Ali Mohamud Rage, spokesman of Al Shabaab, an al Qaeda-linked militant group, announced that it will continue to ban foreign aid in parts of the country that remain under its control, and denied that tens of thousands are on the threshold of starvation.
Al Qaeda-linked Somali terrorists still ban Christian, foreign aid despite famine
Rage said the U.N. claim of famine is without basis, and told Al Jazeera there was just a “shortage of rain,” adding, “The declaration of famine is political and is a lie with hidden agendas.”
Dialogue with Al Shabaab
Rage made the statement after the U.N. World Food Program told CNN of dialogue with Al Shabaab about bringing aid to famine-afflicted areas. WFP said the talks were not negotiations. However, it wanted a guarantee that its staff will be safe, and that there will be no interference by Al Shabaab in its operations.
“We are absolutely prepared to go into southern Somalia and are awaiting guarantees on security … ground rules that would allow us to access, deliver and monitor the huge amounts of food that are needed,” David Orr, WFP spokesman, told CNN.
USAID head Rajiv Shah told CNN, “President Obama and Secretary (of State Hillary) Clinton have asked us to test Al Shabaab, if they’re going to provide humanitarian access. We’re going to stand with the United Nations and other partners to make sure that humanitarian organizations can get in and can reach the most affected people.”
1,500 refugees daily
Despite the claim of Al Shabaab that there is no famine, some 1,500 Somali refugees have been arriving daily in a refugee camp in Dadaab, in northern Kenya.
“Most of the people arriving are dehydrated and very hungry. Many lack clothing and are barefoot,” Lennart Hernander of the Lutheran World Federation told Anglican Journal.
The camp, which is being managed by the LWF, presently has 360,000 refugees.
They are being given shelter, living materials, food and water, including nine tons of a flour mixture for the elderly and little children who lack the strength to eat dry food.
“People … left because they did not have enough to eat,” Sarah Wilson of Christian Aid said, according to Anglican Journal. “They had to sell off their cattle one by one until they had none left…they realized they would not survive and …went to the camp.”
In some cases, whole communities left together. Moses Mukwana of LWF told Anglican Journal, “When the people started arriving, the camp was already full at 90,000. We are now talking about 360,000. This is more than the camp can easily cope with.”
A second camp has been built with new lavatories, water tanks and health care facilities.
Nick Guttmann of Christian Aid said they had urged the Kenya government to open this camp up for refugees as soon as possible.
“It is essential that the new camp is opened up … as part of the urgent humanitarian response to the worsening situation affecting both those arriving in camps and communities across the region,” Guttman said, according to Anglican Journal.
In 2009 Al Shabaab banned a number of foreign aid organizations in Southern Somalia, calling them Christian crusaders and spies. The following year, the U.N. World Food Program withdrew its workers amid threats and harassment.