Cablegate: New Human Rights Council President Martin Uhomoibhi


DE RUEHGV #0498/01 1831257
R 011257Z JUL 08 ZDS

2008-07-01 12:57:00 08GENEVA498 US Mission Geneva CONFIDENTIAL//NOFORN VZCZCXYZ0006\
DE RUEHGV #0498/01 1831257\
R 011257Z JUL 08 ZDS\
C O N F I D E N T I A L GENEVA 000498 \
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/26/2018 \
Classified By: Ambassador Warren W. Tichenor, Reasons 1.4(b)(d) \
1. (C) Summary: Nigerian Permanent Representative to the \
UN in Geneva, Martin Uhomoibhi, was formally elected \
President of the UN Human Rights Council June 18. His \
nomination by the African Group to serve as the Council's \
President for the 2008-2009 session had been contested from \
within the Group by Djibouti, which had the strong backing of \
Egypt, which wanted a Muslim PermRep from a majority Muslim \
country to hold the presidency. Uhomoibhi, a practicing \
Roman Catholic who is close to the Holy See's mission in \
Geneva, beat out his Djiboutian counterpart in an 18-15 vote \
within the African Group. Uhomoibhi, who took up his post in \
Geneva on March 15, 2007, has attended Council sessions \
infrequently; we are not aware of any previous experience he \
may have handling human rights issues. Mission Geneva has \
dealt closely with him at both the World Intellectual \
Property Organization (WIPO) and on International \
Organization on Migration (IOM) issues and found him \
approachable, articulate, and principled. He is reportedly \
strongly influenced by his faith, and has proven himself \
willing to stand up to pressure from Organization of the \
Islamic Conference (OIC) countries under many circumstances. \
Uhomoibhi's relative independence from African Group \
"group-think" could be very useful to Western Group views at \
the Council. Based on our past dealings with him, Uhomoibhi \
has been willing to broker compromises with the U.S. and \
other WHRG countries if we are active and engaged, although \
he would not necessarily favor Western views otherwise. \
Uhomoibhi has informed Ambassador Tichenor that he wants to \
work closely with the U.S. and that he wants to lead the \
Council to become a body "that is worthy of U.S. engagement." \
End Summary. \
Standing Up to the OIC \
---------------------- \
2. (C/NF) Ambassador Uhomoibhi has little track record at \
the Human Rights Council, but both there and in other \
Geneva-based fora has demonstrated some independence from the \
views of the OIC. His predecessor as Nigeria's PermRep in \
Geneva had been Muslim and had been much more closely aligned \
to the OIC. Uhomoibhi's close election by the African Group \
as Council President highlights a fault line in the group \
along religious lines which bears close monitoring in the \
Council on important issues such as defamation of religions \
and freedom of expression. Uhomoibhi told Ambassador \
Tichenor that Egyptian PermRep (and future Egyptian \
Ambassador to the U.S.) Sameh Shoukry had pressured him to \
"protect" Sudan at the Council from those who would criticize \
its human rights record. In another context, when serving as \
President of the WIPO General Assembly, Uhomoibhi told \
Ambassador Tichenor that he had received visits from both the \
Egyptian and Algerian PermReps, claiming that he was "not a \
good African" for cooperating with those who were attempting \
to force WIPO Director General Kamil Idris from office. \
Unlike some of his African Group counterparts, Uhomoibhi \
appears to pursue no pre-cooked agenda within Geneva fora, \
instead relying on where his principles guide him. This \
willingness to consider various issues on their merits has \
made and continues to make him potentially a sympathetic ally \
to the U.S under certain circumstances. \
Uhomoibhi's Record as WIPO General Assembly President \
--------------------------------------------- -------- \
3. (C/NF) Mission Geneva views of Ambassador Uhomoibhi are \
strongly influenced by our experience working with him since \
September 2007 in his role as WIPO GA President. At WIPO, \
the U.S. and other close allies were working to help force \
the resignation of WIPO DG Idris, a Sudanese national who had \
falsified his UN personnel records for personal gain. \
Uhomoibhi made the principled decision to support Idris's \
removal, and was supported by Zambia, Ghana and Rwanda, a \
similar split within the African Group to that we have seen \
at the Human Rights Council. Because he believed that Idris \
should resign, Uhomoibhi was accused by some of his African \
Group colleagues of being a tool of Western interests at \
WIPO. He stood up under the pressure, apparently deciding \
that Idris, by lying on his UN personnel records, had \
undermined the overall integrity and dignity of all Africans. \
Uhomoibhi worked closely with us on the text of Idris's \
retirement letter, not accepting Mission Geneva's proposed \
draft verbatim, but using it as the basis for constructive \
negotiations in which he served as intermediary between the \
U.S. and Idris. Once the WIPO GA accepted Idris's \
resignation, Uhomoibhi ran the election process for his \
replacement with scrupulous fairness, resulting in the \
election of a qualified candidate with high integrity. \
4. (C/NF) That is not to say, however, that left to his own \
devices, Uhomoibhi will always act in U.S. interests. As the \
long process of inducing WIPO DG Idris to resign ran its \
course, Uhomoibhi accepted the U.S. proposal to create a \
"friends of the chair" group to bridge disagreements over how \
to act on an internal audit report documenting misconduct on \
the part of Idris. Once the "friends" group was created, \
however, Uhomoibhi initially acquiesced to an attempt to \
stack the deck against the good governance side by allowing \
representatives from groups such as the OIC, G-77 and other \
blocs on the "friends" group -- players sympathetic to \
Idris's efforts to remain in his job. However, when the U.S. \
countered by arguing that, in that case, other blocs \
irrelevant to the issue like JUSCANZ, the EU, etc. should \
also be represented among "friends of the chair," Uhomoibhi \
changed his position, deciding that only the coordinators of \
WIPO's seven regional groups would serve as "friends." \
Nigeria's Role in IOM/Swing Election Campaign \
--------------------------------------------- \
5. (C/NF) Nigeria, as well as most other African Group \
members, supported U.S. candidate Bill Swing in June 18 \
elections for Director General of the IOM. Uhomoibhi took \
the initiative to host a lunch for select African Group \
ambassadors with all four IOM DG candidates. Uhomoibhi told \
us he was hosting the lunch and promoting a separate meeting \
for Swing with the entire Africa Group to help bolster \
Swing's chances. In fact, we did not favor the lunch and it \
was soon clear that Uhomoibhi was acting also to demonstrate \
his own leadership among the Africans. While he did campaign \
among Africans for Swing -- who ultimately won -- the lesson \
we draw is that while Uhomoibhi can be likeminded in pursuit \
of shared enterprise, he remains independent and devoted to \
advancing his own agenda. \
Biographical Information \
------------------------ \
6. (C) Martin Ihoeghian Uhomoibhi is married to Dr. \
Perpetua E. Uhomoibhi and has two children, a college-age \
daughter studying in Nigeria and a pre-teenage son who lives \
with the family in Geneva. Uhomoibhi reportedly speaks \
little French, a factor that we understand undermined support \
for him among Francophone African Group members. Colleagues \
at the Mission of the Holy See in Geneva confirm that \
Uhomoibhi is a practicing Roman Catholic who is close to \
their Mission. Through repeated conversations with \
Uhomoibhi, Ambassador Tichenor has learned that Uhomoibhi's \
faith is central to his work, and Ambassador Tichenor \
considers Uhomoibhi's faith the basis of his willingness to \
take principled positions. A UNOG press release dated 19 \
June 2008 on Ambassador Uhomoibhi's appointment as Council \
President follows: \
7. (U) Martin Ihoeghian Uhomoibhi is currently serving as \
Ambassador of Nigeria to Switzerland and Permanent \
Representative to the United Nations Office at Geneva. Dr. \
Uhomoibhi begins his one-year term as President of the Human \
Rights Council today. Prior to his appointment to Geneva, \
Dr. Uhomoibhi served as the acting Director of the Office of \
the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of \
Nigeria from 2004 to 2007. From July 2003 to January 2004, \
he was Deputy Director and Head of Division for Inter-African \
Affairs at the Ministry. In 2000, Dr. Uhomoibhi was \
appointed Minister and Deputy Head of Mission to the Nigerian \
Embassy in Addis Ababa, where he concurrently served as his \
country's representative to the African Union and to the \
Economic Commission for Africa until 2003. In 1999 he was \
appointed Consul General of Nigeria in Atlanta, with \
responsibility for United States-Nigeria relations in the 16 \
states of the south-eastern United States. Dr. Uhomoibhi has \
also been serving as the President of the General Assembly of \
the World Intellectual Property Organization since September \
2007. \
From 1995 to 1999, Dr. Uhomoibhi served as Special Assistant \
to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Prior to that, from \
1993 to 1995, he served as the coordinator and alternative \
representative of Nigeria to the Security Council in New \
York. Dr. Uhomoibhi started his diplomatic career in 1984, \
when he joined the Minister of Foreign Affairs as a Senior \
First Secretary. In his previous career, from 1977 to 1984, \
he was a lecturer in diplomatic and African history at the \
University of Ibadan in Nigeria. \
Dr. Uhomoibhi graduated from the University of Ibadan in 1976 \
with a bachelor's degree in history. He also holds a \
master's in history and political science from the University \
of Ibadan and a D.Phil from Oxford University in Modern \
History and International Relations. \
Born on 3 November 1954 in Nigeria, Dr. Uhomoibhi is married \
with children. \

© Scoop Media

World Headlines


Werewolf: Gordon Campbell On North Korea, Neo-Nazism, And Milo

With a bit of luck the planet won’t be devastated by nuclear war in the next few days. US President Donald Trump will have begun to fixate on some other way to gratify his self-esteem – maybe by invading Venezuela or starting a war with Iran. More>>

Victory Declared: New Stabilisation Funding From NZ As Mosul Is Retaken

New Zealand has congratulated the Iraqi government on the successful liberation of Mosul from ISIS after a long and hard-fought campaign. More>>

Gordon Campbell: On The Current US Moves Against North Korea

If Martians visited early last week, they’d probably be scratching their heads as to why North Korea was being treated as a potential trigger for global conflict... More>>


Gordon Campbell: On The Lessons From Corbyn’s Campaign

Leaving partisan politics aside – and ignoring Jeremy Corbyn’s sensational election campaign for a moment – it has to be said that Britain is now really up shit creek... More>>


Another US Court: Fourth Circuit Rules Muslim Ban Discriminatory

ACLU: Step by step, point by point, the court laid out what has been clear from the start: The president promised to ban Muslims from the United States, and his executive orders are an attempt to do just that. More>>


  • Pacific.Scoop
  • Cafe Pacific
  • PMC