From: Biniam Tekle (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Wed Mar 17 2010 - 07:28:49 EST
March 16, 2010
Somalia’s President Assails U.N. Report on Corruption
BY JEFFREY GETTLEMAN
NAIROBI, Kenya — Somalia’s president on Tuesday blasted a recent United
Nations report that characterized the government’s security forces as
ineffective and corrupt and said that as much as half the food aid to the
country was routinely stolen.
The president, Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed, said that much of the information
in the report “was not trustful” and “based on people on the street, not
His comments added to a growing chorus of criticism surrounding this report,
mainly from the parties that have been accused of wrongdoing, including
Somali politicians and businessmen and the United Nations World Food
The report, by the United Nations Security Council’s Monitoring Group on
Somalia, made a number of stinging allegations: that officials in Somalia —
one of the most violent and needy countries in the world — were
collaborating with pirates; that the Somali security forces were
“ineffective, disorganized and corrupt”; that United Nations contractors
were helping insurgents; and that huge amounts of food aid was stolen.
Several independent experts on the country said that while the report might
have had some minor faults, it captured the larger picture accurately.
“There is broad consensus among Somali watchers that the overall findings of
this report are right, though in a report of that size, of course there are
going to be a couple mistakes,” said Ken Menkhaus, a professor of political
science at Davidson College.
Rashid Abdi, an analyst at the International Crisis Group, a nongovernmental
group that aims to prevent or resolve deadly conflicts, called the report “a
very solid piece of work,” adding that most of the allegations were “nothing
new, but things we have been hearing for some time.”
Clearly, Somalia can be a difficult place to find the truth.
Nearly 20 years of unabated chaos have eviscerated all national
institutions, and the current conflict between a weak transitional
government and militant Islamists has left most of the country a no-go zone
to outsiders. It has grown so dangerous that the United Nations has been
forced to rely largely on Somali contractors and local aid organizations
rather than its own staff members to monitor the enormous aid operation.
Some of the fiercest criticism of the report has come from United Nations
officials defending the World Food Program, the biggest aid agency in
Somalia and a lifeline to millions of Somalis.
One United Nations official, who was not authorized to speak publicly, said
that the report overstated the amount of money the World Food Program paid
to Somali transport contractors, and that it exaggerated the percentage of
the transport budget that went to three businessmen in particular.
The official also argued that there was “no evidence” that one of the
contractors had staged a hijacking of his own food trucks in 2008, as the
report said, and that the contractor nevertheless had paid back all the food
that disappeared that day.
The official went on to criticize several other aspects of the report and
said that a bonding system put in practice in 1997 — under which Somali
contractors are required to replace or pay for any missing food — had
drastically reduced the amount of food aid that was pilfered.
The report was commissioned by the Security Council as part of an effort to
monitor an arms embargo on Somalia and other peace and security issues.
In 2006, the same monitoring group said that hundreds of Somali jihadists
had traveled to Lebanon to fight alongside Hezbollah, a claim that was
widely dismissed as fiction.
However, the investigators behind that report are no longer with the group,
and Mr. Menkhaus and Mr. Abdi, among others, said that Matt Bryden, the
current coordinator, had spent many years in Somalia and was a seasoned
Mr. Bryden defended the report this week in a series of e-mail messages. He
said that some of the material provided to the group about the missing food
supplies “involves inconsistencies” and that his team “received different
answers at different times” from the parties involved.
He also rejected the complaints from officials with the World Food Program.
“The figures we have used in the report concerning the value of contracts
and the percentage awarded to the three named contractors were provided to
the Monitoring Group by W.F.P. officials,” he said. “W.F.P. would therefore
appear to be contradicting itself.”
This week, Somali officials from Puntland, a pirate haven in northern
Somalia, denied the allegations that they were collaborating with pirates
and called the report “a feeble attempt to defame” the Puntland president.
Mohammed Ibrahim contributed reporting from Mogadishu, Somalia.
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