Leaked US Cables: WFP Operations Became 'Too Reliant' on Somali Militants

    Trucks carrying food aid from the World Food Programme in Somalia. Leaked U.S. diplomatic cables reveal that suspension of WFP operations in Somalia was driven by the organization's need to distance itself from the al-Shabaab. Photo by: Peter Smerdoh / WFP

    The U.N. World Food Program withdrew from southern Somalia in January 2010 because after becoming “too close” to the al-Shabaab militant group and finding out that its traditional way of delivering assistance was not working in the country, according to leaked confidential U.S. diplomatic cables.

    The U.N. organization cited security reasons for leaving Somalia in January last year. But in the memo, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the then-U.N. special representative to Somalia, said the suspension of WFP operations in central and southern Somalia was not necessary and was driven by the organization’s need to distance itself from al-Shaabab and not by security reasons.

    WFP suspended its operations in the African country “because it had become too reliant upon al-Shabaab and its system of pay-offs,” Ould-Abdallah told U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice, as revealed in a Jan. 20, 2010 cable published by the Telegraph.

    An internal report has claimed that half of the food aid provided by WFP in Somalia was diverted to corrupt contractors, militants and local U.N. staff members. Mark Bowden, the U.N. resident coordinator in the country, said the report was unfounded. WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran said the organization will investigate the report but noted that it contained some factual errors.

    >> Scandals Plague UN Somalia Operations

    >> Bowden: Somali Aid Diversion Report Unfounded

    >> WFP Halts Some Somalia Contracts

    Read more development aid news.

    About the author

    • Ivy Mungcal

      As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.