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Hundreds of United Nations staff in Nairobi mourn the deaths of their colleagues in Baghdad

As the flags of the world at the United Nations Office at Nairobi flew at half mast, around six hundred United Nations staff today took part in a sombre ceremony to mourn the loss of the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Iraq, Mr. Sergio Vieira de Mello, and other United Nations staff who were killed in a bomb attack on the United Nations Headquarters in Baghdad.

Nairobi, 20 August: As the flags of the world at the United Nations Office
at Nairobi flew at half mast, around six hundred United Nations staff today
took part in a sombre ceremony to mourn the loss of the United Nations
Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Iraq, Mr. Sergio Vieira
de Mello, and other United Nations staff who were killed in a bomb attack
on the United Nations Headquarters in Baghdad.

Mr. Vieira de Mello and at least 17 other United Nations staff members were
killed when a truck bomb destroyed a section of the United Nations
headquarters in the Iraq capital. More than 100 people were also injured.

In honour of Mr. Vieira de Mello's memory, the Director-General of the
United Nations Office at Nairobi (UNON), Mr. Klaus Toepfer, has proposed to
the Secretary-General, Mr. Kofi Annan, that the new United Nations Library
in Nairobi be dedicated to him.

 "The Sergio Vieira de Mello Library would, we hope, help to perpetuate the
legacy of a man who, among his numerous achievements, did so much for peace
and reconciliation in Africa," Mr. Toepfer said in a letter to the
Secretary-General, which was read at the ceremony by the Deputy Executive
Director of UNEP, Mr. Shafqat Kakakhel.

The experience, commitment, compassion and diplomacy that Mr. Vieira de
Mello embodied in his long and distinguished career "are the very qualities
the United Nations, and indeed all humanity, needs more urgently today than
ever," Mr. Toepfer said in his message.

In an atmosphere of solemn contemplation, the gathering of United Nations
staff in Nairobi, who represent people from across the world, and the
entire United Nations family, heard messages of condolence and support from
senior United Nations officials and staff members who have recently served
in Iraq.

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the loss of Mr. Vieira de
Mello was "a bitter blow for the United Nations, and for me personally".

"The death of any colleague is hard to bear, but I can think of no one we
could less afford to spare, or who would be more acutely missed throughout
the United Nations system, than Sergio," he said.


The Executive Director of UN-HABITAT, Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka said,  "In losing
Mr. Vieira de Mello, the Iraqi people have lost a friend and the world has
lost a champion of justice and freedom. The only way we can pay tribute to
the man is to continue the UN mission to establish peace and prosperity in
Iraq."

Another UN-HABITAT staff member, Mr. Roman Rollnick, who worked with Mr.
Vieira de Mello in Kosovo in 1999, recalled him as "someone universally
loved by his staff who made it a point to remember everyone's name from the
cleaners up."

Mr. Vieira de Mello was well acquainted with Africa, having served early in
his career with UNHCR in south Sudan and in Rwanda, where he oversaw
refugee efforts during the 1990-1991 conflict. He also worked for a brief
period in 1996 as the Regional Humanitarian Coordinator of the Great Lakes.

The United Nations Secretary-General said the people who died in the attack
in Baghdad were working to help the people of Iraq take control of their
own destiny. He described the attack as a crime against the United Nations
and Iraq itself.

Mr. Annan said the United Nations will not be distracted by this "senseless
and brutal act". He was speaking in Stockholm on his way back to New York
after interrupting his holiday.


For further information please contact Eric Falt, Director, UNIC, telephone
623292; or Peter Mwaura, Deputy Director, telephone 624560

 


 

Thursday 21 Aug 2003
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