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Yet more UN scandals

Posted by Helen Monday, February 14, 2005

Really, this is getting beyond a joke. When we on this blog joined the few other bloggers in documenting and analyzing the disgraceful behaviour of the United Nations as a whole and in separate instances, we seemed to be out on a limb. Even some of our readers (not many) criticized us. Now we appear to be in the vanguard of the development. Everybody’s doing it, doing it, doing it.

There is the ongoing and ever more entertaining saga of the food-for-oil scandal and the persistent questions of whether they will get Kofi Annan this time.

There is the appalling inability of the UN to provide immeidate aid after the tsunami, coupled with its present inability to get out now that the people there need to be able to rebuild their lives without the presence of highly paid aid officials and the persistent undermining of the local economy.

We now have a promising little row over the Egyptian head of the United Nations atomic energy agency, Mohammed ElBaradei, who is starting an unusual third term, despite or, more likely, because of his known closeness to the Iranian Mullahs and suspected involvement in the American elections against Bush.

Then there is the £1.6 million or so that has disappeared from the World Meteorological Organization together with the man, Mohammad Hassan, who appears to be responsible for the money’s curious behaviour. Mr Hassan, possibly deceased, possibly not, was a close associate of the organization’s previous secretary-general, the Nigerian Godwin Obasi. He, too, seems to be hard to reach, though he is still alive.

Mr Obasi’s successor, previously his deputy, Michel Jarraud, maintains that he is overhauling the entire agency and Jocahim Muller, the administrative director said in what must be a strong contender for the understatement of the year:

“There was relief when the new secretary-general took over. Twenty years was a long time for one man to be in charge. Mr Jarraud set out to replace an atmosphere of fear with dialogue.”
Dialogue with whom one wonders. Not the least extraordinary part of the story is that most of us did not even know that the World Metereological Organization existed and still have no clear concept of what it does with itself.

Furthermore, there are 15 other agencies dotted around the world (well, the more pleasant and attractive parts of the world). Congressman Henry Hyde is now calling for a rigorous review of all their activities and finances. Presumably, the UN will hold out as long as possible and, eventually, agree with ill grace. Then the fun will start. I predict that before this year is out the reputation of all these organizations will be in tatters.

Still, none of this is as shocking as the unravelling tale of the behaviour of the UN troops and aid workers in DR Congo, where unfortunate girls and women, some as young as 11 or 12, and, in at least one case, a young boy, were bribed or forced to have sex with the men in blue helmets.

One logistics officer, Didier Bourguet, has been arrested in France and is, apparently co-operating with the authorities, who have discovered many hundreds of pictures on the hard drive of his computer. (You do wonder about the intelligence of these people as well as their morals.)

One South African officers is also under investigation for assaulting his young male interpreter.

Others, to the supposed anger of the UN officials, have simply gone home and are not being tried or even investigated. Actually, the anger may be slightly phony. It is unlikely that all those UN officials really want a proper investigation in what amounts to a scandal that in its political implications may dwarf the food-for-oil one.

The American TV network, ABC has put together and screened and extended programme about the story of the UN in DR Congo and there seems to be little real attempt to investigate the crimes or punish the wrong-doers. Presumably, the network extends too wide and takes in too many people, some in high positions.

All ABC could do was to repeat several rather feeble and clearly unsubstantiated promises from William Swing, now head of the UN peace keeping mission to DR Congo, that the whole matter will be cleared up and the UN’s act cleaned up.

In the meantime the unfortunate traumatized children have had no help. Many of them have been left with babies and these are adding another layer of problems in a country that has too many already. (Incidentally, the journalists of ABC refer to DR Congo as being one of the poorest in the world. It has had constant war going on for years but as for being one of the poorest – DR Congo has the richest mineral deposits on earth.)

All these multiplying scandals lead back to the same problem. The UN, that has starry aims to become a world government, is riddled with corruption and cannot be otherwise. It wields a great deal of power and has a huge amount of money at its disposal. But it is responsible and accountable to no-one.

That lack of responsibility extends from SecGen Annan through the highly paid and uncontrolled bureaucrats all the way down to the soldiers and aid workers on the ground. Many of them represent countries where the supposed guiding principles of the UN: liberty, democracy, human rights are, in any case, non-existent.

Which raises an interesting question. As our readers may recall, there were numerous attempts on the part of the international great and the good to pronounce that the citizens of the world voted against Bush. How the citizens of countries that have no elections for their own governments could have voted for the president of another country is somewhat mysterious.

Even more mysterious is the silence of all these great and the good on the subject of the would-be world government the UN. Should not the citizens of the world, whoever they may be, given a vote on the wannabe government of the world? Why don’t we start in DR Congo or Rwanda and ask the people there what they think of this mighty organization?