United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has appointed Albert Gerard Koenders as the first special envoy to Mali under a new peacekeeping mission created by the Security Council in late April. Additionally, the next executive director of the Security Council’s Counterterrorism Committee Executive Directorate is most likely to be announced soon, with the front-runner being Jean-Paul Laborde of France. Laborde has criminal justice experience and spent many years working for the UN in counterterrorism in various capacities.
Koenders, a 54-year-old from the Netherlands, will manage the Mali mission of nearly 13,000 military and police personnel from West Africa set to begin operating July 1. Its role is to secure peace in primarily northern towns and cities where Islamic extremists and other rebels have been repulsed by French and Chadian armies this year. Koenders and the mission will also be responsible for ushering in a sweeping political program that aims to reinstate democracy in Mali, after the country’s military coup in 2012.
The mission, called Minusma (UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission), is also working with the African Union and a regional group, the Economic Community of West African States, to first and foremost hold presidential elections in July in Mali. Minusma is also the first peacekeeping entity of the UN to tackle terrorism as part of its job.
Koenders, who is known as Bert, has been the special representative and head of the UN peacekeeping mission in Ivory Coast since October 2011, so he is familiar with West African politics and local insurgency problems, like a border incursion last year in Ivory Coast by an armed Liberian contingent, in which some peacekeeping soldiers were killed. Koenders is also a former Dutch minister for development cooperation and was a member of the country’s House of Representatives.
Aichatou Mindaoudou Souleymane of Niger will be taking Koenders’s place, running about 11,000 personnel in the Ivory Coast mission. Souleymane, who was born in 1959, has been the deputy joint special representative for the African Union-UN operation in Darfur, Sudan, known as Unamid. Souleymane, like Koenders, has also worked for her government. She was Niger’s minister for foreign affairs and cooperation and minister for social development, population and promotion of women’s rights.
Jean-Paul Laborde’s probable appointment by the UN secretary-general as executive director of the Security Council’s Counterterrorism Committee Executive Directorate is expected imminently, say experts in the field, who contend that his direct link to France, a permanent member of the Security Council, will be beneficial to carrying out his work.
Mike Smith has been the executive director since 2007. He said in an interview with PassBlue earlier this year that he was retiring to his native Australia, where he was once the country’s ambassador for counterterrorism.
The directorate is part of the UN hydra making up the Counterterrorism Implementation Task Force, which was set up in 2005 to deal with the dozens of counterterrorism units across the UN system. The office that Laborde will direct is the main subsidiary organ in the Security Council working on counterterrorism and primarily conducts monitoring, outreach and field visits.
Laborde, 63 and a judge, is not new to the UN. He had been chairman of the Counterterrorism Implementation Task Force for nearly two years; after his term ended in 2010, he returned to France to work for the Supreme Court. Laborde has also been chief of the terrorism prevention branch at the UN Office on Drugs and Crime agency, in Vienna.
The Counterterrorism Committee, which consists of all Security Council members, was established in 2001, after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States, to carry out two UN resolutions, 1373 (2001) and 1624 (2005) to enhance countries’ abilities to criminalize terrorist activities on their own turf. Some of the committee’s measures to eliminate terrorism include asset freezes, sharing of information among other governments on terror groups and extradition cooperation.
In another UN appointments, Haile Menkerios of South Africa will become the special envoy and head of the UN Office to the African Union. Menkerios, 66, will continue his assignment as special envoy for Sudan and South Sudan as well.
Carlos Alberto Dos Santos Cruz of Brazil was appointed force commander of the UN Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, or Monusco, which is now deploying the UN’s first-ever combat brigade, to be led by South African troops, to attack rebels in the eastern region.
Santos Cruz, a lieutenant general who was born in 1952, succeeds Chander Prakash Wadhwa of India, whose assignment ended in March.
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Dulcie Leimbach is a co-founder, with Barbara Crossette, of PassBlue. For PassBlue and other publications, Leimbach has reported from New York and overseas from West Africa (Burkina Faso and Mali) and from Europe (Scotland, Sicily, Vienna, Budapest, Kyiv, Armenia, Iceland and The Hague). She has provided commentary on the UN for BBC World Radio, ARD German TV and Radio, NHK’s English channel, Background Briefing with Ian Masters/KPFK Radio in Los Angeles and the Foreign Press Association.
Previously, she was an editor for the Coalition for the UN Convention Against Corruption; from 2008 to 2011, she was the publications director of the United Nations Association of the USA. Before UNA, Leimbach was an editor at The New York Times for more than 20 years, editing and writing for most sections of the paper, including the Magazine, Book Review and Op-Ed. She began her reporting career in small-town papers in San Diego, Calif., and Boulder, Colo., graduating to the Rocky Mountain News in Denver and then working at The Times. Leimbach has been a fellow at the CUNY Graduate Center’s Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies as well as at Yaddo, the artists’ colony in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.; taught news reporting at Hofstra University; and guest-lectured at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and the CUNY Journalism School. She graduated from the University of Colorado and has an M.F.A. in writing from Warren Wilson College in North Carolina. She lives in Brooklyn, N.Y.