UN food agency welcomes review of its food distribution programme in Somalia

17 March 2010 – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) says it is ready to provide full assistance to any possible independent investigation into its food distribution operation in Somalia after a UN report that claims that some local contractors used by the agency have diverted aid for military use.

“Our integrity is paramount,” said WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran in a statement, stressing that the agency would review and investigate every issue raised by the report of the group of experts serving on the Security Council’s Monitoring Group on Somalia.

The Monitoring Group recommends that the Council urges Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to initiate an independent investigation into the food distribution programme.

“A handful of Somali contractors for aid agencies have formed a cartel and become important powerbrokers – some of whom channel their profits, or the aid itself, directly to armed opposition groups,” the report alleges.

The report singles out the Adaani family, one of the three largest contractors for the WFP in Somalia, as “a financier of armed groups,” and which has ties with Hassan Dahir Aweys, the leader of the militia coalition Hizbul Islam.

WFP said it would not engage in any new work with the three transport contractors named in the report as allegedly involved in arms-trading.

The Monitoring Group also recommends that WFP revise its internal procedures to diversify how it issues contracts and work closely with other UN agencies and offices to share information about the Somali business community.

Turning to Mogadishu, the report says the war economy has corrupted and enfeebled State institutions under the leadership of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed. The apparent corruption has spread to the Somali security services which sell their military supplies in open markets.

“The limited ability of the Transitional Federal Government to pay its officials and security forces is handicapped by entrenched corruption at all levels: commanders and troops alike sell their arms and ammunition – sometimes even to their enemies,” the report said.

The TFG’s survival is attributed not to its military but to support from the UN-backed African Union peace support operation known by its acronym AMISOM and clan militias that have turned against the rebel Al Shabaab militias.

In a related development, the TFG signed an agreement with a former rival group known as Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jama’a at the headquarters of the African Union (AU). Militias in Somalia are known to change allegiances frequently.

On the topic of piracy, which the Monitoring Group called “the most obvious symptom of the war economy,” it notes that attacks on shipping off Somalia increased in 2009, despite the presence of international naval forces offshore.

The report also cautions against the increasing involvement of Somalia’s immediate neighbours, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya, which “are militarily involved in the conflict or plan to become involved in the coming months.”

The Monitoring Group singles out Eritrea to cease any subsidies to members of the armed opposition groups currently based in Asmara and cancel Eritrean passports issued to members of the group.

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