Noble Arms Deal?
As laureates arrived to receive their Nobel Prize, Scandinavian
papers reported unflattering stories about the investments of
the Nobel Academy in stocks of the Bofors arms industry. The Aftenbladt
daily, the paper which raised the issue, was informed by an Academy
spokesman that it invests wherever it wants, to "maintain the
value of capital." Ironically, it took some time for Alfred Nobel
to wipe away a reputation for making his initial money on dynamite.
All in the Afghan Family
A journalist based in Afghanistan counted 11 of the 25 Afghan
delegates to the Bonn reconciliation conference accompanied by
family members. The royal family seemed to have six relatives,
including Sayyed Ahmed Gilani, who himself had four siblings participating,
including his son Hamed, graduate of Islamabad Islamic University
, his daughter Fatima, who is married to professor Anwar Al-Haq.
Ahadi was also present as head of one wing of the National Afghan
Party. Finally, there was Sayed Ishaq Gilani, representing the
"Cyprus" group. The King's representatives were his grandson Mustapha
and former Foreign Minister Hadayat Arslan Khan, whose daughter
is married to the king's son. Then there were the two brothers
of slain leader Abde Haq: Haji Din Muhammad and Abdal Karder Khan
and thirty-year old Hafizallah, son of Shiite leader Ayatollah
Asif Mohseni. Even warlord and former Prime Minister Galbuddin
Hekmtyar, who resides in Tehran, had his son in law Homayun Gereer
who attended as part of the "Cyprus Group," ostensibly against
the wishes of his father-in-law, who publicly attacked the conference.
Peacekeeping Christmas Bonus
'Twas the day before Christmas when the General Assembly approved
a new regular budget of $2.625 billion, the first increase in
eight years. The additional four percent is mainly to increase
peacekeeping staff. No more zero growth budget? No more cuts at
DPI expense? Wait and see what happens between Peacekeeping and
Special Political Affairs.
The chamber of the Economic and Social Council where Ismat Kittani
started his UN career 34 years ago was an appropriate venue for
a gathering of friends and colleagues to bid him farewell. Secretary
General Kofi Annan spoke of him as a wise counselor and a thoughtful
colleague; Ambassador Abdullah Al-Ashtal of Yemen recalled his
steadfast loyalty to friends; Dr. Clovis Maksoud discussed Kittani's
modesty as the best expression of greatness. Raghida Dergham spoke
of his knack for bridging generation gaps. Benon Sevan described
his compassion for those who worked with him and the network with
which he kept in regular social contact. His son Dara briefly
and graciously thanked everyone. It was a fitting tribute to an
internationalist who served his country and the United Nations
with equal loyalty and foresight. Joe Sills, his spokesman as
General Assembly president, who later became a Secretary General
spokesman, officiated, and concluded with brief anecdotes reminiscent
of Kittani himself: he always inspired an affectionate smile.
First Female Arab Foreign Secretary
It was a victory of sorts for Arab women. It was also an acknowledgment
of the exceptional diplomatic talent of Ms. Fayza Abulnaga, recently
appointed Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of Egypt. Her
previous post was Ambassador to the UN in Geneva. Those who worked
with her as special assistant to Secretary General Boutros Ghali
recall her thoughtful collaboration with colleagues, her loyal,
dedicated work and her elegant demeanor and discreet handling
of delicate cases. Clearly she will be a valuable asset to Egyptian
and Arab diplomacy. More to the point, her appointment should
be welcome news for the United Nations community, which always
needs as many government officials who understand its mechanism
as possible, particularly in this critical time.
Vendrell to leave Afghan Post
Francesc Vendrell was busy dealing with Afghanistan when the
world had totally given up on the country. From a small office
in Islamabad, he shuttled between Kabul, New York, Rome and anywhere
else he could foster interest in the Afghan plight. Even when
the ruling Taliban violated safety arrangements and confiscated
his passport, he cajoled, threatened, contacted potential supporters
and did everything humanly possible to keep the international
community abreast of developments. At the Bonn Conference, he
was often seen busily moving between delegates, visiting the exiled
king in Rome and supporting the indefatigable Lakhdar Brahimi
to work out a consensus. His interviews were to the point-- no
fabrication or self-indulgence. When the new government, which
he had helped form, was sworn in on December 22, 2001, Vendrell
made known his decision to resign, after 34 years of successful
UN service. His contract expires at the end of January 2002, but
he did not request a renewal. A man of great energy and discreet
approval, Vendrell first made his mark in combating anti-apartheid,
later working with Alvaro de Soto in peacemaking efforts in Salvador
and Guatemala. His former colleagues in UNITAR, where her first
began his work, recall an energetic young Spaniard with a clear
commitment to human rights and the rule of law. But as the Bob
Dylan song goes, he was much older then, he's younger than that
now. Best of luck, Francesc. An excellent career.
"The fog scares me-like screaming eyes or beasts slipping through
our silence," Leopold Sedar Senghor was never scared of clarity.
The poet, who "did not create poetry, but went along with its
creation," died at peace with himself, but perturbed by the state
of the world. A great African and an inspiring leader, he once
said that he "wrote in French but thought in African negritude."
He loved his country, Senegal, loved the freedom of Africa and
defended the intellectuals of the world. A unique president, he
actually left the presidency at the end of his term, in a region
where presidents go straight from office to the graveyar. He gave
his people the right to choose their system, leaving them with
his main option: the message of creative love. He left the world
longing for an elusive era of human respect and equal opportunity.
He will be remembered as a great president, a true representative
of the Third World and an outstanding poet, a voice of clarity
embracing both heaven and earth in a constant motion so that we
all should live free in this world. Adieu Monsieur le President.
Merci Monsieur Senghor.
UNIFIL Spokesperson "Rotated"
Timor Goksel, the perennial spokesperson and political advisor
for UNIFIL in South Lebanon will be "rotated." Having worked there
for 23 years, he almost became part of the landscape. Always available
and well-informed, Timor was a valuable asset to the UN, and,
of course, to journalists searching for their way in a complex
political maze. Timor has done an outstanding job and will have
similar success in any other assignment, now that a management
decision has been taken to appoint him elsewhere. One thing is
for certain, that region for which he toiled will miss him as
much as he will miss that long term mission.