you ever come across the number of people who died in Somalia's
civil war? It is the first question someone (perhaps a journalist
or a researcher) might ask you.
several so-called "Somalia Watchers" in the West
the answers are as diverse as the horrific ways these victims
met their death during the last 12 years in Somalia's killing
fields. Perhaps you've read different statistics by different
people who have never set foot in Somalia during the mass
the truth is that the number of casualties is a figure
that can never be completely determined. One of these
institutions came up with its own estimate: 350,000
civilians killed in Hargeisa alone as a result of carpet
bombing from the air by hired Rhodesian mercenary pilots
after the Somali pilots mutinied against their commanding
officers. An estimated 500.000 fled to neighbouring
Ethiopia with only the clothes on their backs.
beats me how this institution came up with that figure,
because casualty figures are largely based on hospital
records. But the main hospital in Hargeisa received
a direct hit during the aerial bombardment and all the
medical staff were either killed, injured or became
number is certainly much higher than this figure, because
in general Somali families, in Hargeisa or Mogadishu, would
bury their dead without going to hospitals to get death certificates.
In many cases bodies were destroyed by the bombs that killed
them both in Mogadishu, Hargeisa and other cities and towns
in the country. It was common sight to see bloated bodies
strewn on the streets and in public gardens. In Somalia no
one had time to bury the dead as everyone was diving for a
cover to save his or her own life. Children, the elderly and
the infirm were abandoned in the streets to fend for themselves
and were eventually killed by stray bullets and mortars.
between government forces and the insurgents was furious,
indiscriminate and confusing all round with government forces
using heavy artillery guns and the deadly Soviet-made Katyushas,
popularly known as BM, on crowded residential areas of the
cities and towns. In Mogadishu and Hargeisa it was especially
strong. Thousands of civilians fled from one battle zone to
another only to be shot by government snipers on rooftops.
were bursting in neighbourhoods and whole families were wiped
out. Nothing could have lived in them. At the Digfer General
Hospital and the Keysenay Hospital in the north of the city
hundreds of groaning men, women and children lay in the compound,
under trees and the bare floor of the hospitals.
gave a 1993 tally as 1.5 million civilian casualties, probably
a large portion associated with the clan wars following the
overthrow of the military dictator when the warlords and their
militia in Mogadishu turned their guns on each other for the
control of the capital. Again, we have not been told how they
arrived at this estimate.
is, however certain, the government troops and the warlords
have inflicted gargantuan horror upon the civilian population.
This latest estimate included what it said indirect casualties--that
is people who died as a result of the man-made famine and
people who died because of landmines and unexploded munitions.
Others were killed by looters and in score settling whilst
a large segment of the population died of malnutrition and
of counting the thousands of shallow graves around the country
is almost futile calisthenics as most of them have been washed
out by the monsoon rains or dug out by predators, such as
wild dogs and hyenas.
still continues in South Somalia, despite numerous unyielding
ceasefire accords and polluted peace talks since 1992. The
very fact that people are still alive today is in itself a
miracle. But many people, especially children are traumatized
and are turning to drugs and violence. Study says children
who witnessed violence become violent themselves.
to the people of Somaliland for healing the wounds of the
civil war without outside assistance!
thorny question is: after the Rwanda genocide, did the United
Nations make any attempt to assess the number of civilians
massacred in Somalia and Somaliland and document those who
were responsible for the carnage?
International planning to extend its survey of human rights
abuses to assess the number of non-combatants killed? Yes,
it is possible. One of the difficulties is, however, to get
access to the war-torn country due to insecurity, and its
much more difficult to come up with a clear number of people
killed during and post-civil war environment.
these agencies, Centre for Research and Dialogue (CRD) whose
Director of Programs, Mr. Jabril Ibrahim Abdulle, was recently
in Canada to enlighten and edify the Somali Community in Toronto
about the murky situation in Somalia and the role his organization
plays in assisting local as well as international community
in responding more effectively to the challenge of overcoming
conflict, preventing its reoccurrence and building a lasting
peace in Somalia. It was a well-received lecture with facts
and figures accompanied by documentary snapshots never shown
to the general public before. CRD is an affiliate of War-torn
Societies Project (WSP) International, a UN agency.
is true that the U.N. has a particularly woeful record
when it comes to contributing to peace in Africa, especially
in Somalia and Rwanda. It pulled out of Somalia prematurely
and failed to avert the 1994 Rwanda genocide. And the
mere mention of Congo brings back memories of an unsuccessful
peacekeeping venture in the 1960s.
circumstances give the U.N. and its member nations another
chance to try to redeem themselves. For a starter it would
be helpful if the U.N. Security Council reinforces its 1992
arms embargo resolution against Somalia. It is also high time
for the U.N. to get more fully involved to help re-establish
security for beleaguered civilians and prevent the conflict
from deepening and spreading, instead of using those fancy
words like peaceful co-existence (where there is no semblance
of peace), Road Map to peace, collateral damage, peace talks
(where the adversaries are not seriously interested in peace),
Rules of Engagement, etc.
7 of the UN Security Council gives the United Nations peace-keeping
forces the mandate to use force in order to maintain peace
and security in war-torn countries like Somalia, Sierra Leone,
Liberia and the Congo.
crimes tribunal, similar to the one in The Hague or Arusha
should be set up to try those who committed crimes against
humanity as a first step. This is where CRD and War-torn Society
Project International could help the United Nations Security
Council assess the situation on the ground accurately. It
would also be a strong signal to wannabe warlords.
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