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Toronto (Canada)

19, July 2003

M. M. Afrah


The CIA Station Chief in his air-conditioned posh Nairobi office compiled his own lists of warlords accused of the anarchy and mass slaughter in Somalia, but kept them under wraps, apparently to be used against anyone of them as blackmail in case he comes to power in a future government.

When journalists covering the “Big Profile” persistently asked retired Navy Admiral, a born-again Christian, about the CIA lists, his answer was: “You don’t want to see classified documents, do you?”

More than 23 nations contributed to UNOSOM’S strength in 1993, but the decision-makers were from the United States puffed-up with advisers, bureaucrats and agents from the Departments of State and Defense, ghost workers, the CIA and other agencies.


Admiral Howe, the UN Envoy, who says he was “doing God’s work in Somalia” (Former president George Bush’s catch phrase) probably didn’t know that the list was already in public domain in Somalia and that all the US and UN oligarchy needed to do was to smoke out those elements whose names were in the list.


Life returned to normal in the city as food and medicines were flown in from the US Naval base of Diego Garcia aboard giant C-141 aircraft that landed at the hastily repaired Mogadishu Airport every two hours and the US Marines and Army Engineers started repairing roads, bridges, the airport and seaport and other destroyed infrastructures such as the water pumps at Afgoi and distributed anti-malaria tablets and other necessary medications.

Men masquerading as religious leaders stood in street corners shouting that the emergency food is not Halaal, meaning unwholesome and that the Americans were trying to convert the Somalis into Christianity. But nobody paid any attention to their harangues, because it transpired that they were in the payroll of warehouse owners and other vocal interest groups. These merchants hoarded huge amounts of food and other essentials and sold them at exorbitant prices beyond the reach of the people in the beleaguered city.

Then the shit hit the fan, as the Americans would like to say.

                   THE HUNT FOR GENERAL AIDEED

General Mohamed Aideed was bristling with indignation at what he thought heavy-handedness of the United Nations, particularly the Pakistani Blue Helmets. But when the US Marines and Army Rangers stormed the beaches of Mogadishu to spearhead an international task force code named Operation Restore Hope, the General restrained himself for a while and decided to keep low profile lest he was accused of being anti-Americans.

He even organized his youth wing, the United Somali Social Youth and hundreds of colourfully dressed ululating women to welcome the Americans at the airport, carrying posters saying: “We Welcome the American Troops.”

At road junctions and street corners members of his youth wing handed out pieces of papers carrying Aideed’s pro-American and anti-United Nations slogans. One poster said: “Butros Ghali Go Home.” Butros Ghali of Egypt was the then Secretary General of the United Nations and the man who, from the very beginning, suggested to the Security Council that the Somali warlords should be airlifted to the Devil’s Island, in French Guyana, some 12,000 miles away, where Henri Charriere (Papillon) and other hardcore French convicts were incarcerated since 1931.

With Chapter Seven (Rules of Engagement) provision at their disposal, UN and US officials could legally respond to any resistance from the warlords, including whisking them out of the country, by force. But some greenhorn UN officials questioned the legality of deporting a citizen from his native country to another.

That argument would not cut ice, because there’s precedence: former military dictator of Panama, General Manuel Noriega is languishing in a US prison. The British had interned Archbishop Makarious of Cyprus on the then French island colony of Madagascar in the 1960s. But the idea was abandoned outright as “unfeasible”.


In that scenario, General Aideed rightly or wrongly believed that he was being sidelined by the Americans in favour of his main rival, Ali Mahdi Mohamed and immediately included the Americans in his daily radio invectives for the first time. 

Snipers loyal to the general zeroed on both UN peace-keepers and now on the American troops. The situation in the capital became extremely tense as soldiers of the US Quick Reaction Force (QRF) and Army Rangers begun house-to-house search for weapons, and unless you have a risk-taking gene, Mogadishu was not the place to be.

Two months after the arrival of the Americans, General Mohamed Farah Aideed begun to have second thoughts about Washington’s much bandied “good intentions to help the Somalis stand on their own feet.” There were more than 2000 journalists from all over the world covering what they called “The Big Profile” with image-conscious CNN leading the pack because Americans were involved. But they all focused on the “Brave” American Marines who come to Somalia to save Somalis from killing each other. The fact is that the US Marines were most disciplined elements among the international task force in terms of ground rules and generosity. They fed skeleton-looking mothers, children, the infirm and the elderly. But the real intricacy involved the UN and US oligarchy in Mogadishu that even puzzled some of the media people.

In a hard-hitting broadcast over his radio station the general accused the international task force, now renamed UNITAF, of breaking into houses and ejecting the occupants on the excuse of looking for weapons.

“As a result of UNITAF’S behaviours, the attitude of the Somali people had gone from positive to negative,” he said.

The speech prompted some 400 people, mostly women and children to demonstrate against UNITAF. US helicopter gunships hovered over Aideed’s stronghold on surveillance duty in the south of the city, but did not interfere with the demonstrators, shouting “Down with Animal Howe,” meaning down with Admiral Howe, the American UN Envoy.

Next day a counter-demonstration in support of UNITAF was held by supporters of Ali Mahdi who carried slogans and chanted “Long Live UNITAF” and “Down with Warmongers.”

Not to be marginalized, Aideed orchestrated his own mass rally in his stronghold where his supporters distributed leaflets condemning the UN troops as “looters, pirates, bandits and stooges of the Americans”.

Other slogans ordered all foreign troops to leave the country immediately.

Forty-eight hours later General Aideed supporters took to the street again after he protested in his daily radio broadcasts that the US-led multi-national forces were favouring militia loyal to another rival, General Mohamed Saeed Hirzi Morgan, son-in-law of former dictator.

They stoned cars and set up barricades with flaming tires at intersections. Aideed repeated his allegations against UNITAF and warned that his forces might be provoked to take action.

Admiral Howe’s office inside the fortified former American Embassy was filled with jostling cameramen, bright television lights and photographic lights. The Admiral endured this for several minutes before declaring the hunt for General Aideed with a bounty of $25,000. There were no takers, because bounty hunters were scared to death for obvious reason.

CNN’s Christine Amanpour, leading the pack as usual, provided live coverage. The Admiral insisted doggedly that Aideed was the primary obstacle to peace in Somalia and must be apprehended dead or alive. In the Navy, he said, there’s no such confusion. If a ship runs aground, the captain is responsible. Meaning he was solely responsible for the Somalia watch, omitting that if the ship goes down, the captain goes with it.   

That military mentality has brought him under fire. “He is not qualified to perform his duties and should be replaced,” wrote the New York Times reporter, which prompted Ambassador Oakley, his State Department counterpart and former Ambassador in Mogadishu to call for an urgent meeting. The meeting was behind closed door and what had transpired between the two men remains mystery to this day.

Journalists, however, speculated that the Admiral has been acting unilaterally, that’s over the heads of State Department officials and the CIA. But it appeared that the Admiral’s position prevailed over the Ambassador’s arguments to call off the manhunt temporarily. A prove that the hunt for the elusive general gathered momentum in the smoking ruins of Mogadishu, they pointed out.

To be continued

M. M. Afrah,
565 Sherbourne Street, Suite 1703,
Toronto, Ontario M4X 1W7, (Canada)
Phone (416) 926-8952 

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