News / Africa

UN: Al-Shabab Preventing Somalis from Fleeing Country

Al-Shabab fighters march with their guns during military exercises on the outskirts of Mogadishu (File)
Al-Shabab fighters march with their guns during military exercises on the outskirts of Mogadishu (File)

A United Nations Refugee official says Islamist al-Shabab militants are preventing Somalis from fleeing to neighboring countries in search of assistance. The official was in Somalia Thursday to assess conditions in that famine-stricken country. In a telephone linkup from Nairobi to journalists in Geneva, the official says al-Shabab wants to keep people from leaving so they can be recruited as fighters.  

Famine or no famine?

Several weeks ago, al-Shabab surprised the world by acknowledging the presence of famine in Somalia. The group followed its announcement by inviting humanitarian agencies to come to southern and central Somalia to distribute aid.

But, soon after, Al-Shabab reversed this policy. It denied there was famine and told the aid agencies to stay away. Bruno Geddo, UNHCR Representative for Somalia says discussions with people he met have clarified this puzzling change of mind.

Somalis fleeing hunger in their drought-stricken nation walk along the main road leading from the Somalian border to the refugee camps around Dadaab, Kenya
Somalis fleeing hunger in their drought-stricken nation walk along the main road leading from the Somalian border to the refugee camps around Dadaab, Kenya

“Al-Shabab realized that by letting people go, they would be deprived of a base for military recruitment," said Geddo. "They appear, according to the IDPs [internally displaced people] I interviewed yesterday, to have set up roadblocks, whereby only individuals can sneak out unnoticed. It is better during nighttime. But, groups are no longer allowed to move from areas under their control.”  

Famine zones

Areas in central and southern Somalia are under the control of al-Shabab. The United Nations has declared five regions famine zones and says it is likely that famine will spread throughout the whole area in the next four to six weeks.  

Speaking by telephone from Nairobi, Geddo tells VOA the famine, as terrible as it is, appears to be working in favor of the insurgents.

“The IDPs even said that because of the increase in the food prices, this has been a boon for Shabab’s recruitment campaign because when you do not have purchasing power to buy the food, you will be encouraged to be recruited because then you would be saved and you could use that salary or even you could be given food directly," said Geddo. "So, it looks like quite a reality and it is true that if your regions are emptied out, you are deprived of manpower.”  

Displaced

The famine gripping Somalia is causing hundreds of thousands of desperate people to seek help wherever they can. The United Nations reports about one-quarter of Somalia’s 7.5 million people are either internally displaced or are living as refugees in neighboring Kenya and Ethiopia.    

The United Nations reports accurate mortality numbers in Somalia remain elusive, but it estimates tens of thousands of people have died from malnutrition and disease between April and the end of June.

UNHCR Representative Geddo says most Somalis are reluctant to uproot themselves.  He says they would prefer to stay home, if possible. Though conditions are extremely difficult, Geddo says many people he met told him they are staying put in the hopes they can plant a crop when the rainy season begins in October.

You May Like

Video On the Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime raids, many feel abandoned by outside world, VOA's Scott Bobb reports More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelteri
X
Scott Bobb
July 30, 2014 8:16 PM
Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video A Summer Camp for All the World

VIDEO: During workshops and social gatherings, the Global Youth Village summer camp encourages young people to cooperate and embrace their differences, while learning to communicate with people from other countries. VOA's Deborah Block has more.
Video

Video From Cantankerous Warlock to Incorruptible Priest, 'Harry Potter' Actor Embraces Diverse Roles

He’s perhaps best known as Mad Eye Moody, the whimsical wizard in the Harry Potter franchise. But character actor Brendan Gleeson's resume includes dozens of films, and he embraces all the characters he inhabits with equal passion. In an interview with VOA’s Penelope Poulou, Gleeson discussed his new drama "Calvary" and his secret to success.

AppleAndroid