Monday, March 22, 2010

Somalia: Contractors for UN agencies have become power-brokers, channeling aid directly to armed opposition groups

By Babukar Kashka
Republished courtesy of
IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis

NAIROBI (IDN) – The news is scaring: part of UN food aid to war-torn Somalia ends in the hands of 'war-lords' and local contractors who deliver their profits – or the aid itself – to armed factions, thus fueling the armed conflict.

“A handful of Somali contractors for aid agencies have formed a cartel and become important power-brokers, some of whom channel their profits, or the aid itself, directly to armed opposition groups,” Security Council’s Monitoring Group on Somalia reported.

In its report, released on March 17, 2010, the UN group of experts points out the Adaani family, one of the three largest contractors for the World Food Programme (WFP) in Somalia, which has “long been a financier of armed groups,” and which has ties with Hassan Dahir Aweys, the leader of the militia coalition Hizbul Islam.


For its part, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported on March 12 that insurgents disrupted food aid deliveries bound for five sites in Mogadishu as part of a WFP feeding scheme.

“Two trucks were seized on March 6, but were released the next day, thanks to the intervention of elders. Three out of the five sites received their rations, and once the security situation improves, it is hoped that the remaining two sites – feeding 10,000 people – will be able to carry out their work,” OCHA reported.

The Monitoring Group criticised “the war economy for corrupting and enfeebling state institutions under the leadership of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed.”

Apparently, “corruption has spread to the Somali security services which sell their military supplies in open markets,” says the Group in its report.

“The limited ability of the transitional government to pay its officials and security forces is handicapped by entrenched corruption at all levels: commanders and troops alike sell their arms and ammunition, sometimes even to their enemies.”

The report also cautioned against the increasing involvement of Somalia’s immediate neighbours, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya, which “are militarily involved in the conflict or plan to become involved in the coming months.”

“Somalia is one of the most dangerous places in the world for humanitarian workers, and an environment within which WFP has to constantly adjust and revise its operations,” according to the UN.

In early 2010, WFP was forced to suspend the delivery of food assistance in southern Somalia due to growing insecurity and threats and unacceptable demands from armed groups in the region.


Meanwhile, there is growing anxiety in Nairobi about the mounting waves of refugees from Somalia. In fact, Kenya has witnessed an influx of these refugees, with 10,000 new Somali refugees having been registered in the first nine weeks of 2010 alone.

In this regard, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) fears that the Dabaab refugee complex in northern Kenya, already home to 270,000 refugees, could see a spike in arrivals, according to its spokesperson Andrej Mahecic.

In a previous report, the UN refugee agency reported that Somalia continues to be among the countries generating the highest number of internally displaced people (IDPs) with over 1.4 million, in addition to more than 560,000 refugees.

Although food and livestock production in the southern part of Somalia have improved leading to a reduction in the number of people in need of food assistance, WFP is “extremely concerned for the welfare of people in this region we know to be in need of assistance.”

Ongoing drought and civil unrest in central Somalia has left 70 percent of the population in the region in need of humanitarian assistance.

Six consecutive seasons of below-average rainfall have decimated livestock herds and forced many pastoralists to gather in towns and villages in search of assistance.

Deepening drought in northern Somalia is also now of particular concern, with nearly 300,000 people in need of assistance.

And one in six Somali children is acutely malnourished – a total of some 240,000 children – the highest acute malnutrition rates anywhere in the world.

WFP is currently targeting some 2.5 million people for food assistance across Somalia, although 625,000 of those are in areas where operations are currently suspended. In 2009, WFP reached 3.3 million people in Somalia with food supplies.

Last year, WFP doubled its capacity to reach moderately malnourished children and women with nearly 150,000 treated in WFP-supported supplementary feeding programmes. It is piloting the use of specialised ready-to-use supplementary food.

In the capital, WFP continues to provide 80,000 hot meals each day to mainly women and children through local and international partners.

Naval escorts continue to be necessary for ships carrying WFP food into Somalia, in order to protect against the threat of piracy.

In January, the agency had to suspend operations across southern Somalia in response to intimidation of its staff and the imposition of a number of unreasonable demands by armed groups that contravened WFP’s rules and regulations for delivering food for the hungry.


Situated in the so-called Horn of Africa, and bordering with Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and the Indian Ocean, Somalia covers over 637,000 kilometers, hosting some 10 million inhabitants who speak Somali, Arabic, Italian and English, and are mostly Muslim Sunnis.

Somalia’s main ethnic groups are Somali (some 85%), Bantu and other non-Somali (15%) including slightly over 300,000 Arabs. Nevertheless, Somalia is a member of the League of Arab States.

It is not a poor country buy extremely impoverished. In fact, Somalia has uranium and quasi unexploited reserves of iron ore, bauxite, copper, tin, salt, natural gas and non-quantified oil reserves. Foreign fishing floats largely benefit from its fish-rich waters and contiguous international waters.

Nevertheless, its income per capita is around 600 US dollars.

Another fact is that Somalia was historically made of different tribes living in different areas that used to include large areas, which now remain outside the country.


The big European colonial powers took bits and pieces of it, splitting it arbitrarily in five different Somalia.

One is the so-called British Somalia. There, in 1839, the British Empire established a military protectorate in the North West region, cutting it up from Somalia. It remained under British occupation until independence in 1960.

The second one is the so-called French Somalia – in 1860, the French Empire decided to take one part of Somalia, which became independent in 1997, and now known as Djibouti.

The third is the so-called Italian Somalia. There, in 1889, Italy opted for not lagging behind other European powers and therefore occupied another part of Somalia. This part is the largest area, positioned in the South and East of the country, hosting over 2.5 million people. In 1938, Italy decided to enlarge its occupation, invading other parts of Somalia and occupying Ogaden, which was under British rule.

The fourth one is the ‘Kenyan’ Somalia. Another region, situated in the South West of Somalia, was annexed to the British-ruled Kenya in 1963. Before Kenya’s independence from Britain, this region decided its integration to Somalia, through a referendum. This result, however, was declared null. It remained in Kenya.

The fifth Somalia is the ‘Ethiopian’ Somalia or the Ogaden region, which was formerly occupied by Britain, later on by Italy, and finally it was annexed by Ethiopia.

After the II Big War, Britain annexed the French and Italian areas, naming them Somalia, which was declared independent in 1960.

A formally independent Somalia, but left without some of its – one part was annexed to Ethiopia, a second part was annexed to Kenya, and a third one became Djibouti. All this would lead to several wars.

The dramatic fact is that none of its former colonisers managed to act to halt the continuing bloodshed in this country which has known no peace, no development and no human care – not to speak of a stable government over the last about a quarter century.

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