AU: Donors slow in paying up for Somalia security

AP News
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Posted: Nov 25, 2009 2:08 PM

The African Union's Somalia envoy said Wednesday donors have released only 30 percent of funds they pledged months ago toward bolstering Somalia's security, frustrating efforts to turnaround the lawless country.

The AU envoy's statement echoes similar comments made by aid workers this week about how donors have been slow to release money for health programs aimed at helping Somalis.

AU peacekeepers have not been paid for months, with the Burundian contingent not receiving their pay since April and those from Uganda going unpaid since May, AU envoy Nicolas Bwakira told journalists. Burundi and Uganda are the only countries that have contributed troops to the 5,100-strong AU peacekeeping force.

"No country would keep its forces without payment ... No democracy would do that," said Bwakira. "We are very disappointed and frustrated by the lack of delivery, or slow delivery on commitments."

In April, donors pledged more than $250 million to run an expanded AU force for a year and to strengthen Somalia's security forces. The pledges came after a peace deal saw moderate Islamists join the Somali government, with one of them being elected president in January.

Islamic insurgents have tried to topple the country's fragile U.N.-backed government for close to three years. It was hoped Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed's election as president would help undercut the insurgents. He has, however, failed in ending the insurgency and his government only controls a few blocks of the Somali capital, Mogadishu, with the help of AU troops.

Different Islamic insurgent groups control southern Somalia, where Mogadishu is located. Al-Shabab, an extremist group that the U.S. State Department has designated a terrorist organization, holds the largest chunk.

Bwakira, who is ending his term as AU envoy later this month, said that during his time as envoy the number of people displaced by the near daily violence in Mogadishu has doubled, exacerbating an already bad humanitarian situation where one in five children under the age of five is malnourished.

He said currently the number of people displaced from their homes is 3.6 million people, almost half the country's population, compared to 1.8 million in January 2008.

"It is a disastrous situation," said Bwakira. He added that the situation is made worse by the lawlessness in southern and central Somalia where many of the displaced people are located, making it difficult to deliver any aid to them.

Eric Laroche, the World Health Organization's emergencies chief, described Somalia's humanitarian crisis as the worst it has been since the fall of the country's last effective government in 1991.

"Never has the humanitarian situation been as worse as it is now. In terms of access, in humanitarian space, in terms social indicators," Laroche told The Associated Press.

Laroche said that because of insecurity and other problems in Somalia, humanitarian work has become more expensive but donors are not providing the necessary funds. He said that WHO programs in Somalia will only to get 24 percent of what is needed by the year's end.

"So I am asked to do more and much better but at the same time I am given less and less assistance or financial resources. So what is this game? Where do I stand? Are the rules of that game honest and proper?" Laroche said. "How can I work if I don't have any money?"

Somalia is a dangerous place for both Somalis and foreigners, with kidnappings and killings as near-daily occurrences. On Wednesday, two foreign journalists kidnapped last year were freed in the capital.