Counter-terrorism laws enacted by the U.S. and U.K. are proving detrimental to potential relief efforts in certain parts of Somalia.
Somalia is experiencing the worst drought in the region in 40 years, which is threatening an estimated six million people with famine. Two million of these people are occupying areas run by al-Shabaab.
Somalia is a country in eastern Africa that has been riddled with political turmoil and instability. Al-Shabaab, or “The Youth” as is translated from Arabic, have contributed heavily to some of the issues in Somalia. They are a product of the radical youth wing of Somalia’s Union of Islamic Courts (which is no longer in existence). Al-Shabaab is banned by both the U.S. and U.K. as an active terrorist group.
For the non-radical starving and dehydrated citizens of these Somalian regions, the “bans” and anti-terrorism laws affect humanitarian efforts from reaching them. Humanitarian officials say that these laws are discouraging them from sending support for fear of prosecution, as it is impossible for them to ensure that no aid gets into the hands of members of al-Shabaab. If it did, these organizations would be at risk of going to court and possibly even being shut down.
In addition to just the aid itself, the moving of said relief aid by land in Somalia involves paying “taxes” at roadblocks that are run by various armed groups — some of which are controlled by al-Shabaab, which received an estimated $180,000 per year from aid groups at these road blocks in 2010.
David Concar, the British ambassador to Somalia, said this in an interview recently about the degree at which anti-terrorism laws affect humanitarian efforts in Somalia: “[Counter terrorist] legislation is not intended to stop — and nor should it actually stop — any aid groups from working in such areas as long as they have the necessary controls in place and they’re not deliberately supporting terrorists.”
Despite this apparent clarification, the counter-terrorism laws are still very present, and anxiety among these aid organizations remains, who say need clearer guidance from the U.S. and the U.K. in regard to relief efforts in Somalia. Politically, this “guidance” is hard to execute, as it could be interpreted as negotiations with a terrorist group.
The last major famine in Somalia was in 2011. An estimated 250,000 died as, at the very least, a contributing result of these strict anti-terrorism laws, when little to no aid made it to al-Shabaab-controlled areas.
– Dustin Jayroe