Al Shabaab's history with humanitarian assistance

The United Nations recently declared that there is a famine in Lower Shabelle and Bakool regions and near-famine conditions throughout southern Somalia. This declaration has called attention to the humanitarian plight in Somalia, and also raised questions about the wisdom of trying to send humanitarian aid to an area dominated by an al Qaeda-affiliated militant group. The dilemma, however, is not simply a matter of politics or preference. It is, rather, one of practicality. Al Shabaab, which has al Qaeda ties and controls most of southern and central regions of the country, has historically banned international aid agencies from operating within territories under its control. The group has enforced this ban with violence: militants raid local offices, destroy foodstuffs and medical supplies, and kidnap aid workers. Al Shabaab has, in fact, contributed to the humanitarian disaster many Somalis now face through these tactics. As the international community and the U.S. discovered in the early 1990s, getting humanitarian aid to needy Somalis is not an apolitical undertaking. It may not even be possible without being drawn into conflict in the Horn of Africa once again.

Al Shabaab established the Office for the Supervision of the Affairs of Foreign Agencies (OSAFA), a body to monitor the movements of all non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and international organizations operating within Somalia, on July 20, 2009. At the same time, al Shabaab ordered the closure of the offices of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the United Nations Department of Security and Safety (UNDSS), and the United Nations Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS) for engaging in activities “hostile” to Islam. The offices of the International Medical Corps and CARE had already been closed. Immediately following the issuance of the ban on the UN agencies in Somalia, al Shabaab militants raided UN offices in Baidoa in Bay region and in Wajid in Bakool region. The UN was forced to suspend its operations in those two cities. Al Shabaab administrations throughout southern and central Somalia targeted select humanitarian organizations and attempted to prevent these organizations from operating. By November 2009, the local al Shabaab administration in the Bay and Bakool regions required aid agencies to abide by 11 conditions.

Strict restrictions on aid activities and food distributions severely impacted humanitarian assistance operations in areas under al Shabaab control. In early November 2009, al Shabaab leader Sheikh Mukhtar Robow Ali, also known as Abu Mansur, accused the World Food Program (WFP) of destroying the local agriculture market by distributing aid during harvest time. He also banned any aid with the American flag on it. At the time, the WFP was one of the few aid agencies permitted to operate in al Shabaab-controlled territory. On November 25, 2009, al Shabaab issued an English-language statement ordering the WFP to purchase food from local farmers and to empty all warehouses by the end of the year, and warning local contractors to cut business relations with the aid agency by January 1, 2010. The WFP announced on January 5, 2010 the suspension of its activities in southern Somalia due to a lack of security. A March 1, 2010 al Shabaab statement claimed that following the suspension of WFP activities, the population became increasingly self-sufficient. By mid-September 2010, at least six other aid agencies were banned from Somalia, including Mercy Corps, Med-Air, and Horn Relief.

Also Visit
AEIdeas Blog The American Magazine
About the Author

 

Katherine
Zimmerman

What's new on AEI

AEI Election Watch 2014: What will happen and why it matters
image A nation divided by marriage
image Teaching reform
image Socialist party pushing $20 minimum wage defends $13-an-hour job listing
AEI on Facebook
Events Calendar
  • 27
    MON
  • 28
    TUE
  • 29
    WED
  • 30
    THU
  • 31
    FRI
Monday, October 27, 2014 | 10:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
State income taxes and the Supreme Court: Maryland Comptroller v. Wynne

Please join AEI for a panel discussion exploring these and other questions about this crucial case.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014 | 9:30 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.
For richer, for poorer: How family structures economic success in America

Join Lerman, Wilcox, and a group of distinguished scholars and commentators for the release of Lerman and Wilcox’s report, which examines the relationships among and policy implications of marriage, family structure, and economic success in America.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014 | 5:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
The 7 deadly virtues: 18 conservative writers on why the virtuous life is funny as hell

Please join AEI for a book forum moderated by Last and featuring five of these leading conservative voices. By the time the forum is over, attendees may be on their way to discovering an entirely different — and better — moral universe.

Thursday, October 30, 2014 | 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.
A nuclear deal with Iran? Weighing the possibilities

Join us, as experts discuss their predictions for whether the United States will strike a nuclear deal with Iran ahead of the November 24 deadline, and the repercussions of the possible outcomes.

Thursday, October 30, 2014 | 5:00 p.m. – 6:15 p.m.
The forgotten depression — 1921: The crash that cured itself

Please join Author James Grant and AEI senior economists for a discussion about Grant's book, "The Forgotten Depression: 1921: The Crash That Cured Itself" (Simon & Schuster, 2014).

No events scheduled today.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.