More than a dozen retired senior US diplomats and humanitarian chiefs have launched an attack on Kenya’s bid to have the UN list Somali militant group Al-Shabaab as a terrorist organisation.
In what may open fresh debate on how far relief workers need to negotiate with terror gangs to deliver aid, the 16 diplomats claim Kenya’s proposal will “cripple the humanitarian aid effort”.
The group, which includes former US Ambassador to Kenya Mark Bellamy, former Undersecretary of State Thomas R Pickering and former USAid administrator J. Brian Atwood, argued that the proposal will break the current working relationship where aid workers are allowed certain windows to reach extremist-held regions.
“The practical impact of this measure would be to put humanitarian assistance efforts in jeopardy and many hundreds of thousands of lives at risk,” they said in the letter to US Secretary of State Mark Pompeo, USAid Director Mark Green and copied to various US Senate committee heads.
“Thus, we strongly urge the government of the United States to object to this proposal.”
Last week, Nairobi said it would submit, for the second time, a proposal, to the UN Security Council to formally ask for Al-Shabaab to be designated as a terrorist group, in what it believes will attach more focus in combating the extremists.
Foreign Affairs PS Macharia Kamau argued that this would help to annihilate the extremist group, which has recently launched fresh attacks on civilians and government officers in Somalia and Kenya.
“This is important to bring the global efforts in tackling the group,” he said in Nairobi, after meeting a delegation of United Arab Emirates officials.
“It has caused serious havoc, not just on Kenya but the region and the world in general. It is important that all global efforts now come together to combat this.” The group of American diplomats argued that Somalia’s reliance on humanitarian aid means channels must remain open. Al- Shabaab, which pledged allegiance to Al-Qaeda in 2010 — although a splinter group later sided with ISIS recently — and has not been designated as a terror group by the UN, despite efforts by the African Union, and even the UN itself in combating Al-Qaeda and ISIS or their affiliates.
As an affiliate of Al-Qaeda or ISIL, Al-Shabaab also faces certain sanctions concerning Somalia such as arms embargo, but the US — which designated Al-Shabaab as a terrorist organisation in 2008 — proposed certain exemptions to facilitate aid to civilians.
“This process has proven effective. At both the national and international levels, official and non-governmental offices and agencies have developed a range of risk mitigation strategies to identify, prevent, and address issues of diversion and misappropriation of assistance,” the diplomats argued.
Critics like Kenya, however, say omission of Al-Shabaab has enabled the militants to thrive by taxing aid organisations or diverting aid to benefit their recruits.
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