SOMALIA’S AL-SHABAAB EXPLAINS ITS BAN ON FOREIGN AID ORGANIZATIONS
Somalia’s al-Shabaab militants have provided a detailed justification of their recent and controversial decision to halt the work of 16 foreign aid organizations in areas under al-Shabaab control in drought and famine-stricken southern Somalia. The statement, prepared by al-Shabaab’s Office for Supervising the Affairs of Foreign Agencies (OSAFA), was released to various jihadi websites (Ansar1.info, November 28). The statement allegedly comes as the result of a year-long investigation into what al-Shabaab refers to as “the illicit activities and misconduct” of the foreign aid agencies.
The 16 banned aid organizations include the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organization (WHO) and a number of Scandinavian, German and French relief organizations.
The al-Shabaab statement charged the international aid organizations of the following:
- The collection of data on Shabaab-held territories “under the guise of demographic surveys, vaccinations reports, demining surveys, nutrition analyses and population censuses.”
- Conveying information about the activities of the Mujahideen.
- Inciting the local population against “the full establishment of the Islamic Shari’a system,” in part by financing and aiding “subversive groups seeking to destroy the basic tents of the Islamic penal system.”
- Working in league with unnamed organizations to “exploit the country of its natural resources.”
- Undermining the “cultural values” of Somali Muslims by using corruption and bribery as methods of operation.
- “Failing to implement durable solutions” to relieve the suffering of internally displaced peoples.
Some organizations were accused of promoting “secularism, immorality and the degrading values of democracy,” while others were accused of working with “ecumenical [evangelist?] churches” to proselytize Muslim children.” In light of these findings, al-Shabaab announced that a committee would perform a yearly review of all aid organizations working in their territory, warning: Any organization found to be supporting or actively engaged in activities deemed detrimental to the attainment of an Islamic State or performing duties other than that which it formally proclaims will be banned immediately without prior warning.”
Hundreds of thousands of Somalis have already fled southern Somalia to Kenya, where many of them live in the world’s largest refugee camp. Kenyan authorities, who regard the refugees as a security risk, are eager to return many of these refugees to new camps in southern Somali territory under the control of the Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and Kenyan Defense Forces now operating in that region (The Standard [Nairobi], November 30).
EGYPT’S GAMA’A AL-ISLAMIYA AND THE WAR IN SOUTH SUDAN
In a surprising statement, a leading member of Egypt’s Gama’a al-Islamiya (GI) has revealed members of the militant group had been sent to fight alongside government forces against South Sudanese rebels during the 1983-2005 Sudanese Civil War. The revelation was made by Dr. Najih Ibrahim, a founding member of the movement (al-Rai [Kuwait], November 16).
In the 1990s, Khartoum’s civil war with rebel forces in the South Sudan was given a religious character when the regime declared it a jihad, partly as a means of inspiring, and later enforcing, recruitment to the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) or the lightly-armed Popular Defense Forces (PDF), which was armed with rifles and Qurans in an unsuccessful effort to destroy the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), the most powerful rebel movement in the South Sudan. It was likely during Khartoum’s jihad against what it described as the “communist, tribal and atheist/Christian” SPLA that GI fighters joined the conflict, most probably in the ranks of the PDF, which suffered enormous losses fighting the veteran guerrilla forces of the SPLA on their own turf. Lately, however, there are fears that Khartoum is reviving the rhetoric of jihad to support its offensives against rebels in South Kordofan and the Blue Nile Province (Sudan Tribune, November 1).
The Alexandria-based Islamist ideologue said that GI’s “participation [in the civil war] was a huge mistake that led to what is Sudan’s fate now… The Sudanese regime focused its efforts on Islamizing the south and the Egyptian Islamists considered their participation in the war [was for the cause of] safeguarding Islam.”
From 1992 to 1997, al-Gama’a al-Islamiya waged a pitched war against the Egyptian state, its institutions and its financial underpinnings. Some 1,200 people died as the group unleashed a wave of assassinations, mass murders of tourists and back-street battles with security forces. However, the movement went too far in November 1997 when it massacred 58 foreign tourists and four Egyptians in a brutal attack at the Temple of Hatshepsut near Luxor. With popular support fizzling away and security forces successful in imprisoning most of the movement’s members, most of the members of the GI agreed to renounce violence, leading to the later release of some 2,000 Islamists from prison. However, some members, including Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, denounced the deal, and fled to Yemen and Afghanistan. Further renunciations of violence by those group members left in prison eventually led to the release of Najih Ibrahim in 2006 after serving 24 years.
The GI’s newly-formed political wing, Hizb al-Bena’a wa’l-Tanmia (Building and Development Party), ran a slate of candidates in the Egyptian parliamentary election after a court overturned a ban on the formation of a political party by the GI (Ahram Online, June 20; al-Masry al-Youm, September 20; MENA, October 10). 
A member of GI’s Shura Council, Najih Ibrahim resigned from the council in March, along with Karam Zohid, reportedly as a result of differences that arose within the movement after the release of Colonel Abboud al-Zumar and his cousin Tarek al-Zumar, the GI founder who was imprisoned for three decades for his role in the assassination of President Anwar al-Sadat (Ahram Online, March 29).
Both before and after his release from prison, Ibrahim has been a major proponent of the “Revisions” produced by GI and other Islamist militant groups in Egypt. According to Ibrahim, these reassessments of the political use of violence “have revealed the major Islamic jurisprudential errors that al-Qaeda has made, especially with regard to the rulings and the pre-conditions of jihad” (al-Shorfa [Cairo], August 2). Though he regrets the slow pace with which the “Revisions” are penetrating extremist youth circles in Egypt, Ibrahim maintains that there is a major difference between GI and al-Qaeda: “Their aim is jihad, and our aim is Islam” (al-Sharq al-Awsat, August 14).
1, For Najih Ibrahim’s views on the Egyptian Revolution, see Terrorism Monitor Briefs, February 17, 2011.