News / Africa

US Eases Sanctions on Al-Shabab to Improve Famine Aid Access

Kenyan port workers prepare to load into a ship a consignment of food from UNICEF destined for Somalia to help in the humanitarian crisis from the coastal town of Mombasa, August 1, 2011
Kenyan port workers prepare to load into a ship a consignment of food from UNICEF destined for Somalia to help in the humanitarian crisis from the coastal town of Mombasa, August 1, 2011

The United States has told aid organizations that they will not face prosecution based on U.S. sanction laws for sending assistance into famine-stricken areas of Somalia controlled by al-Shabab, the al-Qaida-linked organization.  Officials say the number one priority is to save lives as famine ravages the region.

What senior administration officials called new guidance, later commented on by spokesmen at the State Department and White House, is aimed at removing hesitations aid groups may have had about moving assistance into areas controlled by al-Shabab.

Briefing reporters in a telephone news conference, the officials said the action was aimed at improving aid flows particularly to southern Somalia where about two million to three million people are in need.

The United Nations has said about 12 million people are in urgent need of assistance not only in Somalia, but in Ethiopia and Kenya as famine expands in the region due to drought.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the decision was made because of the scope of the humanitarian crisis.

"To send a strong message publicly to these [aid] groups that are working in the region that it is okay for them to bring this kind of humanitarian assistance into areas that are controlled by al-Shabab, they won't be held accountable to U.S. laws that previously constrained them, and also to ease some of the licensing requirements on them," he said.

Under the change, the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) have been authorized to provide grants and contracts to fund operations by non-government organizations moving aid into areas under de facto control of al-Shabab.

The decision effectively immunizes aid groups, including those responding to a $1.4 billion United Nations appeal for the region, so they are not as one senior administration put it, "in conflict with U.S. laws or regulations that seek to limit resources flowing to al-Shabab."

"Because al-Shabab controls so much of the territory, allowing for this flexibility gives the assurance to these aid workers that they can get that aid to the people who need it and not worry that they are operating in conflict with U.S. laws and obligations," White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

The State Department declared al-Shabab a terrorist organization in 2008, and U.S. sanctions make it a crime to provide any support to it. Officials put U.S. aid to Somalia, which had decreased, at $80 million, part of a $459 million package to reach 4.6 million people throughout the Horn of Africa.

In their background briefing, senior administration officials noted that al-Shabab has sent mixed signals regarding outside aid.  But they said the organization is not "monolithic", which may present opportunities for humanitarian aid to get into the south.

The officials said the most important issues for aid groups are safety and security, but noted that some aid has been delivered.  They referred to taxes, tolls and other restrictions on the ground as key obstacles to providing assistance.

The United States continues to be concerned about al-Shabab profiting from aid that might fall into its hands, but the senior officials said there is a need to, "continue to thread this needle" to help people in need.

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

US Urges Restraint in Hong Kong Protests

Protesters angered by Beijing's decision to only approve candidates that it sanctions for Hong Kong's leadership elections in 2017 More

Archive of Forgotten UCLA Speeches Offers Snapshot of History

Recordings of prominent voices in social change, politics, science and literature from 1960s, early 1970s now available on YouTube 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.
Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenyai
X
Gabe Joselow
September 29, 2014 6:20 PM
Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Video

Video Reconstruction? What Reconstruction? Life After War in Gaza

It’s been a month since Israel and the Palestinians agreed to a ceasefire to end 52 days of an air and tank war that left 60,000 homes in Gaza damaged or destroyed and 110,000 homeless. Sharon Behn reports that lack of reconstruction is leading to despair.
Video

Video US, Saudi Arabia and UAE Hit Islamic State's Oil Revenue

The United States, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have bombed oil facilities operated by Islamic State militants in Syria. It was a truly collaborative effort, with the two Arab countries dropping the majority of the bombs. The 12 refineries targeted were estimated to generate as much as $2 million per day for the terrorist group. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb has the story.
Video

Video Russia's Food Sanctions Raise Price Worries, Hopes for Domestic Production

Russia retaliated against Western sanctions imposed for its actions in Ukraine by halting food imports from the West. The temporary import ban on food from Australia, the European Union, Norway and North America has Russian consumers concerned that they could face a sharp increase in food prices. But in an ironic twist, the restrictions aimed at the Kremlin have made Russia's domestic food producers hopeful this can boost their business. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Washington to Pyongyang: 'Shut This Evil System Down'

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is calling on North Korea to shut down prison camps and other human rights abuses following a United Nations Commission of Inquiry into "widespread and systematic human rights violations." VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid