The Nation (Nairobi)

22 July 2011

Kenya: Somalia's Al-Shabaab Rebels Ban Some Aid Groups From Territories

Mogadishu — Radical Somali Islamist group al-Shabaab has said organisations already banned in the war-torn country will not be allowed back.Al-Shabaab spokesman Sheikh Ali Mohamoud Raghe alias Sheikh Ali Dhere said the organisations were not welcome to Somalia, currently facing a severe humanitarian crisis.

"The organisations that we banned cannot come back," the spokesman said on Thursday evening.

"Such entities are not included among those now invited to provide humanitarian aid," he added, without naming the affected organisations.

Reacting to reports

Sheikh Ali Dhere was reacting to a report by the United Nations on Wednesday that famine had hit two parts of rebel-held Somalia, due to a severe drought affecting more than 10 million people in the Horn of Africa.

Mr Mark Bowden, the UN humanitarian coordinator for Somalia, told reporters in Nairobi that urgent action was required.

"If we don't act now, famine will spread to all eight regions of Southern Somalia within two months, due to poor harvests and infectious disease outbreaks," said Mr Bowden.

Sheikh Dhere admitted that famine existed in the country, but insisted that aid agencies exaggerated the situation in order to suit their purposes.

"The so-called United Nations bodies are having political agenda and are mixing aid and politics," reiterated Sheikh Dhere.The sheikh described the banned agencies as belonging to two categories.

"Some of them were pure spies in the country, while others had a political agenda, doing nothing like what they were claiming," said the spokesman.

Major aid agencies like Care International and the World Food Programme were among those suspended by al-Shabaab, or had to stop working in Southern and Central Somalia following pressure from the fanatical Islamists. Most aid workers fled Somalia as a result of intimidation, kidnappings, killings and suspension of operations.

On July 5, nevertheless, Sheikh Dhere had stated that his movement would allow aid workers to operate in the territories it controlled.

Severe drought

"In the face of the severe drought, we allow Muslims and non-Muslims to help the drought affected people," said the cleric. "They will only be permitted to work if they do not have other interests," he pointed out.

The fanatical Islamist group in Somalia also criticised aid groups offering help across the borders in Kenya and Ethiopia, where people were streaming to reach refugee camps.

He said that providing assistance beyond the borders was like siphoning the poor people out the country.

"They are luring needy people with food in order to teach them their Christianity there after failing to do that here," he said.

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