|MILITARY OFFICERS RAISE QUESTIONS ON FORCE
15 December 2005
The following is reproduced as received on 3 December:
We are military officers at the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) and we wish to bring to your
attention a serious issue which has taken place in this Mission. We write this so that public attention can be drawn
to yet another example of the lack of integrity among senior management in the UN. We do not wish to discredit any
particular nation. India has had a distinguished history of contribution to the UN peacekeeping operations for over
50 years covering more than 30 missions and has provided able leaders for various missions. This is why the present
episode which we narrate here is so shameful.
UNMEE is a peacekeeping mission which was set up to monitor the peace brokered between Ethiopia and Eritrea in
2000. The Mission is headed by a Special Representative of the Secretary General. It has a multinational military
force headed by a Force Commander to monitor the Temporary Security Zone which was created to act as a buffer between
these two countries.
The present Force Commander Major General Rajender Singh, SM, VSM is from India. He came to the Mission in July
2004 taking over from General Gordon of Britain. The purpose of this mail is to expose what this Maj. General Singh
has done in the Mission. In a bad year for the UN, where the Secretary General has come under fire after the
Volcker report which exposed the corruption and mismanagement in the UN this case is another example of the rot in
higher management levels of the UN.
The Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) of the United Nations had commissioned the oversight body of
the UN, the Office of the Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) to carry out a review of the state of discipline
across all peacekeeping missions. This was done in the light of the developments in the UN Mission in Congo where
UN peacekeepers had sexually exploited the local population. The OIOS has resident auditors placed in some of the
Missions to act as internal auditors residing in the Mission. The audit was tasked to look into all aspects of
misconduct and indiscipline in the Mission. The auditors accordingly conducted the audit and a consolidated report
was given to OIOS in New York which presented it to DPKO.
The audit report for UNMEE among other things pointed out four cases against the Force Commander (FC), Maj-General
Singh. This came under the group of cases of Senior Management not leading by example. These cases pertain to (1) abuse
of UN flights by the FC and his family (2) abuse of official telephone calls by the FC (3) FC retaining satellite
television equipment in his residence although not authorized to do so and against the directions of the Special
Representative of the Secretary General and (4) FC drawing rations and water from the Indian contingent. When the
auditors exposed these findings, the FC went to extraordinary lengths to cover up the case.
UNMEE is a non-family Mission. However, the FC’s wife has always been here from the start except for brief periods
when she returned to India. She recently went back in August and has now not been able to come back due to the
Mission now not allowing families to come back. In fact, the FC’s daughter, son and daughter-in-law have also come
to the Mission. UNMEE has two offices, one in Asmara, the capital of Eritrea, and the main Headquarters of UNMEE. It
has a branch office at Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia and UN flights go to and from these cities. The UN
flights are meant for on-duty UN personnel. However, FC’s wife used to accompany him regularly on these trips.
However, as she was a non-UN personnel she would be placed at the lowest priority of passengers. As the aircraft has
very limited seats and the demand for seats is always more than availability, the FC would get Indian soldiers to
reserve seats for "duty" purpose for themselves on the day he intended to fly with his family although they would
in fact not be traveling at all and then get them to cancel it at the last moment so that his family could be
accommodated. At other times, genuine duty Indian army passengers would be off-loaded to make space for his
family. This practice became so widespread that UNMEE officials lodged official complaints. It was only when the
auditors wrote about this in the report citing specific cases of abuse where duty passengers could not travel
simply to accommodate the FC’s family that the FC resorted to extraordinary cover-up. First, the audit facts were
disputed as incorrect by providing "evidence" which were in fact, fake leave applications cooked up to show that
the officers who did not travel did not do so as they were holidaying in Addis. However, when the auditors checked
the leave applications they found forged signatures and they exposed the fact that the applications were put in on
dates when these officers were in Addis although the applications showed them to be present in Asmara. These officers
were specifically ordered by the FC not to travel from Addis so that his wife could travel on the aircraft but the
fake applications were showed to the auditors to disprove their point when they exposed this. This is a clear case
of fraud. FC has since been given a letter of displeasure by the Special Representative of the Secretary General.
In the same OIOS report, it was shown that the FC made several calls to India and claimed these to be official
so the expenses were borne by the UN. The auditors wrote that some of these calls were made beyond 11 PM Indian time
when no office would have been open and calls which were shown as official in one bill were shown as personal in
In the third case, the FC and other senior managers were asked by the SRSG to return the satellite TV equipment
in their residences as they had already been provided with satellite TV connection in their offices and they were not
entitled to two connections under UN rules. Consequently, all the satellite TV cards in the residences were
deactivated. While all the other senior mangers complied with the SRSG’s directions, the FC removed the card from
his office and used it at home and continued to watch satellite TV at home. The missing card was detected through
a physical inspection at the auditor’s request and the case exposed.
In the fourth instance of abuse, the FC is an international staff member (D-2 level) who is paid by the UN. As
such, he is not a member of the contingent and is entitled to draw military rations and water. But he has done so
and continues to do so from the Indian contingent located in Asmara.
When OIOS conducted a survey amongst UNMEE personnel during the audit, most of them cited these cases as
examples of abuse of authority and senior management not leading by example. For such a high-level officer to do
this at a time when the UN and its Secretary General are under fire for corruption and rocked by scandals, is
Military officers at UNMEE