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

Turkey's Erdogan: Women Not Equal to Men

Speaking at conference in Istanbul, President Erdogan says Islam has defined a position for women: motherhood More

Ahead of SAARC Summit, Subdued Expectations

Some regional analysts say distrust between Pakistani, Indian officials has slowed SAARC's progress over the year More

Philippines Leery of Development on Reef Reclamation in S. China Sea

Chinese land reclamation projects in area have been ongoing for years, but new satellite imagery reportedly shows China’s massive construction project 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.
Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Changei
X
November 24, 2014 10:09 PM
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid