Facts have emerged on why the United States Government advised the United Nations to dismiss newly appointed Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, Prof Ibrahim Gambari, as UN Secretary General’s Special Representative to that country in 2008 to help resolve the political crisis in the Asian nation.
In a WikiLeaks cable seen by SaharaReporters on Sunday, Gambari, who on May 22, 2007 was entrusted with the Good Offices Mandate on Myanmar by the UN Secretary-General, was said to have hampered the progress of the political crisis in that country after stakeholders lost confidence in his ability to remain neutral and be fair to all parties.
Neck-deep in one of its worst political crisis, the Myanmar Government had arrested and locked up many perceived political enemies including pro-democracy activist, Aung San Suu Kyi, who was placed under house arrest for promoting human rights and pushing for the country to become a democratic state.
The UN together with leading world powers especially the United States had felt that the best way to bring an end to the crisis in Myanmar was for all political factions to have a robust dialogue and agree on a common way forward.
It was for that mission that Gambari was drafted in by the UN Secretary-General at the time, Ban Ki-Moon.
But after failing to make any significant progress especially after some of the stakeholders in that country expressed lack of confidence in him to be nuetral, United States Secretary of State at the time, Condoleezza Rice, on October 7, 2008 wrote to the UN to have Gambari removed from the Myanmar assignment.
Titled Demarche Request: Replacement of SRSG Gambari for Burma Mission, the classified document reads in part, “Department views the “good offices” mission of the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative to Burma as an important vehicle for encouraging democratic progress in Burma.
“Consequently, Department has viewed with growing concern the lack of progress on core political steps that the UNSC called on Burma to take such as the immediate release of political prisoners and the opening of a meaningful, time-bound political dialogue with democratic and ethnic minority leaders, in particular, with Aung San Suu Kyi, over the course of SRSG Gambari’s four missions to Rangoon.
“Indeed, it appears that Gambari’s access to regime officials and ability to secure results has only contracted over the course of these missions. His access to democratic leaders has been constrained by both the regime and more recently a loss of confidence in Gambari among leaders of the democracy movement.
“Gambari appears unrealistically upbeat, pursuing and reporting progress on peripheral matters (e.g., a possible economic forum, the possible placement of a UN staff member in Rangoon) that are a distraction from what the Security Council has articulated as critical goals and identified as Gambari’s mandate.
“Considering the key role of the good offices mission and Gambari’s inability to secure significant progress from the Burmese regime, USUN is asked to demarche SYG Ban or Ambassador Kim to seek Gambari’s dismissal as SRSG for Burma. This demarche should occur as soon as practical.
“Over time, the United States has become increasingly concerned that the UN good offices mission in regard to Burma is in dire jeopardy.
“Special Representative Gambari’s fourth and latest trip to Burma continued a disturbing pattern of regime-managed itineraries; restricted access to key regime officials and activists; and complete lack of progress on the critical issues that form the core of Mr Gambari’s mandate: the opening of a meaningful and time-bound dialogue with democratic and ethnic minority leaders, including Aung San Suu Kyi, toward democratization and national reconciliation, and the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners.
“While the main responsibility for this lack of progress should be attributed to regime intransigence, Mr Gambari has not been willing to acknowledge it. This lack of progress, Mr Gambari’s inappropriate claims of success regarding peripheral issues, and his unwillingness to press the regime more forcefully for progress have caused us to conclude that his continued involvement undermines the good offices mission and should therefore be ended.
“We have no wish to embarrass Mr Gambari and have no intent to link any removal with a lack of progress in Burma, but we would ask that you find a way to terminate gracefully his participation in this particular mission.
“In particular, we cannot support further travel to Burma for discussions with regime leadership by Mr Gambari as part of the good offices mission.”
But reacting to that development in an interview two years later, Gambari denied being removed from that role despite the letter by Rice to the UN leadership, instead insisting that he kept his role in Myanmar before being assigned to a much “bigger assignment” nearly one and a half year later in Darfur, Sudan.
Since being named by Buhari as his new Chief of Staff following the death of Abba Kyari to Coronavirus, more of Gambari’s involvement with human rights violations and dictatorial regimes have come to light once more.
In 1995 for instance, he openly backed the killing of Ogoni environmentalist, Ken Saro-Wiwa, and eight other activists during the ruthless General Sani Abacha military regime.
Gambari had informed the United Nations that the killing of Saro-Wiwa was legal as it was done in line with the law and constitution of Nigeria.
The UN General Assembly had condemned the arbitrary execution of Saro-Wiwa after a flawed judicial process, emphasising that everyone charged with a penal offence had the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to the law in a public trial with all guarantees necessary for defence.
But Gambari accused the UN General Assembly of dancing to the tune of some individuals trying to challenge the sovereignty of Nigeria.
He labelled Saro-Wiwa a “common criminal”, who had engaged in the murder of some Ogoni elders.
As a result of his actions, he was forced to resign as head of a committee organising peace talks between the Nigerian Government and militants in the oil-producing Niger Delta.
Some Niger Delta leaders including MEND rejected Gambari’s involvement in the proposed summit.
Apart from his role in the killing of Saro-Wiwa and the eight Ogoni indigenes, President Buhari’s new Chief of Staff is also known to have openly supported the annulment of June 12, 1993 election won by business tycoon, Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola.
To further give credence to the ex-UN envoy’s ruthless reputation as a promoter of rights violation, Special Assistant to President Buhari on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, in his column of July 12, 2008 published in SUN Newspaper, knocked Gambari for his support of dictatorial regimes.
Adesina in the strong-worded article had written, “Gambari enslaved himself to please his paymasters. Now, 13 years later, the shackles are still tied round his neck. Bootlicking grovellers fail to learn.”