- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 4, 2009

MOGADISHU, SOMALIA (AP) - A statement purportedly from a Somali government spokesman said aid agencies would have to register or leave the country, but the spokesman denied on Saturday having issued such document and said it was not true.

Abdulkadir Walayo, a spokesman for Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, had told The Associated Press to expect a decree from the prime minister’s office late Friday. A few hours later, a document was brought to AP’s representative in Mogadishu by a local journalist who said Walayo had told him to deliver it _ which is not unusual in Somalia.

The decree, which was also reported by some local media, appeared consistent with the style of previous statements from the prime minister’s office, which do not normally feature a sign, a logo, or a signature.

But Walayo on Saturday denied the assertions in the statement, in which he is quoted as warning “aid agencies which take advantage of the anarchy” in the country. The delivered statement had also said aid groups that failed to register would not receive government security.

“That was not an official statement from my office, but it was an ill-founded and fabricated one which was distributed to the media houses and the news agencies’ representatives by a local journalist,” Walayo told the AP.

“There are many other things lying ahead of the government like restoring law and order and asserting its control throughout the country before imposing such orders on the aid agencies,” he said.

Walayo did not answer repeated calls late Saturday requesting an explanation of why an authentic document did not arrive as expected. No other document was received by the AP.

Several aid agencies said Saturday they had received no official communication from the government, and had heard only rumors of plans to increase government control over aid agencies.

Somalia’s humanitarian crisis is considered on of the world’s worst.

The country has not had an effective government since 1991, when warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre. They then turned on each other, plunging the Horn of Africa nation of 7 million into chaos.

More than a million residents have fled violence in the capital over the past two years. Some have returned, but tens of thousands continue to live in makeshift camps in the country. Their problems have been compounded by endemic hunger, drought, disease and continuing violence.

U.N. officials said earlier this month that in 2008 alone, 34 aid workers were killed in Somalia, 26 were abducted, and 13 were still in captivity at the end of January.

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