Saturday, March 27, 2010

WFP Says No Evidence Exist of Food Aid Diversion in Somalia

No evidence of food aid diversion in Somalia: WFP

Saturday, Mar 27, 2010, Page 6

The World Food Program (WFP) said on Thursday that it had seen “zero evidence” to back up claims made by a UN monitoring group that food aid was being routinely diverted in Somalia.

“We have had no evidence and have not been presented with any evidence of any wide-scale diversion at any level,” Josette Sheeran, director of the WFP, told reporters.

A letter on Tuesday addressed to the Security Council by the UN Coordinator in Somalia, Mark Bowden, also noted that the monitoring group’s report lacked facts to back it up and that some sections were “completely misleading.”

“We are concerned that the report recently submitted to your committee was not prepared with the same level of consultation and that many of the statements made in the humanitarian section were not adequately documented,” he wrote.

Bowden added that the UN team on the ground was “concerned that these estimates of diversion are not apparently based on any documentation but rather on hearsay and commonly held perceptions.”

The report by the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia, originally tasked with tracking violations of the arms embargo, found that up to half of the food aid intended for needy Somalis is diverted.

It also noted that while access to WFP contracts should in theory be subject to tender, there has been “little or no scope for genuine competition.”

“Preliminary investigations by the Monitoring Group indicate the existence of a de facto cartel, characterized by irregular procedures in the awarding of contracts by the WFP country office, discriminatory practices and preferential treatment,” the report said.

WFP spokeswoman Emilia Casella stressed that these were “allegations” and that there were “no facts to support them.”

EU force frees Somali 'pirates'

The EU's naval force has freed six Somali pirate suspects, a day after they were captured trying to hijack a vessel off the East African coast.

Cmdr John Harbour said the men had to be released because the crew of the cargo vessel refused to give evidence.

The suspected pirates were allegedly part of a gang who attacked the Panamanian-flagged ship MV Almezaan.

Security guards on board the ship opened fire, killing one of the attackers before an EU warship arrived.

It is believed to be the first time that private security guards have killed a pirate in recent years.

It has sparked a debate about whether more ships should travel with guards.

Some say it might encourage pirates to use more violence, while others say it would help deter attacks.

Cmdr Harbour told the BBC that the case against the suspects captured on Tuesday was "clear-cut".

"We intercepted the pirates, we destroyed their mother-ship and we went on board the cargo ship to get statements," he said.

"But we had to release them because the master of the ship would not testify."

The guards who shot the pirate suspect were also likely to avoid any censure, with Cmdr Harbour saying nothing could be done without statements from those involved.

Body discovered

The EU force, known as Navfor, received a distress signal early on Tuesday from the MV Almezaan.

Navfor said members of an "armed private vessel-protection detachment" on board the ship had been involved in a fire-fight with pirates.

The EU force sent the Spanish warship Navarra to the area and found the pirate suspects trying to flee the area in two skiffs.

When a team from the Navarra boarded the vessels, they found three men in one skiff and three in the second, along with the body of a fourth man.

The authorities have struggled to find a solution to the problem of piracy - both stopping the attacks, and how to punish captured suspects.

War-wracked Somalia has no functioning central government and the chaos there has allowed the pirates to function with relative impunity.

The suspects are often sent to Kenya, where dozens are languishing in jails awaiting trial in a chronically overburdened legal system.

But there is no consensus on how to prosecute the suspects, and moves to set up an international tribunal have foundered.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2010/03/25 11:36:40 GMT

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