Britain is donating more than £90million a year to Somalia despite strong warnings that its corrupt government is arming Al Qaeda-backed terrorists.
David Cameron has approved the huge handouts to the war-torn East African country in an attempt to stop it becoming the next Afghanistan.
But a leaked United Nations report has warned of ‘high level and systematic abuses’ by Somali government officials who have passed weapons and ammunition to Al Shabaab – the Al Qaeda-linked Islamic fanatics behind last year’s Kenyan shopping mall massacre in which 67 people died.
British aid to Somalia is already channelled through charities and agencies, rather than central government, in a bid to sidestep rampant corruption among officials. A separate study revealed that many of these organisations have been forced to hand over large sums in ‘protection money’ to Al Shabaab to be allowed to work there – even during the drought and famine of 2011 when nearly 260,000 Somalis died.
And nearly £500,000 of British aid and supplies has previously been stolen by Al Shabaab militants.
The revelations last night prompted MPs to renew calls for a portion of Britain’s £11billion international aid budget be diverted to help flood victims in the West Country and the Thames Valley.
More than 290,000 people have now signed the Daily Mail’s petition urging the Government to raid the aid budget to help pay for the clean-up.
Ian Liddell-Grainger, the Tory MP for flood-hit Bridgwater in Somerset, told the Mail: ‘This is new evidence of what many MPs have warned about for years – that our aid money ends up in the wrong hands.
‘There are a lot of countries where we shouldn’t be sending aid because we’re not helping the locals and often the money finds its way to despicable people. We need to remember that charity begins at home. There are people in need here.’
Stewart Jackson, the Tory MP for Peterborough, said: ‘Taxpayers are willing to support overseas aid if it goes to deserving people. But when it goes to Third World kleptocrats and terrorists they will be concerned. We need a reassessment of aid when there are pressing priorities at home.’
Somalia was plunged into lawlessness after President Siad Barre was overthrown in 1991.
However, International Development Secretary Justine Greening has said Britain is forging a ‘new and special relationship with Somalia’ and must fund it to stop it slipping back into ‘terrorism, famine and insecurity’.
The Prime Minister also hosted an international conference in London last year, in which he pledged to help the country rebuild its security forces to tackle insurgents.
Mr Cameron said: ‘If we ignore it we will be making the same mistakes that we made in Afghanistan in the 1990s. I’m not prepared to let that happen.’
A Department for International Development spokesman said: ‘This report provides absolutely no evidence that any UK funds have gone to Al Shabaab.
‘DfID works in Somalia because creating a more stable and prosperous world for the UK means tackling the causes of poverty, disease and terrorism at the root.’