Relief SCENE:Drought
Al-Shabaab Demands NGOs in Baidao Act
Pro-al-Shabaab Media Advocates for Humanitarian Assistance
07/18/2011
Somali IDPs Waiting for Aid
©Somalia Report
Somali IDPs Waiting for Aid

Several non-governmental organizations (NGOs) were called for meetings by al-Shabaab’s local administration in Baidoa district and were reprimanded for not being active enough in Bay and Bakool regions. The Islamist group accused the organizations of doing little despite their continuous presence in al-Shabaab areas.

The meetings, which were held on Saturday and Sunday and continue today, were attended by fourteen local organizations and community based organizations (CBOs). Representatives of al-Shabaab threatened the local organizations that their permits will be withdrawn if they do not mobilize enough resources to set up new projects.

Al-Shabaab accused many of the local NGOs and CBOs of being biased in their support to certain clans and against the militants. The organizations have been ordered to start projects immediately or risk being punished by al-Shabaab.

However, some of them complained to al-Shabaab representatives that they had little funding to meet the demands of the current drought crisis.

“We don’t know what kind of punishments they will give us as we can not fulfill their conditions. The donor community is not ready to fund a project they can’t supervise. We told them all excuses as to why we can’t help but they did not want to listen,” the project manager of a Baidao-based CBO told Somalia Report on condition of anonymity.

Somali political analyst Abdiwahab Sheikh Abdisamad believes al-Shabaab has decided to compromise their principals.

“Al-Shabaab banned these charity organizations under the pretext that they were ‘infidels and un- Islamic’. They were telling the people in those areas under their control that relief given by those organizations could not be consumed. One wonders about the quick U turn of al-Shabaab,” Abdisamad told Somalia Report.

Local al-Shabaab Officials and Elders Discuss how to Respond to Drought

Meetings between traditional elders and the al-Shabaab administration for Bay and Bakool regions are taking place in Baidoa. The two sides are believed to be discussing practical arrangements to support drought response activities, including terms of engagements with relief agencies.

Some of the organizations were surprised to hear from al-Shabaab that the conditions that will come from their side will only concern security matters. The organizations will not be allowed also to get close to the training camps and stronghold positions.

The Islamist insurgents also indicated to the humanitarian organization who have so far negotiated with them that they will not accept international staff in some of the operations.

Al-Shabaab officials have proposed a former IDP camp to be expanded to accommodate drought victims. The Islamist insurgents also want to establish other small camps near the districts where the drought has hit most including Dinsor, Sakow, and Ufurow.

The insurgents have also established a camp for the drought victims in the Lower Shabelle valley. The al-Yasir camp is already hosting hundreds of hunger stricken civilians mainly from the south central regions of Somalia.

Pro-al-Shabaab Media Advocates for Humanitarian Assistance

Al-Shabaab controlled online media and radio stations have recently started advocating for the support of international humanitarian organizations. The radio stations and websites went to the extent of contesting other news report from national and international media over the challenges posed by al-Shabaab to the humanitarian community in Somalia. The agencies strongly condemn other reporting that accuse al-Shabaab as being an obstacle to humanitarian supplies in areas under their control.

One of the al-Shabaab controlled websites writes that the insurgents are supportive of humanitarian interventions in the region. Another one has posted an online video that shows footage of a recently established camp for the drought victims called ‘al-Yasir’ in the Lower Shabelle region (mentioned above).

Amirnur website recently condemned the local and international media for alleging that al-Shabaab insurgents have kidnapped a UN official in Baidao. The website said the officer was briefly held and questioned.

Just like the other local media, Amirnur, Radio Alfurqaan, Somalimemo and Radio Andulus have started programs to mobilize resources for the drought victims.

Amiirnur.net also posted a YouTube video on the new al-Yasir camp with recent footage. The YouTube video is accompanied by verses of the holy Koran which appeals to the viewers to help their drought stricken Muslim brothers and sisters.

The same site has also a section that appeals for direct help to drought victims in South-Central Somalia. The section provides the telephone numbers of two people who have only been named as Jaabir and Abdirahman. It directs that anyone who wants to donate something to communicate with them.

Radio Andulus also repeatedly reports in its news bulletins that new people who fled from government controlled areas in Mogadishu and the Lower Juba region have arrived in Camp al-Yasir. This is probably to counter news reports that indicate al-Shabaab’s blockage to humanitarian supplies have caused the current crisis. They also want to tell the public that people are not fleeing only in the areas under their control and as well report that also those people living in areas under the control of the Transitional Federal Government are not receiving aid.

Somali political analyst Abdiwahab Sheikh Abdisamad says al-Shabaab insurgents are aware that the international media and community are now focusing a lot on Somalia.

“They want to show the world that all that has been reported about them was propaganda. Their quick engagements with the humanitarian organizations show you they are ready to show all the signs that there are not as radical as they are described,” Abdiwahab told Somalia Report.