Friday, November 19, 2004
UN staff to vote on no-confidence motion against Annan. (Via Drudge)
UN staff are expected to make an unprecedented vote of no confidence in Secretary-General Kofi Annan, union sources say, after a series of scandals tainted his term in charge of the world body.
The UN staff union, in what officials said was the first vote of its kind in the almost 60-year history of the United Nations, was set to approve a resolution withdrawing support for Annan and senior UN management.
Annan has been in the line of fire over a series of scandals including controversy about a UN aid program that investigators say allowed deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein to embezzle billions of dollars.
Staffers said the trigger for the no-confidence measure was an announcement this week that Annan had pardoned the UN's top oversight official, who was facing allegations of favouritism and sexual harassment.
The union had requested a formal probe into the official, Dileep Nair, after employees accused him of harassing staff and violating UN rules on the hiring and promotion of workers.
Top UN spokesman Fred Eckhard announced on Tuesday that Nair had been exonerated by Annan "after a thorough review" by the UN's senior official in charge of management, Catherine Bertini.
Annan underlined that he "had every confidence" in Nair, Eckhard said, but UN employees ridiculed the decision and claimed that investigators had not questioned the staff union, which first raised the complaints in April.
"This was a whitewash, pure and simple," Guy Candusso, a senior member of the staff union, told AFP. ...
At the time, the United Nations was widely criticized for failing to stop the Rwanda genocide that left 800,000 people dead, even though UN peacekeepers were on the ground -- a catastrophe for which Annan has publicly apologized. ...
But he faces unprecedented calls to resign over the burgeoning scandal about "oil-for-food," a UN aid scheme that US investigators say allowed Saddam to siphon off billions of dollars.
The program has tainted UN officials like Benon Sevan, who oversaw the operation and is now accused of pocketing Saddam's money in exchange for turning a blind eye to the Iraqi dictator's abuses.
Annan stands accused of obstructing US investigators, especially since his hand-picked official Paul Volcker this week rejected calls from the US Senate to turn over documents from the program and waive UN staff immunity.
Eckhard, his spokesman, on Thursday said that Annan is expected to serve out his term, which ends in 2006.
Veteran UN staff said this was the first time that employees had risen up to make a vote of no confidence in a sitting secretary general.
"Kofi Annan is surrounded by corruption, a gang of criminals responsible for some of the worst things that happened to mankind in the 20th century," said one angry staffer, referring to the Rwanda massacres.
"It's possible that he doesn't know directly what has gone on," said the employee, who has worked for the United Nations for two decades. "But that's no excuse."