Gbagbo incarcéré au centre de détention de La Haye
Publisher: Le Figaro, France
Story date: 29/11/2011
Language: Français

Cour pénale internationale avait délivré mardi un mandat d'arrêt à l'encontre de l'ex-président de Côte d'Ivoire, qui était détenu dans le nord du pays. Il a été transféré aux Pays-Bas cette nuit.

Laurent Gbagbo est arrivé dans sa nouvelle prison. L'ancien président ivoirien, sous le coup d'un mandat d'arrêt de la Cour pénale internationale (CPI), a été incarcéré dans la nuit de mardi à mercredi au centre de détention de la Cour à La Haye. Depuis son arrestation à Abidjan, le 11 avril dernier, il était détenu à Korhogo, dans le nord de la Côte d'Ivoire.

L'ancien président, âgé de 66 ans, s'était vu notifier mardi le mandat d'arrêt de la CPI, a rapporté l'un de ses avocats, Me Jean Gbougnon. Il a ensuite été transféré à Rotterdam à bord d'un avion affrété par les autorités ivoiriennes, puis conduit en mini-bus au centre de détention.

La même prison que Charles Taylor
À La Haye, Laurent Gbagbo est installé dans le quartier pénitentiaire de la CPI, aménagé dans l'enceinte d'une prison néerlandaise dans le quartier de Scheveningen. C'est là également que se trouvent la prison du Tribunal pénal international pour l'ex-Yougoslavie (TPIY) ainsi que l'ancien président libérien Charles Taylor, jugé par le Tribunal spécial pour la Sierra Leone.

Laurent Gbagbo devra participer dans les prochains jours à une audience de comparution initiale, une audience de procédure visant à l'informer des crimes qui lui sont imputés et des droits que lui reconnaît le Statut de Rome, traité fondateur de la CPI. La chambre préliminaire de la Cour doit également, à ce moment-là, fixer la date «à laquelle elle entend tenir l'audience de confirmation des charges», étape préalable à la tenue d'un éventuel procès.

Plus de 3000 morts dans les violences
Le procureur de la CPI, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, avait été autorisé le 3 octobre par la Cour à enquêter sur des crimes de guerre et des crimes contre l'humanité en Côte d'Ivoire. Lors des violences qui ont suivi le refus de Laurent Gbagbo de céder le pouvoir à Alassane Ouattara, son rival victorieux à la présidentielle du 28 novembre 2010, plus de 3000 personnes avaient été tuées.

Le 3 mai dernier, Alassane Ouattara avait demandé à la CPI d'enquêter sur «crimes les plus graves» commis durant ces violences post-électorales. Dans leur ordonnance rendue début octobre, les juges estimaient que des attaques ont probablement été commises par les forces pro-Gbagbo contre la population civile à Abidjan et dans l'ouest du pays. Les magistrats mettaient également en cause les troupes favorables à Ouattara dans des violences contre les populations civiles.

L'annonce du transfert de Laurent Gbagbo survient à une dizaine de jours des élections législatives en Côte d'Ivoire, prévues le 11 décembre. De petits partis pro-Gbagbo, qui présentaient une vingtaine de candidatures, ont dès mardi soir annoncé leur retrait du scrutin, jugeant ce transfert contraire à la «réconciliation».

Laurent Gbagbo flown to The Hague as ICC's first ex-head of state prisonerArrest of Ivory Coast former president follows international criminal court warrant over post-election violence
Publisher: The Guardian, UK
Author: David Smith, Africa correspondent, and agencies
Story date: 29/11/2011
Language: English

The former president of Ivory Coast, Laurent Gbagbo, has become the first former head of state to be taken into custody by the international criminal court.

Gbagbo was told at his secluded place of detention in northern Ivory Coast on Tuesday that a warrant for his arrest had been issued by the ICC, which immediately began his transfer.

"Yes, Gbagbo is on the plane, heading to the ICC," his lawyer Lucie Bourthoumieux told Reuters.

An Ivorian plane landed at 4am on Wednesday in Rotterdam and was believed to be carrying Gbagbo. It taxied to a hangar where it was met by a convoy of black cars. The procedure was similar to when the former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic and the former Bosnian Serb military chief Ratko Mladic were transferred to other international tribunals in The Hague.

The sudden move came a year and a day after a disputed presidential run-off election between the incumbent Gbagbo and his challenger Alassane Ouattara plunged Ivory Coast back into civil war.

The ICC is investigating killings, rapes and other abuses committed during the four-month conflict triggered by Gbagbo's refusal to cede power to Ouattara, whose victory was recognised by the UN and other international bodies.

Ouattara's French-backed forces deposed Gbagbo in April, ending a struggle that killed 3,000 people and displaced more than a million.

Bourthoumieux said Ivorian justice authorities showed Gbagbo the arrest warrant on Tuesday morning in the northern town of Korhogo, where he has been under house arrest for the past seven months.

Gbagbo's Paris-based adviser Toussaint Alain said in an emailed statement: "I condemn... this victor's justice."

A decision to try Gbagbo at the ICC would be all the more controversial for many Ivorians after ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said this month that Libya could try Muammar Gaddafi's son Saif al-Islam at home, despite an ICC arrest warrant against him for crimes against humanity.

But Human Rights Watch (HRW) welcomed the decision as "a major step toward ensuring justice". Elise Keppler, senior international justice counsel at HRW, said: "This is a big day for the victims of Côte d'Ivoire's horrific post-election violence. That Laurent Gbagbo now has to answer to the court sends a strong message to Ivorian political and military leaders that no one should be above the law."

Gbagbo is the first former head of state taken into custody by the ICC. President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan and the late Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, have likewise been subject to ICC arrest warrants, but neither has come into ICC custody.

Keppler said: "The ICC is playing its part to show that even those at the highest levels of power cannot escape justice when implicated in grave crimes."

HRW also called on the ICC prosecutor to move swiftly on investigations for grave crimes committed by forces allied with Ouattara. It said domestic prosecutors have charged more than 120 people linked to the Gbagbo camp with post-election crimes, but none from the pro-Ouattara forces.

The climate in Ivory Coast is already tense, with Gbagbo's FPI party boycotting legislative polls next month in protest at the detention of FPI officials in connection with alleged crimes committed during the conflict.

Like his election loss, Gbagbo's indictment should prove divisive, although militiamen who backed him during the poll dispute have largely fled, been disarmed or are in hiding, so are unlikely to be able to cause much trouble.

Gbagbo's spokesman, Justin Kone Katinan, said: "This is a very serious deed by the ICC, wanting to transfer Gbagbo. It is a serious deed that Ivorians will not accept."

Jack Koutouan, 67, a retired insurance salesman from the predominantly pro-Gbagbo neighborhood of Yopougon, called the move by The Hague "an abuse of the law".

He told the Associated Press: "Are we not an independent country? Here we have judges that can judge our citizens. What good come out of transferring him to The Hague? That makes it look like we are incompetent. It's an indignity on our part, we as Africans."

Tom Wilson, senior Africa analyst at Control Risks, a political risks consultancy, said: "The ICC warrant saves Ouattara from the difficult job of having to try Gbagbo in Ivory Coast. But by letting him go he risks upsetting Gbagbo loyalists, whom he needs to appease to maintain stability."

The ICC plans to focus on two to six people thought most responsible for atrocities, the prosecutor Moreno-Ocampo said during a visit to the country last month.

He stressed the court would only investigate crimes going back to the election, the first round of which was last October, and not those committed earlier, during the crisis that followed a failed 2002 rebellion against Gbagbo that split the country. Gbagbo's camp have rejected that time limit as unfair.

The ICC is currently handling 11 cases, including the 2008 post-election violence in Kenya, alleged war crimes committed in the Central African Republic, and alleged genocide in Sudan's Darfur region.

DR Congo opposition candidate calls for election to be annulled
Publisher: The Guardian, UK
Author: David Smith in Kinshasa
Story date: 29/11/2011
Language: English

A leading opposition challenger to president Joseph Kabila has called for the elections to be annulled, accusing authorities of systematic fraud.

Vital Kamerhe, a former government minister, said ballots had been marked in advance of the poll in favour of Kabila, and some voters had been prevented from entering polling stations during Monday's chaotic polls.

"There can be no doubt as to the scale of the fraud, deliberately planned by those in power with the connivance of the national election commission," Kamerhe wrote in a letter to Kabila, the election commission and international bodies.

"Police chased witnesses from polling stations before counting could start," he added, citing reports by international observers and others that security forces took control of voting stations in Kinshasa. "These elections must quite simply be annulled."

Three other presidential candidates urged the Congolese not to accept any results from the vote, saying widespread technical problems and fraud meant they would not be credible.

But the demands were rejected by Congo's national election commission, which insisted the process had mostly gone smoothly.

"The majority of polling stations opened," said Daniel Ngoy Mulunda, head of the commission. "Violence happened in very few places and counting is going on, so I don't see why we should annul the elections."

He said of the complaining candidates: "They voted themselves. The result will be announced. If they win, they win, if they lose, they lose."

Mulunda insisted that 99.2% of polling stations had been working, with problems reported at only 485 from a countrywide total of 63,865.

But he also announced that voting would spill over to a third day. A small number of remaining polling stations would open from 6am to 5pm on Wednesday, he said, but then "all election operations will close tomorrow".

Fresh ballot papers were being flown in from South Africa after a stock was burned in an attack on a delivery truck in Lubumbashi.

Mulunda admitted there had been some mistakes in deploying materials but responding to the fraud allegations, he said: "We need people to bring in these famous ballot papers so we can test them ourselves."

Completed ballot papers will be taken to counting centres in vehicles escorted by UN peacekeepers, official witnesses and journalists, but not the national army, he added.

Elections en RDC: après le vote, inquiétude sur la validité du scrutin
Publisher: AFP, Agence France Presse
Author: Par Emmanuel PEUCHOT
Story date: 29/11/2011
Language: Français

KINSHASA, 29 nov 2011 (AFP) – Les opérations de dépouillement se sont
poursuivies mardi en République démocratique du Congo, où la situation était
calme au lendemain du double scrutin présidentiel et législatif, marqué par
des violences meurtrières et la dénonciation d'irrégularités ou de fraudes.

Les résultats provisoires sont attendus le 6 décembre pour la
présidentielle, le 13 janvier pour les législatives, mais déjà certains
s'inquiètent des nombreuses irrégularités voire des tentatives de fraude
constatées à travers le pays.

Des observateurs évoquent notamment un déploiement tardif et désorganisé du
matériel, des bureaux fermés après des incidents, des bulletins de vote
circulant librement, la pression des témoins des candidats sur les électeurs...

"Nous risquons de vivre une période très, très critique de tensions", a
déclaré à l'AFP Jérôme Bonzo, coordinateur de l'ONG congolaise Agir pour des
élections transparentes et apaisées (AETA).

"Cette ambiance est explosive. Cela a été constaté hier dans tous les
bureaux de vote où il y a eu tentative de fraude, où il y a eu tentative de
manipulation par des agents électoraux, par certains candidats à différents
niveaux. Pas seulement ici à Kinshasa, dans différentes provinces", a-t-il

"Dans l'ensemble, à part des incidents, dont certains graves, les élections
se sont bien passées, mais il faut dire que l'organisation matérielle était
catastrophique", a estimé pour sa part Dolly Ibefo, de l'ONG la Voix des Sans
Voix, qui avait déployé 400 observateurs à travers le pays.

Mercredi, les missions internationales d'observation du Centre Carter et de
l'Union européenne doivent chacune présenter leurs premières conclusions sur
le scrutin.

Les Etats-Unis ont dit espérer que "les informations faisant état
d'anomalies" vont s'avérer "isolées", a déclaré Mark Toner, un porte-parole du
département d'Etat.

Les Américains ont également déploré "dans les termes les plus forts la
violence liée à l'élection", qui se sont déroulés à Lubumbashi (sud-est) et
aussi à Kananga (centre).

A Lubumbashi, capitale de la province du Katanga, deux policiers et une
électrice ont été tués dans l'attaque d'un bureau de vote, et un convoi chargé
de matériel électoral a été la cible d'une attaque armée dans laquelle sept à
huit assaillants ont été tués par la police.

A Kananga, dans la province du Kasaï occidental, l'un des fiefs de
l'opposant et candidat à la présidentielle Etienne Tshisekedi, plusieurs
dizaines de bureaux de vote ont été incendiés notamment après la découverte
d'urnes contenant déjà des bulletins avant le début du vote.

La situation était calme mardi dans ces deux villes comme dans l'ensemble
du pays, selon des témoins et des journalistes de l'AFP.

Dans la capitale Kinshasa, le travail épuisant des agents électoraux pour
dépouiller les bulletins géants de la législative a duré toute la nuit et
s'est poursuivi dans la matinée.

A l'école la Bombinière, l'un des centres de vote qui a ouvert en retard
lundi comme de nombreux autres dans le pays, le matériel n'ayant pas été livré
à temps, seuls étaient affichés les résultats de la présidentielle, où 11
candidats se présentaient.

Pour l'autre scrutin, le dépouillement des bulletins géants de 56 pages de
format A3, avec pas moins de 1.430 candidats dans cette circonscription, a
débuté peu avant minuit.

"Il y a eu une coupure d'électricité et comme nous n'avions pas de lampes
nous avons été obligés d'attendre le retour du courant pour recommencer à
travailler", explique Jean-Etende Lokuka, chef du bureau.

La Commission électorale a donné lundi la consigne de laisser ouverts les
bureaux de vote mardi si des électeurs n'avaient pas pu voter pour des raisons
matérielles et d'organisation du scrutin.

Aid Agencies Reassess Somali Operations
Publisher: VOA, Voice of America
Author: Joe DeCapua
Story date: 29/11/2011
Language: English

Sixteen aid agencies say they face new challenges in Somalia, after the al Shabab militant group banned their activities in the southern and central parts of the country. Al Shabab accuses the agencies of bias and misconduct.

One of the organizations affected by the ban is the U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR.

"Like a lot of the other agencies, we're assessing the situation both in terms of implications on the ground and the implications for our operations," said Andy Needham, spokesman for the Somalia office.

Bad to worse?

This year southern and central Somalia were hit hard by drought and famine, along with conflict. Now, there's another problem.

"There have been heavy rains of late, which is I guess ironic for maybe some people to comprehend in the wake of all this talk about drought and famine. But these are seasonal rains. So what this has done is it has compounded the difficulties for the IDPs living in settlements, for example, in Mogadishu. So what we've actually seen is that we have entire settlements, where people are in tents and shelters, have been kind of washed out. And the heavy rains are flowing through the places where people are living," he said.

And Needham says there's not much that can be done about it.

"Because they're living cheek by jowl, so close that it's impossible even to dig channels so that the water can get out. So there have been pretty miserable conditions when the rains come. When the temperature drops and the rains come, we saw in previous years that that had a bad effect in terms of increased numbers of deaths through hypothermia, especially among children," said Needham.

Can't get there

Even before al Shabab banned many aid groups, the rains had already brought their humanitarian efforts to a standstill. Many roads are impassable in southern and central Somalia.

"What we're hearing from people on the ground is that some certain towns and villages are actually effectively completely cut off for food deliveries. And even people, if they have means, if they have some small amounts of money, they actually can't buy anything because people cannot travel to these towns because of the roads and perhaps fear of being caught up in some sort of ongoing clash," he said.

Al Shabab has allowed some aid groups to remain, namely Doctors Without Borders and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

In neighboring Kenya, insecurity continues to disrupt UNHCR operations at the Dadaab refugee camp. Hundreds of thousands of Somalis find shelter there. However, the insecurity has brought a halt to the registration and health check of new arrivals.

And in Ethiopia, at the Dollo Ado refugee camps, the U.N. agency reports high rates of severe acute malnutrition among children under age five.

Conflict now major cause for displacement in Somalia, says UN refugee agency
Publisher: UN News Service
Story date: 29/11/2011
Language: English

29 November 2011 – Insecurity and conflict due to insurgency is now one of the main causes for displacement in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, the United Nations refugee agency said today, warning that constant fighting is also hampering aid efforts in the country.

"In Mogadishu, we noted a profound change in the root causes driving forced displacement," said Andrej Mahecic, spokesperson for the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). "While drought accounted for the vast majority of displacement in the Somali capital during the first three quarters of the year, as of October we have seen 8,300 people displaced by conflict and just 500 displaced as a result of drought."In Mogadishu, we noted a profound change in the root causes driving forced displacement.

Mr. Mahecic told reporters in Geneva that conflict and military activity were also affecting people's access to food in other areas in the southern part of the country such as Qooqaani, Tabta and Afmadow, where some 500 people, including children, have left their homes and are travelling by foot to the border town of Dobley, where a number of agencies are distributing food and providing assistance.

UNHCR said this movement of people has happened in spite of the heavy rains which have limited movement in the southern and central parts of the country, while also adding that many people are still reluctant to move, fearing ambushes or getting caught in the crossfire.

Somalia faces a dire humanitarian situation, having endured a drought and famine as well as continued fighting and heavy rains this year, all of which have aggravated the conditions of its estimated 1.46 million internally displaced persons (IDPs).

Conflict is also preventing UN agencies from delivering assistance. UNHCR, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) all expressed concern today about the announcement by insurgent group Al-Shabaab that it would permanently revoke work permissions to several UN organizations in parts in Somalia under their control.

UNICEF and WHO reported that their offices have been raided and occupied, and said they are currently assessing the impact of these actions on their work.

Fighting and insecurity is also affecting refugee camps in neighbouring Kenya, with UN staff reporting that they have been unable to assess the number and condition of new arrivals to the Dadaab complex. However, despite restrictions on movement, authorities have managed to complete an oral polio vaccination campaign for all refugee children less than five years of age.

UNHCR also reported that more than 360 refugees in the camp have been affected by cholera and acute watery diarrhoea, adding that efforts to enhance security measures are being taken so assistance can be delivered as soon as possible.

In addition, the agency said it would increase its efforts in the Dollo Ado camps in Ethiopia as there is a high rate of severe acute malnutrition among resident children under the age of five. In response, UNHCR and partners are expanding their wet feeding programme to all children up to the age of 10, and adding milk powder to porridge to boost nutrient levels.

Somalia: Al Shabab Aid Ban Will Bring Disaster, Groups Warn
Publisher: the Huffington Post, USA
Story date: 29/11/2011
Language: English

NAIROBI, Kenya — Aid workers and Somali residents expressed outrage Tuesday, a day after the militant group al-Shabab banned 16 aid groups from its territory, a decision officials said puts tens of thousands of sick mothers and malnourished children at risk.

Tens of thousands of Somalis have already died from drought and famine-related causes this year, and the U.N. estimates that 250,000 people still face starvation in a country plagued by violence.

Somalis expressed sadness and anger at al-Shabab's decision, one that could further damage a group highly unpopular in many Somali circles because of its strict social rules and harsh punishments like amputations and stonings.

Al-Shabab on Monday ordered UNICEF, the World Health Organization and the Danish Refugee Council, among others, to leave.

"Without their help, our children will return to starvation and malnutrition," said Ahmed Awnor, a community leader in Hiraan in west-central Somalia.

Aid groups warned of disaster if the ban stays in place. UNICEF said thousands of children could die if its operations are stopped. UNICEF supports health centers treating tens of thousands of malnourished children, provides access to clean water and carries out vaccinations against measles.

"We are extremely concerned as any disruption to our assistance is like unplugging life support for many children, especially for the 160,000 severely malnourished children in south-central Somalia," said Jaya Murthy of UNICEF Somalia.

Al-Shabab began banning aid groups like the World Food Program in 2009, though it allowed some to operate. The militant force has long accused outside groups of spying and on Monday accused the 16 groups of misappropriating funds, collecting data, and promoting secularism, immorality and the "degrading values of democracy in an Islamic country."

"It's a disgusting decision. It will force us back to famine and misery again," said Ahmed Khalif, a Somali elder in Baidoa town. "The difficult tasks the aid agencies have done to fight the famine are only half-done."

Al-Shabab said it carried out a "meticulous yearlong review and investigation" that documented "the illicit activities and misconducts of some of the organizations."

Rashid Abdi, a Somalia analyst with the International Crisis Group, said al-Shabab's action could be motivated by "anger at the West's acquiescence to Kenya's intervention" in Somalia. Hundreds of Kenyan forces moved into Somalia last month to fight al-Shabab.

Abdi also said al-Shabab may have failed to extract the benefits and concessions it wanted from the agencies operating in areas under its control. The militants have been known to force aid groups to pay "taxes" or other fees.

The Danish Refugee Council said militants took over its offices in Belet Weyne and Bulo Burte in Hiraan region. The group called al-Shabab's decision "a sad development" as Somalis are "in dire need of humanitarian aid due to drought and years of armed conflict." The group provides shelter, aid packages and daily meals for tens of thousands of internally displaced people in the capital, Mogadishu.

"The struggling people of Somalia need all the help they can get, therefore we hope and trust that we and the other organizations involved are soon again able to resume our humanitarian operations," said Ann Mary Olsen, the head of the council's international department.

Al-Shabab boasts several hundred foreign militants among its ranks, including veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts and U.S. citizens. The foreign fighters are known to take hardline stances inside the group.

Murthy of UNICEF said his agency's office in Baidoa was occupied after the staff was ordered to leave. Although UNICEF has in the past few years weathered brief disruptions in Somalia, this is the first time it has to stop operations since its arrival in the early 1970s, he said.

The U.N. refugee agency says more than two-thirds of Somalia's estimated 1.46 million internally displaced people live in southern and central parts of the country – al-Shabab land – and humanitarian needs there are immense.

The World Health Organization supports eight hospitals and 16 mobile clinics that cater to tens of thousands of people in the affected regions. The ban "can undermine the fragile progress made this year, and could bring back famine conditions in several areas," said the WHO's Pieter Desloovere.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday condemned al-Shabab for seizing property and equipment belonging to the aid groups. He said the disruption in aid threatens to undermine progress made this year against the famine.

Kristalina Georgieva, the European commissioner for international aid, said the aid ban could force thousands of Somalis to flee.

"If they don't let the aid workers do their job then we will see more suffering inside Somalia and we will see more refugees going to neighboring countries," she said. "My concern is that we will see more people leaving in search of security and assistance."

Somalia has been mired in violence since 1991, when warlords toppled the country's last central government and then turned on each other.

The current government, which is confined to Mogadishu, does not control central and southern Somalia, but its president, Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed, said Tuesday that al-Shabab's decision was "shameful and inhumane."

"We call on all Somalis and the international community to take a unified position in eradicating this irrational terror organization bent on destroying the lives of millions of innocent Somalis," said Ahmed.


Associated Press writers Abdi Guled in Mogadishu, Somalia and Frank Jordans in Geneva contributed to this report.

Suicide bomber in Somalia tries to attack army HQ
Publisher: AP, The Associated Press
Story date: 29/11/2011
Language: English

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — A Somali officer says a suicide bomber dressed in a military uniform tried to enter the headquarters of the Somali army in Mogadishu but was shot dead by troops.

Lt. Hassan Hussein said seven Somali troops were wounded after the bomber detonated the explosives on Tuesday. Hussein says that only the bomber was killed.

Al-Qaida- linked militants with the al-Shabab group have carried out several suicide bomb attacks in Mogadishu.

Somalia's weak military is backed by 9,000 troops from Uganda and Burundi who are fighting al-Shabab as part of an African Union peacekeeping force.

UN refugee agency concerned over aid group's expulsion in Somalia
Publisher: Xinhua News Agency
Story date: 29/11/2011
Language: English

GENEVA, Nov. 29 (Xinhua) – The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) on Tuesday expressed concern over a ban imposed by Somali rebel militant group Al Shabaab on 16 international humanitarian agencies.

"We are concerned about Al Shabaab's announcement yesterday, permanently revoking work permissions to a number of UN organizations including UNHCR in parts of Somalia under their control," UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic said at a press conference.

The ban came at a critical time for humanitarian actions in Somalia, as the drought, famine and continued fighting have forced 1.46 million people to be internally displaced, of which over two thirds live in southern and central parts of the country largely in hands of the rebels.

The 16 aid groups included agencies like UNHCR, the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), and the Norwegian and Danish Refugee Councils.

WHO offices in Baidoa and Wajid were raided on Monday, with all medical supplies taken away, a WHO spokesperson said.

There could be a shortage of medical supplies if access is not re-established soon, the organization said.

Public health condition has been deteriorating in Somalia. Barely a month ago, the WHO issued a warning of a possible major outbreak of cholera in the country's capital Mogadishu.

UNHCR decries Al-Shabaab ban of relief agencies
Publisher: Xinhua News Agency
Author: by Christine Lagat
Story date: 29/11/2011
Language: English

NAIROBI, Nov. 29 (Xinhua) – The UN refugee agency on Tuesday decried Somalia's Al-Shabaab insurgents for raiding the offices of several humanitarian agencies on Monday and banning their activities.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in a statement received in Nairobi that the drastic action came at the time of a dire humanitarian crisis in southern and central parts of Somalia.

"We are concerned about Al Shabaab's announcement yesterday (Monday), permanently revoking work permissions to a number of UN organizations including UNHCR in parts of Somalia under their control," it said.

The UN refugee agency said it was assessing the impact of such ban which came after drought and famine, continued fighting and heavy rains further aggravate already dramatic condition of displaced Somali civilians.

More than two thirds of Somalia's estimated 1.46 million internally displaced people live in southern and central parts of the country and humanitarian needs there are immense, UNHCR said.

"We are assessing the impact of this latest development on our humanitarian operations in these parts of Somalia.

The Somali militants, who have imposed a harsh form of sharia law in south and central Somalia, announced on Monday they were banning 16 aid agencies from operating in the anarchic country where tens of thousands of people have died from famine since April.

Al-Shabaab accused the aid agencies of political bias, misconduct and illicit activities.

They also said the agencies had not been doing useful work, but that other groups, including the International Committee of the Red Cross and the medical aid group Doctors Without Borders, would still be allowed to operate.

The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) said its office in the southern city of Baidoa had been occupied, but that all staff were safe.

Jaya Murthy, interim communications chief for UNICEF Somalia, said Al-Shabaab's actions could threaten feeding programmes for 160,000 severely malnourished children across the centre and south of the country.

The UNHCR said continuing military operations and heavy rains are limiting the movements of displaced population in Somalia's Gedo region bordering Kenya.

It said there have been no cross-border movements between Dobley in Somalia and Liboi in Kenya or vice-versa as people are unable to move as the rains make roads impassable. Others are reluctant to move, fearing ambushes or getting caught in the crossfire while on the move.

However, UNHCR said, there are reports of over 500 people, including children, travelling on foot from Qooqaani, Tabta (both in Gedo region) and Afmadow (Lower Juba) towards the border town of Dobley.

"They cite a lack of food in their towns, cut off by the recent rains and military activity. Some people who have already arrived in Dobley told our staff that they were forced to leave their homes due to lack of food," UNHCR said.

"Even those with means were unable to buy food. They indicated that they are willing to return as soon as the situation improves and are not planning to cross the border in order to reach Dadaab. A number of agencies are operational in Dobley, undertaking distributions of food and other assistance."

The insurgents banned food aid last year in the areas it controls and kicked many relief organisations out, saying aid created dependency. It lifted the ban in July but now appears to have reneged on that.

The UN refugee agency said it has noted a profound change in the root causes driving the forced displacement in Mogadishu, adding that while drought accounted for the vast majority of displacement in the Somali capital during the first three quarters of this year, as of October it has seen 8,300 people displaced by conflict in the capital and just 500 displaced as a result of the drought.

"Overall, our partners and staff are reporting that the movements into Mogadishu from other regions have declined compared to previous months, mainly due to fighting in Daynile and Heliwa districts. Reported displacements were mostly within Mogadishu districts and also from Daynile to Hodan district," it said.

Meanwhile, the UNHCR deplored rising insecurity in Kenya's Dadaab refugee camps, which it said continues to hamper UNHCR's operations.

"It has been several weeks since the authorities stopped registering new arrivals. Aid agencies cannot assess the number and condition of new arrivals as our movements are still limited in the camps,"UNHCR said.

According to UNHCR, more than 360 refugees have been affected by cholera and acute watery diarrhoea. Most are treated as outpatient cases and there is a need for more supplies of oral rehydration salts and other treatments.

"Despite security restrictions, the authorities managed to complete a mass oral polio vaccination campaign for all refugee children under five years of age," it said.

Refugees Daily
Refugees Global Press Review
Compiled by Media Relations and Public Information Service, UNHCR
For UNHCR Internal Distribution