NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 3 – Over 400 staff at the United Nations Office at Nairobi (UNON) held a peaceful demonstration on Tuesday to voice their discontent over Anna Tibaijuka’s replacement with UNEP boss Achim Steiner, as director general.,
Led by the UN Nairobi Staff Union President Rhoda Atana, the workers said they are unhappy with the manner in which Mrs Tibaijuka whose term was scheduled to end next year was replaced.
"We have no problem with Tibaijuka being replaced, what we are questioning is the criteria that was used. We are totally opposed to it and that is why we are demonstrating," Ms Atana said when she led other UN staff in Tuesday morning’s protest.
The protest took place within the confines of the UN Complex in Gigiri.
"Under UN regulations, we are only allowed to hold demonstrations in our grounds. And the message we are sending is very clear. We are opposed to Mr Steiner’s appointment," another staff member who declined to be named said.
Ms Atana said she had written to the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to protest the announcement that had not been formally announced until Tuesday afternoon, when a statement was dispatched to newsrooms from the UN’s information centre.
"We are even wondering why this new appointment has not been made public because we are hearing it as a rumour," Ms Atana added.
She showed journalists a copy of the letter she had written to the UN chief to lodge their dissatisfaction with developments at the UN office in Nairobi.
"Mr Sec Gen, we need not remind you how Mrs Tibaijuka was able to preside over UNON during the most difficult period in the history of this duty station between December 2007 and April 2008.
As director general she oversaw the security and safety of staff during that most difficult time," the letter to Ban Ki-Moon reads in part.
Mrs Tibaijuka served as both director general of UNON and Executive Director of UN Habitat.
Describing Mrs Tibaijuka as a dedicated leader, members of staff who took part in the demonstration said they would continue with the protests until their grievances were addressed.
"We will continue with the protests because we want Tibaijuka to be our boss," another staff member said.
Mr Steiner has been the Executive Director of the Nairobi-based United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) since June 2006 – a position he will continue to retain while Mrs Tibaijuka remains Executive Director of UN Habitat.
According to one of the officials, both Mr Steiner and Mrs Tibaijuka were in their respective offices at the time of the demonstrations which brought operations to a standstill for several hours as staff abandoned their work stations to join in the protests.
Both of them were not immediately available for comment.
Mr Steiner’s new appointment was later communicated in a statement from the UN’s Information Director Nasser Ega-Musa. He said the appointment took effect on March 1.
"The Secretary-General made this decision in view of his policy of rotation among his senior managers. Mrs Tibaijuka will continue to serve as the Executive Director of the Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), a position she has held since 2002," the statement said.