Islamist Militants Lift Ban on Foreign Aid in Somalia

Islamists have lifted a ban on foreign aid entering the country, which was originally implemented as the radical Muslim group said that foreign agencies were “Anti-Muslim”.

The ban was imposed in 2009 by Al Shabab, Somalia's radical Islamist group. This removal of the ban comes after a drought hit Somalia, forcing about a quarter of natives to move to surrounding countries. It is estimated some 12 million people in the Horn of Africa have been hit by this year's drought, the worst in 60 years.

Al Shabab says it will now allow all charities, regardless of religious belief, Muslim or non Muslim, to give emergency aid as long as they have “no hidden agenda.”

During a press conference in Mogadishu, al-Shabab spokesman, Sheik Ali Mohamud Rage said "Whether they are Muslims or non-Muslims, [if] their intention is only to assist those suffering, they can contact the committee which will give them access to the drought-hit areas.”

He also went on to say, "Anyone with no hidden agenda will be assisted... and those who intend to harm our people will be prevented to do so."

Some commentators have suggested that the change of policy might be because the group is trying to save face. With thousands fleeing their homes, the policy of not accepting foreign aid has been put under more scrutiny by those in the country.

According to U.N. official Mark Bowden the downside of the residents moving to other countries is “When people decide to move they suffer even higher rates of mortality.”

He concluded saying, “If we can stop that situation and give people the food security they need to stay in Somalia we are going to save more lives... I hope they recognize that humanitarian agencies are going in only to meet the needs of the population.”

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