Clinton urges al Shabaab to fight Somalia famine

WASHINGTON Fri Aug 5, 2011 8:17am IST

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks to the media at the U.S. State Department in Washington, August 4, 2011. REUTERS/Larry Downing

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks to the media at the U.S. State Department in Washington, August 4, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Larry Downing

Related Topics

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday called on al Shabaab militant Islamists to allow food aid into famine-hit areas of Somalia and said aid agencies would not be penalized if some of their assistance inadvertently ends up in militant hands.

Clinton accused al Shabaab, which controls large parts of the Horn of Africa country, of deliberately blocking emergency food supplies to some of the 3.7 million people in urgent need of assistance.

"It is particularly tragic that during the holy month of Ramadan, al Shabaab are preventing assistance to the most vulnerable populations in Somalia," Clinton said in remarks with the visiting Canadian foreign minister.

"I call on al Shabaab to allow assistance to be delivered in an absolutely unfettered way throughout the area that they currently control so that as many lives as possible can be saved," she said.

Clinton said a U.S. team lead by Jill Biden, the wife of Vice President Joe Biden, and including U.S. Agency for International Development chief Rajiv Shah would visit Kenya this weekend to assess a food crisis which affects more than 12 million people in Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia and Djibouti.

Washington this week announced it was relaxing anti-terrorism rules that had threatened aid agencies working in areas controlled by al Shabaab, which is on the official U.S. blacklist of foreign terrorist organizations.

ACCIDENTAL BENEFITS

The new guidelines say agencies will not be penalized if their operations "accidentally benefit al-Shabaab." They are aimed at speeding the flow of aid into the hardest hit southern regions of Somalia.

Concerns over possible diversion of relief supplies to al Shabaab prompted a number of international aid organizations to suspend programs in southern Somalia in January 2010 and continue to constrain aid work.

Al Shabaab has given conflicting signals about whether aid programs will be allowed to resume, but the U.S. officials said they believed that at least in some areas it would be possible to get assistance in.

The United Nations' humanitarian aid chief said on Monday the famine in the Horn of Africa is spreading and may soon engulf as many as six more regions of Somalia.

"There is more than enough work for the international community to do to help save lives without even having to worry about the al Shabaab-controlled areas," Clinton said, adding that the United States had earmarked some $500 million for famine relief efforts.

"We are working with a lot of the U.N. and multilateral organizations, as well as the NGOs, to try to better organize to deliver the foodstuffs that are necessary," Clinton said.

Clinton said the United States had adjusted its guidelines despite evidence that al Shabaab imposes taxes on those trying to bring food assistance in and sometimes kidnaps aid workers for ransom.

"Unfortunately the situation calls for us to offer some room for more maneuverability in trying to get the food in," Clinton said. "The best way to get food into those areas is for al Shabaab to actually care about the people under their control."

(Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

FILED UNDER:
Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared

UKRAINE CRISIS

Reuters Showcase

Gaza Violence

Gaza Violence

Shi'ite militia kill dozens of Iraqi Sunnis in mosque shooting.  Full Article 

Fighting Ebola

Fighting Ebola

WHO warns of "shadow zones" and unreported Ebola cases.  Full Article 

Rising Toll

Rising Toll

Documented death toll in syria war at least 191,369 through April 2014 - U.N.  Full Article 

Tensions Ease

Tensions Ease

National Guard begins pullout from riot-weary Ferguson, Missouri.  Full Article 

Journalist's Murder

Journalist's Murder

U.N. Security Council condemns journalist's murder, urges defeat of Islamic State.  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device.  Full Coverage