Bush eventually took place, accompanied by an endorsement, no doubt pre-arranged by Secretary of State Colin Power (and possibly with some help of James Baker, Special Representative to Western Sahara).

It is almost certain that United Kingdom and France have indicated their support in their own traditional diplomatic way. During the summit of Arab heads of State in Amman, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak took the floor to propose official support for Annan's extended term, describing him as a proven friend of the Arab world. Based on their announced position since his election in December 1977, the Israeli Government would similarly support him. It is mentioned that even the Asian Group, which earlier aired the prospect of candidates, has now hinted that they will support Annan's renewal, provided the Africans will support an Asian for the next round.

That is a long time away for now. By then, incidentally, there may be no particular region's term but an open field. The only main question relates to China, which has a veto power. In time, the Chinese will send some hints out for those who know how to read their signals. Stay tuned.

Competition for Rome

With the opening of the post of Director, UNIC Rome, competition seems to be mainly between two candidates: Ms. Jadranka Mijalovic, who speaks some Italian but lacks the experience of running an office, and Mr. Tayseer Mustapha, Chief of Information Service, IFAD in Rome, who also headed IMO's Information Unit for the last two years. Mustapha, a citizen of Jordan, is fluent in Italian, having published frequently in the Italian media. Ms. Mijalovic, a former Yugoslav Croat (or Slovanian), has limited experience in Italian questions, having visited Turino once during a JUNIC meeting five years ago, guided by her then-Director. Early indications from professionals favour Mr. Mustapha, the only obstacle being whether the post will be a P.5 or D.1.

Stobey replaces Riesco

A pillar of Conference Services for years, Federico Riesco will be leaving soon as Assistant Secretary-General for Conferences. Having worked in Personnel (during Kofi Annan's tenure there) and elsewhere in the Secretariat, Federico was always a dependable colleague who performed his assignments effectively and modestly. Always calm, cool and collected, he also saw the humour in it all. He promised that he will show visiting colleagues to his native Chile the splendor of its resorts, such as Vina del Mar. It is somewhat sad to see such solid international civil servants go.

Miles Stobey is likely to take over from Riesco. He has been in the wings since the Millennium Assembly, doing assorted tasks. Now he will have a full-time management post. His wife, the always pleasant Lythia Al-Mughairy, is Chief of Public Affairs in DPI.

Viva Portuguese Radio, again

Another achievement by the UN Portuguese language radio is its new audio access on the Internet. Anyone around the world could by mid-May tune into the website to listen to the latest news, like on any professional station. That radio had already made partnership arrangements with over 300 stations in Brazil alone and triple that number in other Lusophone countries to share the broadcasts. Bravo, Joao!

Samagra: Sanctions busting Iraq's Viagra

Confirming their vigilance in confronting sanctions, Iraqi laboratory "Samagra" announced to a jubilant local population that a special version of Viagra was about to be produced internally - a national variety that would even have different side effects from the one produced in New York. Fortunately, the discovery was not made in time for the Arab summit in Amman last March. It would have tipped the scales while discussing what was described in Arab statements as the "condition" between Iraq and Kuwait. A stiffer position would have led to further tension. It may be worthwhile, however, for the Iraqi national laboratory to dispatch advance samples to overworked members of the Security Council - Sanctions Committee enthusiasts in particular may want to volunteer for on-the-job experimentation.