By Matthew Russell Lee
Somalilandsun — After the UN system unilaterally transferred Somaliland airspace to Mogadishu, UN flights were suspended until Turkish brokered talks defused the UN’s gaffe.
When the UN’s top humanitarian in Mogadishu Philippe Lazzarini took questions by Twitter on May 26, Inner City Press asked: “UNilaterally transfer of Somaliland airspace to Mogadishu – what was impact on humanitarian access? Status?”
Lazzarini did answer this question — but not the other one asked by Inner City Press, about the UN’s loss of impartiality when the UN Mine Action Service’s David Bax began working with the US / Bancroft Global Development, see below.
On Somaliland airspace, Lazzarini replied: “@innercitypress: Currently no impact. Airspace was temporarily suspended for UN flight last year, but since resolved.”
But what did the UN learn from the suspension? Inner City Press thanked and retweeted Lazzarini and then asked, “Not to be repeated?” This went UNanswered, as did this: “Given UNMAS Bax & (US) Bancroft Global Development, does UN (im)partiality impact aid access?”
No answer to this. nor to a series of questions by Hargeisa based Free UN Coalition for Access member Mohamoud Walaaleye, including about Khaatumo.
Background: After the UN told Inner City Press that its Somalia de-mining boss David Bax was fully exonerated by an investigation by the UN Office of Project Services that followed an Inner City Press exclusive expose of Bax sharing information with US intelligence through Bancroft Global Development, Inner City Press has obtained a UNOPS letter to Bax that says “However, the Internal Audit and Investigations Group referred several issues to management, including your trip on an African Skies Limited flight.”
There is a problem here: as even the UN’s report on mercenaries in Somalia notes, Bancroft has had a financial relationship with African Skies Limited, to provide security at the Mogadishu airport. Click here for UN report, see Paragraph 45.
So a favor from African Skies Limited is a favor from Bancoft, to which Bax gave information including genetic information from suicide bombs.
UNOPS’ Paul Lucas’ “Dear David” letter, dated December 9, 2013, also references sexual harassment. That involved, among other things, putting UN staff at risk by doing favors for “a girlfriend,” and breaking the rules of Bax’ own UNOPS camp.
The larger question is even when the UN conducts an investigation and announces a results, including case exoneration, can it be believed? On investigation into charges of gang rape by UN peacekeepers in Mali, the UN has told Inner City Press that the investigation is complete — but not the result.
Back on November 4, 2013, Inner City Press asked Anton Katz, Chair of the UN “Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination” about the Group’s report on Somalia – and if he had met David Bax. (He had, in Cape Town.)
The report states for example that
“The Working Group was informed by UNMAS that to avoid this problem, their agreement with Bancroft requires that when conducting EOD and counter-IED operations, Bancroft employees must remain a minimum of 500 metres behind any front line. This type of rule might serve as an appropriate safeguard in other contracts as well… The Working Group notes that at least one employee of Bancroft pleaded, and was found, guilty in a South African court of, inter alia, recruiting persons for mercenary activities in Côte d’Ivoire and providing logistical support for the venture [See High Court of South Africa (Transvaal Provincial Division), case number A2850/03 of 2 and 20 May 2005 (ZAGPHC 248).]”
Why are the UN, AMISOM and UNMAS working with Bancroft Global Development? What do they do together? Inner City Press has been informed by whistleblowers beyond Somalia that Bax has been part of the process by which genetic and DNA information from IED bombings have been transferred to US intelligence.
There are also detailed accounts of Bax using UN and private contractor resources, without mandate, for a close friend. The problem here, it is reiterated, is that it put others at risk on Bax’s whim. We’ll have more on this – because the UN Secretariat says again and again that it puts staff safety first. This for example is the rationale, as Inner City Press also exclusively reported, for threatening to close down in New York the UN cafeteria and Dag Hammarskjold Library.
As with January Security Council president, Inner City Press offered thanks to Katz for the briefing for the new Free UN Coalition for Access, which will continue to push for increased transparency from the UN on cases like that of Bax, particuarly given the slated changing of the guard in the UN Spokesperson’s office