A team of eight investigators is due to
begin work this week. It's the first time senior Somali politicians
could face consequences for corruption in the 20 years since the country
dissolved into civil war. The country's justice system has virtually
functioning and there has been no system to hold politicians in the
famine-struck Horn of Africa nation to account.
has been identified as one of the main obstacles to the peace process,"
said Matt Bryden, who heads the U.N. arms monitoring group on Somalia,
which provides an annual report to the U.N. Security Council. "This
sends a clear signal that corruption and political obstruction will no
longer be tolerated."
The monitoring group was set up 10 years
after an arms embargo was imposed on Somalia in 1992, when hundreds of
thousands were dying from famine and the country was in the grip of a
clan-based civil war. The group's mandate was to report anyone selling
weapons to fuel the conflict. In 2008, the U.N. decided it should be
able to punish violators by imposing sanctions that include travel bans
and freezes on assets such as bank accounts and property.
list of possible sanctions was expanded the same
year to include anyone obstructing access to humanitarian aid. That's a
huge problem in Somalia, where Islamist militant groups have denied
many aid agencies access to territory they control and militias in areas
controlled by the U.N.-backed government steal and sell food.
July, the sanctions mandate was expanded again to include corruption
and those blocking the peace process. The new mandate came at the same
month famine was declared in parts of the country.
thousands of people are estimated to have died and the U.N. says 750,000
are at imminent risk of starvation. Now, Bryden said, anyone could be
sanctioned for threatening peace and security or for blocking or
stealing humanitarian aid or government funds.
investigations will help the sanctions committee ensure that violators
are held accountable," he said. "These sanctions are most effective
against those with an international profile — those with
foreign passports, with foreign bank accounts, and those who travel."
the potholed streets and among the bullet-riddled buildings in the
capital, Mogadishu, there's little to show for the tens of millions of
dollars donated to the Somali government over the past two years. The
mayor has put up a few streetlights and international aid agencies fund a
few trash collections. But schools, hospitals and roads are in a state
of advanced decay.
Somalia has the world's highest child
mortality rate. Nearly one in five children will die before their 5th
birthday. More than 70 percent of Somalis don't have clean water and the
country is regularly rated the most corrupt in the world by
international watchdog Transparency International.
performance of the government is one reason why the population turned to
Islamist militias in the first place. But if the threat of sanctions
helps improve their performance, an analyst said,
it could help win the government support.
"This new mandate
has the potential to be very useful," said Ken Menkhaus, a political
science professor who specializes in Somalia at North Carolina's
Davidson College. "What the Security Council had in mind was to make the
(government) more accountable and more legitimate in the eyes of the
It could also help force through humanitarian
aid to those who need it, he said. Around 200,000 of the 750,000 at risk
of starvation live in government-held areas, he said, but "we are
having problems making sure aid is getting through to them because of
corruption and interference and diversion."
government did not respond to requests for comment. It recently proposed
a joint watchdog with donors to track funding and corruption but the
agency has not yet been set up. Many Somali ministers have dual
nationality or assets abroad. The new prime minister, defense
minister and minister of finance are all American citizens. Other
Cabinet members are British or Canadian passport holders.