Monday, March 1, 2010

Islamist militia 'bans' WFP work in Somalia

Feel the love of the religion of peace. 


Islamist militia 'bans' WFP work in Somalia

Shebab charges aid distributed by the UN agency has disadvantaged local

farmers, accuses it of political motivation.

MOGADISHU - The hardline Islamist Shebab militia announced Sunday that it

had "banned" World Food Programme operations in Somalia, one of the

countries in Africa most affected by famine.

The Shebab movement, which controls most of central and southern Somalia,

charged that aid distributed by the UN agency had disadvantaged local

farmers and accused it of political motivation.

"Given the problems caused by the food WFP distributed, the movement of

Shebab Al-Mujahideen banned the operations of the agency in Somalia

generally starting from today," the Al-Qaeda-linked group said in a


A senior member of the rebel outfit confirmed the ban.

"We have already given (WFP) chances to operate in Somalia but after failing

to comply with the conditions we put forward, we totally banned WFP

operations in Somalia," he said on condition of anonymity.

The World Food Programme stopped working in southern Somalia in January,

announcing it had suspended distribution of food aid after months of attacks

and extortion by the Al-Qaeda-linked rebels.

"Rising threats and attacks on humanitarian operations, as well as the

imposition of a string of unacceptable demands from armed groups, have made

it virtually impossible for the WFP to continue reaching up to one million

people in need in southern Somalia," it said at the time.

The United Nations said the agency hoped to restart work in the area in

March or April, adding the suspension was over the post-harvest period when

enough food was available.

The WFP also said it would continue to send food aid to 1.8 million

Somalians in other parts of the country. This included the capital

Mogadishu, which is also mostly under Shebab control.

Mired in almost uninterrupted civil conflict since the 1991 ouster of

president Mohamed Siad Barre and plagued by recurring natural disasters,

Somalia is often described as one of the world's worst humanitarian crises.

The Shebab, whose leadership has proclaimed allegiance to Osama bin Laden's

Al-Qaeda network, has been fighting the government and its African Union

allies alongside Hezb al-Islam, a smaller and more political outfit.

The UN estimates it will need 689 million dollars (490.5 million euros) to

provide aid in 2010 to the Somali population, of which 43 percent live on

less than a dollar a day.