Somalia: forced entry and detention of staff prompts UN agency to suspend aid

Somalia: forced entry and detention of staff prompts UN agency to suspend aid

Ban Ki-moon
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has suspended food distribution in the Somali capital after Government forces invaded the UN compound in Mogadishu today and abducted the local head of the agency in a move immediately condemned by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has suspended food distribution in the Somali capital after Government forces invaded the UN compound in Mogadishu today and abducted the local head of the agency in a move immediately condemned by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

According to WFP, the incident took place this morning at 8:15 local time, when between 50 and 60 armed members of the Somali National Security Service (NSS) entered the UN compound in an unauthorized manner, over the protests of UN staff members.

No shots were fired but WFP’s officer-in-charge, Idris Osman, was taken away at gunpoint. He is currently being held in a cell at NSS headquarters near the presidential palace.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has strongly condemned the incursion and called for Mr. Osman’s “immediate and unconditional release,” in a statement issued by his spokesperson.

“Today’s actions are in flagrant violation of the 1946 Convention on Privileges and Immunity to which the Somali government formally committed in the January 2006 agreement,” Mr. Ban declared, while reminding the Transitional Federal Government of its obligation to protect all UN staff members and property.

In light of Mr. Osman’s detention and the need to safeguard its staff, WFP says it has been forced to immediately suspend a food distribution programme that began in Mogadishu on Monday.

The programme – the agency’s first distribution in the Somali capital since June – sought to provide food to more than 75,000 people through local mosques.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) notes that this comes at a time when more than 1.5 million Somalis need assistance and protection – a 50 per cent increase since the beginning of the year.

Inadequate rainfall, as well as continuing internal displacements and a possible cholera epidemic, has led to a deteriorating food security situation in central and southern Somalia.