The Paw Print
As Millions starve human rights abuses from both sides continue in Somalia
According to the United Nations more than 12 million people are on the verge of starvation in the Horn of Africa, which includes all of Somalia and the coastal region of Kenya. To compound this drastic problem further, the U.N. World Food Program announced its investigation into allegations made by the Associated Press that food supplied by the U.N. Food Program which was supposed to be used in aid efforts has been stolen and sold by the al-Shabab Islamist group that controls most of Somalia and its largest city, Mogadishu.
“The World Food Program condemns, in the strongest possible terms, any action that would take even the smallest amount of food from starving and vulnerable Somalis, and we will rigorously investigate any allegation of theft of humanitarian food,” said Christiane Berthiaume spokesperson for the U.N. World Food Program.
According to the African Division of Human Rights Watch, as of August 21 more than 3.2 million Somali people are in dire need of food aid, which is close to half of the country’s population. This calamity has already claimed the lives of around 29,000 Somali children under the age of five.
The World Bank Group’s Food Price Watch blames record high global food prices on essentials such as wheat, corn and soy, for the majority of problems in the African Horn. According to Jose Cuesta, a senior economist of the Poverty Reduction and Equity Group at the World Bank, the fact that the global food prices are unusually high combined with political instability and drought have caused the poorest Somalis to be affected the most.
On August 23 Human Rights Watch released a detailed report entitled, “’You Don’t Know Who to Blame’: War Crimes in Somalia.” Condemnation of human rights abuses from the report points the finger at not only the al-Shabab Islamist group but also the U.S. backed Somali transitional government and the African Union peacekeeping forces.
Rona Peligal, deputy director of the Africa Division for Human Rights Watch says the acts of human rights abuses have been going on for a number of years before the recent famine but have gone largely ignored. After years of investigation Peligal has uncovered horrific acts commited by both sides.
“We know that al-Shabab, for example, has prevented people from growing food. It has pilfered livestock. It has exacted very high taxes. And it has really undermined food security in the area. The same can be said of the transitional government who only protects those with privilege and political influence” said Peligal.
In terms of human rights abuses committed by the U.S. backed Somali transitional government, Jeremy Scahill, investigative journalist for the Nation Magazine just recently uncovered a CIA tranning and interrogation compound at the Aden Adde International Airport in Mogadishu. According the Scahill’s article this compound has been used to interrogate and torture suspected dissidents and terrorists involved with the Shabab. The article also states that on some occasions the Somali transitional government has used that site to engage in extrajudicial killings of Somali citizens.
“The transitional government of Somalia needs to do more to ensure that food being distributed by the U.N. is not being stolen by either members of the Shabab or by members of the transitional government,” said Scahill.
Meanwhile, the U.N. announced that in early September it will hold meetings in Somalia in order to create a space for dialogue and eventually a road map to peace. Although neither side has agreed to these meetings, India’s ambassador to the U.N. , Hardeep Singh Puri is hopeful that the upcoming meeting will bring increased humanitarian action to Somalia.
“The members of the Security Council urged all parties and armed groups to ensure full, safe and unhindered access for the timely delivery of humanitarian aid to persons in need of assistance across Somalia and to take appropriate steps to ensure the safety and security of drought-affected populations and humanitarian personnel and supplies,” said Puri.