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Toronto (Canada)

1, Aug. 2003

M. M. Afrah


General Aideed

The Americans apparently assumed that the Somalis wouldn't bite the hand that was feeding them. This has turned out to be a risky assumption to make.

General Aideed was not interested in altruism, and like many Somalis believed that the Americans had hidden agenda vis-à-vis Somalia. He repeatedly called the humanitarian intervention a military occupation "with a hidden agenda". Then the giant American media quickly turned him into the worst monster since Attila the Hun.

General Cevik Bir from Turkey was quoted as saying: "I can kill Aideed within four days". Later he recanted that remark and suggested that Aideed should be offered the office of the presidency in order to put an end to the escalating hostility. He was met with strong opposition from the Americans, notably Admiral Howe and the top US military brass.

Obviously putting un-elected man on the helm contradicted their brand of democracy of one-man one-vote and a government of the people for the people.

The original UN/US plan was:

a) Nation-wide disarmament;
b) Fair and free elections supervised by international observers;
c) To form a broad based secular government;
d) Independent judiciary system based on Western model;
e) Free and independent press;
f) Training a National Army and Police Force.

"I might as well tell the Americans and their stooges that they won't gain much by fiddling around," Aideed told an American reporter in one of his numerous secret hideouts.

Needless to say, the "embarrassing" and "pushy" questions at Admiral Howe's press briefings landed some of the media representatives in Mogadishu, including myself, on the verboten list at future press briefings. What irritated the American and UN officials in Mogadishu more than anything else was that interview with a wanted man in a secret hideout. It was very embarrassing for the CIA paper pushers in Mogadishu and at State and Defense Department officials in Washington.

Admiral Howe

Consequently, the media became "enemy" of the state. But most of us had no idea what state they were talking about since the majority of the press hounds in Mogadishu were not Yankees.

We still couldn't believe it. UNOSOM is going to get away with it again!

In the United States, even a president couldn't stop Washington Post reporters from investigating the Watergate scandal. Here a single low-level envoy can blacklist accredited international journalists for reporting the mess that was Somalia, without the approval of the UN Security Council. It defies all human imaginations.

My news agency, Reuters in London, immediately sent an urgent letter of protest to Butros Ghali in New York.

Mr. Ghali who was scheduled to pay a whirlwind visit in Mogadishu and Afgoi did not want to make an enemy of a highly respected worldwide news agency, like Reuters, and ordered his envoy in Mogadishu to immediately lift the ban, or else…

"This envoy needs more of the same doses to make him see the reality of free press and democracy," said the reporter from The Guardian newspaper. He was top on the blacklist and was about to pack up his bags and go home, disillusioned.

Almost every hour brought a new crisis. As things became doubly tough for aid workers to operate in the besieged city, some of them joined the multitude of journalists who predicted that the mission now seems all but doomed to failure. Things were really falling apart between 1993 and 1994.

In the ensuing brouhaha the great majority of the population were indifferent in boardroom bickering and monotonous press briefings and wanted only to be left alone. Besides, no one asked their opinion. It was free-for-all situation. And the American tax-payers in the "Land of the Brave" couldn't care less what was going on in places whose names they couldn't pronounce, until one of their boys' dead body was dragged in the narrow alleys of Black Sea, where women armed with AK-47 sold petrol, diesel and engine oil in rusted jerry-cans.

After the Delta forces and the Rangers bungled their latest bid to capture Aideed, his supporters at the same time warned in a leaflet "that unless UN peacekeepers called off the hunt for our leader, we will kill 1,500 soldiers or civilians from America inside or outside the country in a way of martyrdom never experienced in the world."

Nevertheless scores of helicopters from the USS Ranger anchored off the Somali Coast showered the streets of Mogadishu tens of thousands of posters offering an augmented award for general Aideed, "Wanted for war crimes under a UN arrest warrant". But the posters were quickly tore up at a frenzy pro-Aideed rally and issued a "Wanted" poster of their own for Admiral Jonathan Howe himself. Under a picture captioned "Animal Howe" it described the UN Special Envoy as a "wanted man" and says he was wanted for killing women, children and elderly people.

And for the first time since the US Marines stormed the beaches of Mogadishu, rival clans who were disillusioned with the United Nations peacekeeping forces joined the rally en mass.

"Even rival clan, the Abgal came to have a crack at the Americans alongside their usual Habar-gedir enemies." (Scott Peterson in his book ME AGAINST MY BROTHER Page 142).

"Under pressure from the United Nations, the Americans decided to make me as their main agenda point and try to ruin my credibility. They did not succeed and I think they're starting to realize it was a mistake," Aideed said in one of his pre-recorded messages, which was broadcast over his radio station.

The similarity between today's hunt for Saddam Hussein and General Aideed 10 years ago is striking indeed. Even today's Baqdad is a carbon copy of 1993 Mogadishu; the daily shooting of American soldiers, the lack of mass support for the coalition forces and the urgent need for basic services, such as security, water and electricity, the daily looting spree and the audio tapes from Saddam Hussein would transport one back to the smoldering carcass of Mogadishu.)-
The Webmaster.

It's anomalous that, despite advice by people who knew the Somali psyche, the UN/US oligarchies in Mogadishu failed to recognize and pinpoint what works and doesn't work in Somalia-a country devastated by savage civil war followed by brutal ethnic cleansing on the heels of the former military dictator downfall.

One workable advice by a British historian was to invite the protagonists (the growing number of warlords and faction leaders) and traditional elders to listen what they had in mind about the future of their country and the role they would play in restoring peace and stability. He called it Meetings of the Mind. But for some unknown reason, which many observers agreed would have probably had worked if put to the test, was turned down as "unworkable" by the central characters of the coalition forces.

It would be interesting to know why Britain refused to join the international task force in Somalia. But when a BBC's Focus on Africa reporter tried to get an answer for this question, officials at Downing Street (the British Prime Minister's official residence) played their traditional tight upper lip. Obviously, they bitterly remembered their bloody confrontations with Sayid Mohamed Abdulle Hassan's rebellion in the 1920s.

No one had anticipated that President Bush's "God's work" would turn into a gruesome purgatory that would turn many peoples' stomach that Sunday afternoon October 3, 1993 near the Olympic Hotel near Wardhigley, popularly called Black Sea. More than 400 Somalis, mostly women and children died and more than 1000 wounded, according to Red Cross officials who visited the area after the carnage following the downing of Black Hawk helicopters by Somali gunmen.

But the Somalis said the real figure of the dead people was double that number. They knew it because it was they themselves who buried their dead in shallow graves with their own bare hands.

It was known as Sunday Afternoon Massacre.

In a situation like that, according to the Rules of Engagement, occupants of buildings are given amble time to flee in a language they can understand through a Loudspeaker to minimize civilian casualties, or what's euphemistically called Collateral Damage. But UN spokesman, Colonel Montgomery said all the inhabitants in Aideed's stronghold, including women, children and a 96-year-old blind man, were armed combatants who killed UN peacekeepers and American soldiers.
"They had their daily council of war in those derelict buildings," he said. There was a high-pitched hysterical laughter and boos among the foreign journalists present at his briefing.

Forty-eight hours later the Pakistanis opened fire on demonstrators who protested against the presence of foreign troops in the country, which they said were testing the new American weapons on the Somali people. Many people, mostly women and children lost their lives.

To quell demonstrations the sophisticated world use water cannons, but in Mogadishu the Blue Helmets used modern weaponry and rapid-fire action. It seems that they borrowed a leaf from Arthur Marcinko's novel "Rogue Warrior", that says: "verily thou art not paid for the methods, but for thy results by which meaneth thou shelt kill thine enemy by any means available before he killeth you."

Questions still persisted why the Habar-gedir elders was not told to surrender before using the deadly laser-guided missiles that decimated them. UNOSOM and CIA officials were fully aware that the meeting was not a war council but an attempt to remove Aideed and open lines of communications with the United Nations and the Americans, according to a lone survivor of the carnage.
"This was yet another full-fledged war council," the UN spokesman insisted again.

Nothing new about that: the world body's representatives made such disparaging comments before. Remember the Congo when the Prime Minister, Patrice Lumumba was assassinated under the UN flag, (because it was alleged that he was a Marxist), and when for the first time in the history of the world body more than 40 UN peacekeepers were killed in a single encounter with Congolese resistance? Remember Beirut when bloody violence dismembered the once beautiful Lebanon along religious lines? Remember Liberia, Rwanda, Vietnam, Cambodia, Afghanistan, Bosnia (where tens of thousands of Muslim men and boys were massacred by Serbian forces in front of UN peacekeepers), Northern Ireland…

But the Somali atrocities is unique in that it's not religious or sectarian, instead clan warlords battle for food or to control this or that street with impunity, because they were aware that no one in the world gives damn about Somalis killing Somalis anymore.

To be continued…
By M. M. Afrah©2003,

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