UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
SOMALIA: Security concerns force aid agencies out of Merka
NAIROBI, 30 April (IRIN) - The humanitarian community has recommended the immediate withdrawal of expatriate staff working for international humanitarian organisations in the Lower Shabelle region, following a number of recent security incidents, including an armed militia surrounding the compound of the NGO Action Contre la Faim (ACF) in Merka.
The Somalia Aid Coordination Body - comprising donors, UN agencies and international NGOs - recommended the move and said staff should not return until "the community can guarantee a safe working environment", a news release stated.
A spokesman for ACF told IRIN on Friday that the surrounding of the Merka compound was a "demonstration of intimidation" by militia members unhappy with some of the agency's administrative and logistical decisions, including one in relation to the hiring of two cars.
He said that international NGOs had all pulled out for the moment in line with the recommendations of a series of special executive meetings of the SACB, and would probably stay out for two or three weeks, depending on the security situation.
Meanwhile, the European Commission on Thursday insisted that the community in Lower Juba was responsible for securing the release of Stefano Sotgia, the Italian aid worker with Terra Nuova, abducted by gunmen in Hagar on 16 April.
A statement from the EC demanded "an immediate end to the situation" and insisted "that the local authorities and community leaders are responsible for securing the release of the expatriate."
Vittorio Cognolati, regional representative of Terra Nuova, told IRIN: "The discussions are taking too long, and the (man's) family is very much concerned."
As the donor which supported the Terra Nuova operation in Lower Juba, the EC said the agency's animal vaccination programme against rinderpest "has been to the benefit of the community of the area at large" and that the continued hostage situation "is not in favour of any further cooperation of the European Commission in this sector in southern Somalia."
Date: Fri, 30 Apr 1999 17:20:39 +0300 (EAT) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <email@example.com> Subject: SOMALIA: Security concerns force aid agencies out of Merka 
Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D
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