Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
UNITED NATIONS, October 6, updated -- The UN's Special Committee on Decolonialization began its meeting on Monday, less than two months after South Ossetia and Abkhazia substantially broke away from Georgia, with the questions of Western Sahara, New Caledonia, Guam, Gibraltar and others on its agenda. Of the requests to speak, the majority concerned Western Sahara. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has picked Christopher Ross of the U.S. State Department to replace Peter Van Walsum, who lost the confidence of the Polisario Front.
But Ross, who sources described to Inner City Press as State Department's technical negotiator on the topic, as well as Ambassador to Algeria and Syria, in the run-up to this prospective assignment, has not yet been confirmed, not least by Morocco.
As the meeting began, and Inner City Press entered Conference Room 4 to live-blog it, a staffer of the UN's Department of General Assembly and Conference Management approached. She said, "You cannot be here," and ordered Inner City Press out of the line for the meeting's documents. Outside in the hall she said that journalists were not permitted on the floor of the meeting, "only NGOs, delegates and the UN's own press." Inner City Press noted that there were other reporters in the room. "
Point them out to me," said the staffer, Emma Pioche. Inner City Press declined. Further inquiry finds that Ms. Pioche, an American, has what in the UN is called a permanent contract. In 2005 she was noted for her 25-year tenure at the UN. The chief of DGACM, Shaaban Shaaban, has registered his displeasure at Inner City Press' coverage of the Department, particularly a piece based on interviews conducted at the farewell party of his deputy, and apparently perceived competitor, Yohannes Mengesha. Is it DGACM's job to be restricting press coverage of such meetings? As noted, Under Secretary General Shaaban Shaaban has yet to hold any briefing with questions and answers about DGACM.
South Africa's Ambassador to the UN, Dumisani Kumalo, approached Inner City Press outside the door of Conference Room 4. Incredulous, he asked, "The press is pushed out of a meeting about decolonialization?"
Other territories listed in the meeting's documents include Tokelau, Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, U.S. Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands (Malvinas), Montserrat, Pitcairn, Saint Helena, Turks and Caicos Islands, and American Samoa. The Holy See wants it to be known that it gave fully 10 scholarships to the Pontifical Universities in Rome to inhabitants of America Samoa. (See, A/63/67). The annual report of the Committee includes a decision concerning Puerto Rico (see, A/63/23). Thrown off the meeting floor, we do the best we can.
To try to be fair to the UN's DGACM, it is some of their staffers who are responsible for the new computer assistance window in the UN's Delegates' Lounge, at which Ambassadors can get video clips of their speeches in meetings -- even meetings the Press is pushed from. DGACM has a clear idea of whom it is serving -- and, at least in Conference Room 4 on Monday, who it is excluding.
Update of 4:32 p.m. -- An hour and a half after the meeting began, and half an hour after the report above was published, Inner City Press was on appeal allowed onto the floor of Conference Room 4. The Ambassador of Mauritania, with the recent coup, was walking the other way through the UN basement hall. Inside, a Ms. Hill of the United Kingdom was speaking, about its commitment to its overseas territories. "The UK has no intention of imposing independence against the will of the people themselves," she said, her voice breaking.
Update of 4:40 p.m. -- she then repeated this promise, not to give in to referendum, on the Faulklands, unless the people ask for it. The Chair has already said, on Western Sahara, that October 7 and 8 will be needed to hear from all the requesters, even if only for five minute each.
Update of 4:50 p.m. -- the representative of South Africa, not Amb. Kumalo now but an able diplomatic staffer, replied to Morocco noting that he spoke also for the South African Development Community, and that this have arrived where they are based on "the rejection by Morocco in 2007, and in 2005, of a proposal that the Security Council noted was the optimal" way to solve the situation. And now, two days more of debate, starting October 7, 3 p.m.
Source: At the UN's Decolonialization Meeting, restrictions on some press - Western Sahara stand-off, by Inner City Press
Africa's last colony
Since 1975, three quarters of the Western Sahara territory has been illegally occupied by Morocco. The original population lives divided between those suffering human rights abuses under the Moroccan occupation and those living in exile in Algerian refugee camps. For more than 40 years, the Saharawi await the fulfilment of their legitimate right to self-determination.