SG condemns ‘outrageous and cowardly’ attack in Afghanistan, UNOCI develops contingency plans to protect civilians in Cote d’Ivoire and more from UN Direct

Afghanistan: The operations center of UNAMA in Mazar-i-Sharif was attacked today following a demonstration. Some UN personnel have died. SRSG Staffan de Mistura is on his way to Mazar-i-Sharif to deal with the situation personally on the ground. The SG (who is currently in Nairobi for a CEB meeting) has been briefed on the attack and said in a press conference that it was an “outrageous and cowardly attack that cannot be justified under any circumstances” and he condemns it “in the strongest terms”. According to Afghan and UN officials, at least 12 people were killed. The figure includes at least seven UN workers – five Nepalese guards and two Europeans, one of them a woman. A New York Times article stated that the attack was the deadliest for the UN in Afghanistan since 11 people were killed in 2009. In response to a question concerning the nature of security for the UN compound in Afghanistan, the Spokesperson said that the compound received protection and that guards were among the casualties. Ambassador Susan Rice stated that she strongly condemns the horrific and senseless attack, honors the sacrifice and determination of the UNAMA staff, and mourns for those who were lost. She explained, “The dedicated staff of the UN Mission in Afghanistan does courageous work every single day to support the Afghan people under extremely different circumstances, including repeated attacks. It is inexcusable that these brave souls would be targeted for violence.”

Côte d’Ivoire: UNOCI is developing several contingency plans and focusing efforts on protecting civilians and maintaining public order. On Thursday, UNOCI’s headquarters came under heavy gunfire from Gbagbo’s Special Forces. UNOCI patrols also came under fire at the Abidjan airport and near the premises of the Radiodiffusion Television Ivoirienne (RTI). In addition to Gbagbo-led clashes, OHCHR received unconfirmed reports that pro-Ouattara forces have been committing human rights violations in their advance towards Abidjan. Meanwhile, OHCHR confirmed that pro-Gbagbo forces continue to commit violations on a daily basis. According to UNHCR, the continued violence is pushing people into Ghana, where there is currently over 5,000 Ivorian refugees. In Liberia, the number continues to rise sharply with roughly 123,000 registered refugees at present. The UN is also concerned about the need to avoid reprisal attacks.

Libya: The SG’s Special Envoy, Abdul Ilah Khatib, just wrapped up two day of talks in Libya, where he met with the opposition in Benghazi today after talks with authorities in Tripoli on Thursday. In Benghazi, Khatib met with Transitional National Council members, including Mustafa Abdel Jalil, the Council’s leader. In Tripoli, he met with Libyan government officials, including PM Baghdadi al-Mahmudi. Khatib plans to brief the Security Council on his travels early next week. On the humanitarian front, according to OCHA, more than 400,000 have fled the violence in Libya to date. While about 83,000 third-country nationals have been repatriated, more than 12,000 remain at border transit points. WFP has delivered food to six different locations in eastern Libya. It is also providing logistics and telecommunications support to humanitarian workers in Libya and neighboring countries. At this point, it has reached more than 7,000 uprooted people from Ajdabiya, and 20,000 others in the area will begin receiving food assistance in the coming days. Antonio Guterres, the High Commissioner for Refugees, ended a two-day mission to Egypt, during which he evaluated UNHCR’s humanitarian response to the displacement crisis triggered by the violence in Libya. UNHCR warns that thousands of people may be trapped in some areas, and hopes that it will be able to gain full access soon. In regards to the press conference with D’Escoto, the Nicaraguan Mission informed the UN that it will have to be postponed for a later date.

Somalia: SRSG for Somalia Augustine Mahiga noted that a High-Level Consultative meeting will take place in Nairobi on April 12-13 to reinvigorate dialogue among Somali authorities to establish a common vision for moving forward.

SG: Today, the SG spoke with PM of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu on the phone and held a press conference on recent developments in Afghanistan, Côte d’Ivoire, Japan, and Libya.

Senior UN Staff Travel: Valerie Amos, USG for Humanitarian Affairs and ERC, arrived in Liberia today for a two-day visit. Security permitting, Amos plans to go to Côte d’Ivoire on April 3rd. Also, today, Antonio Guterres, the High Commissioner for Refugees, is in Kenya to draw attention to the plight of the hundreds of thousands of Somali refugees and review UNHCR’s operations. On Sunday, April 3rd, Guterres, Josette Sheeran, ED of the WFP, and Michelle Bachelet, ED of UN women, will be in northeastern Kenya to visit the largest refugee settlements in the world.

CMP: CMP Executive Director Michael Adlerstein briefed the press yesterday on the status of UN renovations, reporting that construction in the Secretariat building is underway and $1.5 billion in commitments have been made, representing 75% of project costs.  The project is currently 4% over budget, but the UN is working to even out the costs.  On the project timeline, the Secretariat building and basement are on schedule, but conference building and GA are late.  In terms of next steps, asbestos abatement and curtain wall replacement will start soon in the conference building.  On improvements due to the CMP, water consumption will be reduced by 40% and almost 90% of the debris from the project is being recycled.  The UN is also working with the U.S., as the host country, to implement an enhanced security upgrade into the CMP through identified funding.

Senior UN Staff Appointment: Today, the SG formally swore in Sahle-Work Zewde as the first dedicated DG of the UN Office in Nairobi (UNON), who is an Ethiopian with wide diplomatic and UN experience.

Upcoming Briefings: The briefing on the Security Council’s Program of Work for the month of April under the Colombia Security Council presidency has been rescheduled for Monday, April 4th at 12:30 PM.