24, Jan. 2004
THANKS, BUT NO THANKS!
M. M. Afrah
BACK 1992/1994 - PART SEVEN
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.
marched down few main streets in south Mogadishu, Aideed's
stronghold, carrying banners saying: "We are welcoming
the American troops," (Waxaanu soo dhoweyneynaa
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
DEATH OF PAKISTANI PEACEKEEPERS
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.
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).
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
a journalist's question, a UN spokesman said "there
are no innocent bystanders in Somalia".
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
By M. M. Afrah©2003,