Out of Africa always something familiar 2

It’s another real African story.

The Wichita Eagle of Kansas reports:

Up to half the food aid intended for the millions of hungry people in Somalia is being diverted to corrupt contractors, radical Islamic militants and local U.N. workers, according to a U.N. Security Council report.

Only half?

The report blames the problem on improper food distribution by the U.N. World Food Program in the African nation, which has been plagued by fighting and humanitarian suffering for nearly two decades, according to a U.N. diplomat. …

Because of the instability in Somalia, transporters must truck bags of food through roadblocks manned by a bewildering array of militias, insurgents and bandits. Kidnappings and executions are common and the insecurity makes it difficult for senior U.N. officials to travel to the country to check on procedures. Investigators could end up relying on the same people they are probing to provide protection.

Strange that we hardly hear a word about this, though surely it’s a much discussed issue in the UN?

There are of course UN sanctions against Somalia:

[A] U.N. diplomat told The Associated Press that “a significant diversion” of food delivered by the U.N. food program is going to cartels that were selling it illegally, according to the report by the panel of experts monitoring U.N. sanctions against Somalia.

Although WFP contracts are supposed to be subject to open tender and competitive bidding, “in practice the system offers little or no scope for genuine competition,” the diplomat quoted the report as saying.

The transportation contracts, with a budget of $200 million, constitute the single most important source of revenue in Somalia, the diplomat quoted the report as saying. … “On account of their contracts with WFP, these men have become some of the wealthiest in Somalia” …

Some 3.7 million people in Somalia – nearly half of the population – need aid. Earlier this year, the country’s main extremist Islamic [ie terrorist] group, al-Shabab, said it would prohibit WFP from distributing food in areas under its control because it says the food undercuts farmers selling recently harvested crops. [They have a point there – JB]

Omar Jamal, first secretary for Somalia’s U.N. Mission, told the AP on Wednesday that the problem is “the absence of law and order.”

We wouldn’t argue with that.

“Radicals, al-Shabab have to eat. And ever wonder where their foods come from? Of course, from WFP and UNDP,” said Jamal, also referring to the U.N. Development Program.

Someone really ought to do something about it –

Empower the Somali government to deal with corrupt contractors, Islamists and war profiteers awash in the country.”

Exactly how?

The terrorists who are doing so well out of all this misplaced philanthropy and endemic corruption have a complaint to make:

Al-Shabab [which] controls 95 percent of WFP’s areas of operation … accused the agency of handing out food unfit for human consumption and of secretly supporting “apostates,” or those who have renounced Islam.

Approximately 30 percent of the food goes to the distributors or “implementing partners,” between 5 and 10 percent goes to the armed group in control of the area, and 10 percent to the ground transporter, the diplomat quoted the report as saying.

The rest – about 50 percent of the food aid – is distributed to the needy population.

If they say so.

A couple of footnotes:

The U.S. reduced its funding to Somalia last year after the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control feared aid could be diverted to al-Shabab, which the U.S. State Department says has links to al-Qaida. The issue remains unresolved.

Finance Minister Abdirahman Omar Osman … said the Somali government would investigate the allegations of diverted food aid.

Sure it will. And what a difference it will make.