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TALKING POINT : SOMALIA'S EXODUS - PART SIX- CHRONICLING THE SEQUENCE 1993/1995
TAKING POINT BY
M.M. AFRAH
Toronto (Canada)

7, Aug. 2003

SOMALIA'S EXODUS - PART SIX
Email: afrah95@hotmail.com
M. M. Afrah

PART SIX
AN EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT


General Aideed who crossed three continents, first India (as an Ambassador), Italy and then Ethiopia to take over the leadership of the United Somali Congress (USC) to dislodge President Barre, did not anticipate encountering such formidable obstacles before reaching his goal-the Presidency.

Gunning for the office of the Presidency has become his obsession since General Barre and his Somali Revolutionary Council (SRC) came to power in a military coup in October1969. Aideed was not included in that Council, which was supposed to rule the country by consensus, until General Barre decided to run the country's affairs by decree without consulting with the other 20 members of the SRC.

General Aideed's cronies, Salad Gabere, Abdulkadir Dhel, Khorshel and others have been sidelined in the day-to-day affairs of state by the "inner circle" and the trio was latterly dubbed as "Sama Diids," meaning those who object the good deeds of the Revolution. Salad Gabere and his associates have been executed by a firing squad. Aideed was spared from the firing squad but was detained in a remote detention center for hatching up his own coup among young disgruntled army officers.


General Aideed was a bitter man.


ALI MAHDI
After Barre's downfall in 1990/91 it was the Manifesto Group led by Ali Mahdi Mohamed who denied him to take over the national radio station and eventually Villa Somalia, the seat of power. And now the Americans and the United Nations Operations for Somalia (UNOSOM). No. He will fight to the end, because whoever holds Mogadishu controls the rest of Somalia, he believed. Moreover, he has been pushed around and bullied for too long that he decided it was time to fight back in order to achieve what was due to him.

After bungling the latest operations to catch the general, Italian soldiers and French Foreign Legionnaires, with orders from UN High Command, attacked Digfer General Hospital where Aideed was thought to have been holed up with 150 of his gunmen. They stormed the hospital, but failed to capture the elusive general. It was said that he was in the basement (Digfer is the only building in Mogadishu with a basement), but managed to get away with his gunmen through a back door to one of his numerous hideouts. Hospital workers said gunmen on the roof of the hospital had alerted him.

The UN posse has come "within a hairs breadth" of catching Aideed, Admiral Howe said. But many Somalis who knew the man said he is in deep cover and there would be "a big price" to pay in terms of human lives before he is captured.

In Washington, a spokesperson for Bill Clinton, a young Governor from Arkansas, who now occupied the White House, said the President approved the air strikes and the operations would continue.

The Americans alleged that Aideed was using women and children as human shield and it is hard to get to him without first eliminating those women and children. "And that means mass slaughter," a Marine Colonel told Reuters. "It is like looking for a needle in a haystack," he added with a grin.

ANOTHER MIX-UP

Ahmed Jilaow Abdi is a balding gray-haired man in his late sixties. He was chief of Siyad Barre's National Security Service (NSS), Banadir Region and one time mayor of Mogadishu. He currently co-chairs the UN Police Committee and helps re-organize the Somali Police Force, which disintegrated during the anarchy.

The smiling soft-spoken Jilaow resembles Aideed, but is several inches taller than the wanted man. He also belongs to the Abgal clan, which are staunch supporters of the United Nations presence in Somalia. Nevertheless, dozens of crack American troops slid ropes from their hovering helicopters just as prominent Abgal elders, including a former Vice President, were meeting in Jilaow's villa in Ali Mahdi stronghold, the last place Aideed would ever hide, and arrested the Abgal elders. The soldiers thought they were arresting General Aideed and his aides, despite denial by Jilaow that he was not the fugitive general.

But when a soldier hit him with a rifle butt he admitted he was the wanted man! The U.N. spokesman was mysteriously silent about the mistaken identity, saying only that the Abgal elders were released few hours later.

"This is an example of misleading intelligence reports the Americans are fed with by people who pose as bona fide informers," said Ahmed after the ordeal.

Aideed himself surfaced to give a television interview to ABC in which he denied for the June 5 ambush of the Pakistani soldiers.
"I am here in Mogadishu and I am protected by God and my people;" he told the American television reporter, the second he gave to American television reporters since he went underground.

RIFT BETWEEN COALTION FORCES

A professor of the defunct Somali University at Lafoole said that the United Nations Security Council and the man in the White House are engaged in a political kung fu in far away Washington and New York unaware of the excesses being committed by their representatives in a little known African country.

To drive his arguments home the professor pointed at the escalating rift between the United States officials on one hand and its Western allies, notably the Italians, the French and the UN Secretary General on the other on the Somalia policy,

Communications and the chain of Command had eroded beyond restoration. Cracks appeared when the Italian contingent of the coalition forces renewed a fresh dialogue with the traditional elders over the heads of the US/UN Command after the abortive operations to capture general Aideed. Whatever happened to the normal chain of command in Somalia? There was none; there were U.N. military commanders, American special envoys from the Pentagon, the State Department and spooks from the CIA, all vying for control of forces that used different radio frequencies, ammunition and spoke in half a dozen different languages.

But it was the Americans who had the last say in policy matters and logistics with no one taking responsibility for anything. As a result the much-hyped unified command (UNITAF) quickly fell apart.

The Italians who felt they were being sidelined in Somalia, their former colony, brought the dispute between the coalition forces and the Americans to the open. Kofi Annan who was then the U.N. Under Secretary for Peacekeeping forces, at a press briefing, to explain U.N. operations in Somalia, said Italy's Commander, General Bruno Loi, would be sent home and his 1,400 troops transferred out of Mogadishu for taking orders from Rome rather than from the United Nations Command in Mogadishu.

In Rome, Defense Minister Fabbio Fabri, reacted angrily, saying: "General Loi has carried out instructions from the Italian Government. He has never acted of his own alone."

That remark went to the core of the dispute that the Italian units took orders from Rome, which Mr. Annan said was "unacceptable". Senior American officials said there had been difficulties with the Italians for quite a while. "They have a different agenda. This is not standard operating procedures," the officials said. Other U.N. Officials told the press hounds that the Italian troops attempted to begin their own negotiations with Aideed outside of the U.N. Command.

In a rejoinder the Italians also strongly denied accusations that they paid Somali gunmen not to attack them-Mafia-style protection, which the Italians are good at it. But there was no prove to substantiate the allegations.

So the Italians have decided to try to ride out the storm of accusations against them. With backing from Rome, General Bruno Loi was glowing with success for the first time, imitating General Graziani after "defeating" Fascist Italy's number one enemy of state, the Libyan hero Omar Mukhtar, the Lion of the Desert, who inflicted heavy damages on successive Italian expeditionary forces in Libya for more than two decades.

In an effort to save face, UN Secretary-General Butros Ghali appealed to the United States not to pull out of Somalia, because the UN mission was doomed to failure if US forces and other countries pull out before a peace is implemented, "the warlords will believe that the world was not interested in peace."


Former UN Secretary-General Butros Ghali


CLINTON'S POPULARITY RATE PLUMMETS

In an interview with Washington Post he repeated that if the United States and other countries halted their efforts to disarm the warring clans, the warlords would realize that the world was not determined for peace to be restored.

Senator Sam Nunn, the Chairman of the Senate Armed Forces Committee said that expanding the peacekeeping mission in Somalia was a mistake and it's time for Congress to narrow the U.S. role there so it has a definable ending point.

Earlier Senator Robert Byrd of Virginia, a member of President Clinton's party called for a rapid withdrawal before more Americans are killed. "I think that the capture of one person is not going to end this," Senator Byrd said.

Ironically, the force fighting the United Nations and the Americans, with their hi-tech weaponry, helicopter gunships and night vision goggles, was made up of a few hundred irregulars clad in sarongs and flip-flops or beach sandals with little or no military training. The U.S. Marines quickly dubbed them "the skinnies." Many of them are not taller than the average M-16 assault rifle.

President Clinton's newly-found popularity at home was jeopardized by strong disapproval of his Somalia policy.
"This is a policy that is incredibly in disarray," Senator John McCain, a Republican from Arizona, said of Clinton's Somalia policy in an interview with CBS's "FACE THE NATION."

The capture of an American pilot and the death of 18 soldiers, the downing of two Black Hawk helicopter gunships and the dragging the dead body of an American soldier in the streets of south Mogadishu changed Bill Clinton's popularity rate. A Gallup poll published by USA TODAY/CNN said two thirds of Americans do not believe that the U.S. policy in Somalia was a success.

To make matters worse for Bill Clinton, jubilant women and children danced with strips of human flesh dangling from sticks and dragged the remains of three more American soldiers in streets and market places, with young boys trying to get piece of the action. Other youths jovially danced on the carcass of the downed helicopters. The Rangers run out of ammunition and some of them were fatally wounded in the most belligerent firefight never witnessed in Mogadishu before.

Later, Malaysian contingents of the international coalition forces in armored cars drove to the scene to rescue the surviving members of the Delta Force. The Somalis respected members of the Malaysian unit and as a result a temporary truce was declared to allow the Malaysians to collect the dead, the wounded and the surviving soldiers.

These gruesome scenes prompted Washington to insist it will not give in to brutal warlords. "The brutality of the warlords would not thwart efforts to win peace in Somalia," a Whitehouse spokesman said.

Four of my colleagues were also killed after angry mobs attacked them at the scene of a U.N. air raid on one of Aideed's command post. At least two other journalists were wounded during the attack in which Reuters press photographers Dan Eldon, Hos Maina, television soundman Anthony Macharaia and Associated Press (AP) photographer Hansi Krauss died.

A correspondent for Italian State Television, Ms. Ilaria Alpi, returned safely to the Hotel Saxafi at K4 that housed most of the international press after being reported missing. She said she escaped the mob by hiding between two milch cows!

Ms. Alpi and her Somali driver and a bodyguard were killed during her second assignment in Mogadishu in December 1994.

In an abrupt switch of policy the United States and the United Nations dropped the hunt for Aideed in "favor of a new inquiry." President Clinton, facing public pressure at home to "Bring the Boys Home", started to pull out U.S. Special Forces who were sent to specifically lead the chase.

"In trying to catch Aideed the Americans have been using a sledge-hammer to crack a nut," wrote a reporter for the Italian weekly EPOCA in his last dispatch from Somalia.

CONCLUSION

Did the US succeed in Somalia? This is the question, which goes in the minds of many people as the American, Canadian, Australian and European forces handed over responsibility to Pakistani, Indian, Egyptian, Malaysian, Nigerian, Zimbabwean and a number of third world troops.

"Stopping the famine was a success, but the Americans were waiting to see a government formed in this place in the middle of nowhere," Reuters quoted a U.S. serviceman as saying. "But the whole shenanigan was turned to a personal vendetta and the hunt for one man," he added.

Other U.S. servicemen said that the people of the United States would only remember the scene of soldiers shot dead and their bodies being dragged through the streets. That scene will remain vividly in their minds whenever Somalia or Somalis are mentioned.

US Ambassador, Robert Oakley was quoted as saying that as many as 10,000 Somalis have been killed between June and October 1993 when the U.N. violated the "the first axiom" of peacekeeping by taking sides in a civil conflict. The Ambassador did not say which side the U.N. backed, but said the spectres of the US-let forces taking up arms in a Muslim country provoked "meaningful input" in Somalia by Libya, Iraq, Iran and Sudan.

Somalis laughed when they heard the Ambassador's comment, because for one thing the militia never needed an input from the countries the Ambassador had mentioned. Reason? When the former military dictator fled the country he left behind huge stockpiles of weapons he had accumulated during the last two decades. This included multiple rocket launchers known as BM, SAM6s, hundreds of T55 Soviet-made tanks, armoured personnel carriers (APCs) tens of thousands of RPGs (rocket propelled grenades), 85mm mortars, long range artillery guns, hundreds of thousands of machineguns and millions of ammunitions and hand grenades, enough arsenals to equip the armed forces of three African countries. However, the only input the mainstream Somali people urgently needed was food aid, medicines, clean drinking water and an end to the mayhem. But none of these was forthcoming from the oil-rich Arab countries, despite repeated appeals by well-meaning Somali intellectuals. Somalia, a full member of the Arab League and the Islamic Conference Organization (ICO) was abandoned to the vultures.

Paradoxically, General Aideed, the most wanted man by the United States and the U.N. was flown aboard a U.S. military aircraft (the same aircraft that dropped laser-guided missiles to his command post!) for a peace talks in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, which draw heavy criticism in the United States.

U.S. Military officers vowed to fight any plans to bring Aideed back to Mogadishu. The earlier trip was arranged by the State Department.

He was later killed in action during an offensive against his archenemy. His son, Hussein, a U.S. Marine corporal, filled his father's shoes and vowed to avenge his father's death. At the age of 32 the Western media described him as Africa's youngest warlord.

The good news is that, with all those foreign soldiers in the country, (more than 40,000) Somalia survived the Aids holocaust. Despite the prevailing merciless conditions in the country, the Somali women unwaveringly refused to expose themselves to the deadly HIV virus. KUDOS to the Somali women!

THE END


By M. M. Afrah©2003,
Email: afrah95@hotmail.com


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