Maligned UN envoy to Burma reassigned

Dec 4, 2009 (DVB), The United Nations envoy to Burma, Ibrahim Gambari, has been assigned head of the UN-African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur, following criticism of his former posting.

The veteran Nigerian diplomat will begin his new appointment as joint special representative of the UNAMID mission on 1 January next year, the UN said.

Gambari had made several visits to Burma during his posting as the UN's special envoy for human rights, although he has come under fire from campaigners over deteriorating conditions in Burma during his appointment.

Since March 2006, when he made his first visit to Burma, the number of political prisoners in the country has nearly doubled. He has been criticized for taking a soft approach to the Burmese generals, which has drawn comparisons with current UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon.

Gambari's reassignment has received mixed responses from opposition politicians inside Burma, who have repeatedly criticized the UN for inaction over Burma's domestic crises.

"Even though Gambari didn't meet the majority's expectation, he did manage some outcome to some level in my opinion," said National League for Democracy (NLD) party spokesperson, Nyan Win.

"The UN will do its job within the range of its authority and we can't actually be very demanding or critical on that."

The reception however was not so warm from Aung Thar Aung, secretary of the Committee Representing the People's Parliament (CRPP) and Arakan League for Democracy.

"Gambari as an UN envoy tried so many times but failed to initiate national reconciliation and dialogue," he said. "He failed to bring the NLD, ethnic groups and the SPDC onto the right path towards dialogue.

"The next envoy should be someone who can take full responsibility for the duties given by the UN, and work effectively to instigate the decisions made by the organisation.

"Someone who just comes to Rangoon and pushes the ethnic groups and the opposition to follow the [government's] preference will be of no use."

The UN is yet to announce who will take Gambari's place, a daunting task in the run-up to controversial elections next year which critics of the Burmese government claim are set to entrench military rule in the country.

Reporting by Htet Aung Kyaw

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