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
TEXT SIZE - +

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

Algerians Vote in Presidential Election

There were few media reports of protests and clashes around the country, but so far no significant violence More

Sharks More Evolved than Previously Thought

The discovery could “profoundly affect our understanding of evolutionary history” More

Pakistan Military Asked to Protect Polio Workers

Request comes as authorities say a Taliban ban on vaccinations in 2012 and deadly attacks on anti-polio teams have prevented thousands of children from getting inoculated 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.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid