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WASHINGTON – With nearly 4 million people in need of food aid and 750,000 at risk of starvation, Somalia’s rulers should be tried for crimes against humanity for using food as a weapon to control the population and for personal gain, according to a new Enough Project paper by Somalia expert Matt Bryden.
Corrupt politicians in the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) that controls most of the capital, Mogadishu, have squandered hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign aid. In much of the rest of the country, the Islamist militia al-Shabaab has banned relief agencies as its people starve to death.
“The time has come for either the International Criminal Court to become engaged in Somalia, or for a special international tribunal to be established, in order to dismantle Somalia’s deadly culture of impunity,” said Bryden, the coordinator of the UN Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group, writing in his personal capacity. “Without justice, humanitarian assistance alone will have the perverse effect of absolving and even rewarding those responsible for this tragedy.”
The Taliban-like al-Shabaab has terrorized its population and tightly controlled food aid to starve them into submission. Meanwhile, TFG officials have lined their pockets with hundreds of millions of dollars of donor money while famine victims crowd into refugee camps.
“Al-Shabaab’s twisted ideology, repressive methods, and indifference to the suffering of its own people lies behind the catastrophe,” Bryden said. “Under ordinary circumstances, the TFG’s actions many qualify as corruption, but with three quarters of a million people on the brink of starvation, they become crimes against humanity.”
Bryden’s paper is part of a new Enough Project series that looks at a variety of possible solutions to the Somali conflict and its attendant humanitarian impacts.
“This famine, which has too many similarities to ones that preceded it in Somalia, should be a loud wake-up call that the international approach to that shattered country over the past twenty years has totally failed,” said Enough Project co-founder John Prendergast. “In the context of the urgent response to this famine, the seeds of a new approach must be planted. Central to that approach should be a strong commitment to ending the endemic impunity that allows al-Shabaab and TFG leaders to believe that they can get away scott-free with the murderous diversion or obstruction of life-saving aid. These are crimes against humanity and they need to be treated as such and prosecuted vigorously so that future leaders are deterred from such deadly policy choices.”
Read the full report: "Somalia’s Famine is Not Just a Catastrophe, It’s a Crime."
Enough is a project of the Center for American Progress to end genocide and crimes against humanity. Founded in 2007, the Enough Project focuses on crises in Sudan, eastern Congo, and areas of Africa affected by the Lord’s Resistance Army. Enough’s strategy papers and briefings provide sharp field analysis and targeted policy recommendations based on a “3P” crisis response strategy: promoting durable peace, providing civilian protection, and punishing perpetrators of atrocities. Enough works with concerned citizens, advocates, and policy makers to prevent, mitigate, and resolve these crises. For more information, please visit www.enoughproject.org.