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TALKING POINT : ANTI-UNITAF DEMONSTRATIONS
THANKS, BUT NO THANKS!

TALKING POINT BY
M.M. AFRAH
Toronto (Canada)

24, Jan. 2004

ANTI-UNITAF DEMONSTRATIONS
THANKS, BUT NO THANKS!

Email: afrah95@hotmail.com
M. M. Afrah

FLASH BACK 1992/1994 - PART SEVEN

General Mohamed Farah Aideed was bristling with indignation at the heavy-handedness of the United Nations International Task Force (UNITAF), the forerunner of UNOSOM I, spearheaded by the Americans. He had restrained himself for a while and decided to keep low profile lest he was accused of being anti-American. Initially, he had even organized his youth wing, the United Somali Social Youth, and several colourfully dressed, ululating women turned out to welcome the American troops at the airport.

They marched down few main streets in south Mogadishu, Aideed's stronghold, carrying banners saying: "We are welcoming the American troops," (Waxaanu soo dhoweyneynaa ciidammada Mareykanka).

At K-4 traffic intersection and street corners members of the youth wing handed out pieces of papers carrying Aideed's pro-American and anti-Butros-Ghali placards, the UN Secretary-General, who at a press conference in New York had accused the General of being a brutal warlord obsessed with the office of the Presidency.

General Aideed's constant complaints to anyone who would listen was how the Americans refuse to accept that Somalia once had a civilization greater than theirs and that the current turmoil was only a temporary hangover from the regime of the former dictator.

Two months after the arrival of the American Marines and Army Rangers in Somalia, he began to have second thoughts about the American's much bandied "Good intentions to help the Somalis stand with their own feet." In a hard-hitting broadcast over his radio station, Aideed repeated his earlier accusation against UNITAF of breaking into homes and ejecting the occupants on the excuse of looking for weapons.

"Because of lack of central government, and because of the chaotic condition in the country, the troops had to come, but no one sought the consent of the Somali people," the General said in another radio broadcast. He said UNITAF forces, sent to protect famine relief supplies from the predatory gunmen, had been welcomed by the Somali people, but begun to lose popular support by their action. "As a result of UNITAF behaviour, the attitude of the Somali people has gone from positive to negative," he said.

The broadcast prompted some 400 people, mostly women and children to demonstrate against the international task force. Similar demonstrations, orchestrated by Abdirahman Tuur, were held in Hargeisa against involving UNITAF operations in Somaliland as proposed by Butros-Ghali, saying there is peace and stability in their self-declared Republic.

Next day a counter demonstration in support of the American-led task force, supporters of Aideed's rival, Ali Mahdi, was held in Mogadishu. The demonstrators exceeded tens of thousands, chanting "Long Life UNITAF," and "DOWN WITH WARMONGERS."

Many of the counter-demonstrators told the international press corps that they resented the wide media blitz given to General Aideed and "his thugs" in the south of the city, ignoring the many parts of the country where an estimated 1,000 people "were dying of starvation every day prior to the arrival of the Americans."

Not to be outfoxed, Aideed supporters distributed leaflets condemning the UN soldiers as "looters," "pirates," "bandits," and "stooges of the Americans", and ordered them to leave the country immediately.

Crudely painted graffiti on dilapidated buildings at K-4 boasted solicitously: "DEATH IS ACCEPTABLE, FOREIGN OPPRESSION IS NOT." Young boys stoned cars and set up barricades with flaming tires at road junctions while UN soldiers watched them from their hastily erected foxholes in front of Nasa-hablood Hotel.

Aideed's leadership faced yet another serious crisis when his deputy and confidante. Colonel Abdi Osman Farah, a former air force ace pilot, said he had parted ways with the General and wanted him removed as chairman of the United Somali Congress/Somali National Alliance.

The Colonel accused his boss of "dictatorial tendency, reminiscent of dictator Mohamed Siyad Barre." And if that was not enough, the Belgian contingent of the international task force arrested his long time ally, Colonel Ahmed Omar Jess in Kismayu and shot dead two of his bodyguards after they threw a hand grenade at their garrison. No Belgian soldier was killed or injured, but other attacking gunmen fled away with a wounded comrade.

The attack prompted after Belgian soldiers barbequed a 12-year-old Somali boy when he refused to eat a piece of pork. The barbeque was splashed on the front pages of Belgian and British newspapers. "A WORLD GONE MADNESS," the British tabloid Daily Express said in a front-page banner with the picture of the Belgian soldiers barbequing the child on an open fire.

THE DEATH OF PAKISTANI PEACEKEEPERS

How did the Pakistani soldiers meet their death? On a gray and cloudy morning of June 5, at Villa Somalia, militia gunmen ambushed twenty-three Pakistani Peace-keepers as they tried to search for weapons in the area. The search sparked rumours that United Nations peace-keepers were planning to seize Aideed's radio station nearby and that the search was a smoke screen.

American spokesman, Major David Stockwell told journalists that it was unclear whether Aideed had ordered the ambush or whether it was spontaneous reaction to the planned inspection. (The Americans abandoned disarmament as "unfeasible", but the UN insisted the inspection regime should continue as long as it takes).

Anyone scanning the UN/US political agenda in Somalia (including yours truly) was tempted to rub their eyes or clean their specs. For one thing, the whole shenanigan was turned into personal revenge against one man at the detriment of humanitarian assistance to the needy, as was the primary intention from the very outset.

Throughout south of the city, aid workers and foreigners stayed indoors as bursts of AK-47 and rocket propelled grenades were launched across K-4, a busy traffic circles near Hotel Saxafi (formerly Hotel K-4) housing most of the foreign journalists and many aid workers. A high velocity bullet hit a member of an Italian TV crew as he tried to focus his camera on a lone sniper nested on a rooftop.

The war of words between Aideed and the United Nations gathered momentum as soon as the Americans formally handed over their peace-keeping mission in Somalia to the United Nations with a Security Council mandate to defend themselves (by using force) code named UN Operation in Somalia (UNOSOM II).

Soon after that the UN radio station, MAANTA, said General Aideed was the main obstacle to peace in Somalia. In New York, an outraged UN Security Council demanded the arrest of those responsible for the killing in ambush of the Pakistani Blue Helmets.

The resolution adopted unanimously in an emergency session, called for the arrest, persecution and trial of gunmen and others responsible of inciting attacks against peacekeepers. Aideed was named as the primary instigator, and was declared a wanted man "dead or alive" with a 25,000 dollar bounty on his head.

Hours after the Security Council Resolution was passed, the Pakistanis opened fire on a crowd of demonstrators, killing at least 14 demonstrators and several innocent bystanders. The same day US AC-130 Flying Gunships blitzed Aideed's cantonment and destroyed an ammunition dump close to his residence. It was the second air strike by the United Nations forces hitting back for the killing of the 23 Pakistanis blamed on Aideed's gunmen. But most of the air raids were blind exercise without clearly defined targets in the heat of the moment.

Answering a journalist's question, a UN spokesman said "there are no innocent bystanders in Somalia".

Aideed himself moved to one of his secret hideouts deep inside a sprawling shantytown the Somalis call Tokyo after he was tipped off (some said by the Italian contingent), of the planned air raids. The Italians furiously denied it.

To be continued…
By M. M. Afrah©2003,
Email: afrah95@hotmail.com


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