Somali leader slams ban on aid agencies

2011-11-29 16:42

Mogadishu - Somali President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed on Tuesday condemned the ban imposed by Islamist Shabaab rebels preventing 16 aid agencies from operating in the areas under their control.

"I am extremely saddened but not surprised by al-Shebab/al-Qaeda’s merciless announcement to stop the work of humanitarian organisations providing much needed assistance to millions of Somalis at a time when the country is in the midst of a humanitarian crisis," Sharif said in a statement.

The Shabaab on Monday ordered 16 international aid agencies to shut down in areas they control after launching armed raids on several offices. They warned more closures would follow if the remaining agencies did not toe the line.

Witnesses and aid workers reported that Shabaab gunmen stormed the offices of several agencies in apparently coordinated raids in rebel-controlled regions in Somalia, an area gripped by what the United Nations says is the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

"Any organisation found to be supporting or actively engaged in activities deemed detrimental to the attainment of an Islamic State, or performing duties other than that which it formally proclaims, will be banned immediately without prior warning," the Shabaab said in a statement.

"The systematic embargo on the most vulnerable Somalis proves beyond any doubts that al-Shabaab is an enemy of the Somali people. In recent months, due to the coordinated efforts of the Somali government, international community and humanitarian aid agencies have proved success in delivering aid to Somalis affected by the drought," Sharif said.

The zone controlled by Sharif's government is in fact limited to the capital Mogadishu.

"We call on all Somalis and the international community to take a unified position in eradicating this irrational terror organization bent on destroying the lives of millions of innocent Somalis," Sharif added.

The co-ordinated raids by the Shabaab have left only a handful of humanitarian organisations operating in zones under their control, among them Doctors without Borders (MSF) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Somalia is the country hardest hit by the recent drought in the Horn of Africa. According to the UN, three regions of south Somalia, controlled by the Shabaab, are still in a state of famine and close on 250 000 people are in danger of dying of starvation.