Somali Peace Talks Look Doomed As Fighting Erupts
By Aidan Hartley
February 12, 1992
NAIROBI, Feb 12, Reuter - United Nations efforts to promote peace in Somalia appeared doomed to failure as fierce fighting erupted in the capital Mogadishu on Wednesday, relief sources said.
"There has been heavy, indiscriminate shelling that has hit three hospitals and numerous fires are reported," said a relief official, adding 16 people had been killed and 146 wounded.
Mogadishu warlords Mohamed Farah Aideed and Ali Mahdi Mohamed will not attend U.N.-sponsored talks due to open on Wednesday in New York. Both have both sent delegations to represent them.
At least 4,000 civilians have been killed since the latest round of bloodletting between Aideed and Ali Mahdi's clan-based forces started on November 17.
Relief workers in contact with Mogadishu by radio said Aideed's militia forces were trying to force Ali Mahdi out of his stronghold in the capital's northern districts.
"Aideed is trying to gain the upper hand at the talks," said one relief official.
Heads of the Organisation of African Unity, the Arab League and the Islamic Conference Organisation are due to attend the New York talks called by U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali.
"A ceasefire is on everyone's agenda, but if they get one how long will it last on the ground?" said a Western diplomat.
Somalia has disintegrated into anarchy since guerrillas ousted former dictator Mohamed Siad Barre from Mogadishu and switched to feuding with each other along ethnic lines over a year ago.
No recognised government exists and water, electricity and telephone services have collapsed in the rubble-strewn capital and other towns.
About 4.5 million Somalis could be facing starvation, relief sources said. Hundreds of thousands have fled Mogadishu to escape fighting and refugees are flocking to the neighbouring states of Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti, relief sources said.
Several attempts by the United Nations and other international bodies to broker a truce between Ali Mahdi and Aideed -- both members of the Hawiye clan who are apparently struggling for the post of president -- have failed.
Diplomats said that the warlords each control about 2,000 men. But they estimate a further 16,000 armed youths are roaming the capital's streets.
"A ceasefire is an unattainable goal because of the number of "free guns' in Mogadishu in the hands of looters and bandits, and the complete lack of discipline among troops," said a statement from the independent human rights group Africa Watch.
Africa Watch predicted the New York talks would fail and condemned the U.N. condition that a ceasefire must be settled before a major humanitarian operation can be mounted for Somalia.
In a letter to Boutros-Ghali, the Washington-based group accused the United Nations of a belated and inadequate response to Somalia's crisis.
© 1992 Reuters Limited
Warring Somalia Factions Agree to Meet at U.N.
By JANE PERLEZ
February 08, 1992
The New York Times
NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb. 7 -- In a major effort to end the 10-week-old fighting in the Somali capital of Mogadishu, a senior United Nations official said here today that both sides in the conflict had agreed to attend a meeting in New York next Wednesday.
The official, Under Secretary General James O. C. Jonah, said an attempt would be made at the meeting to reach a cease-fire. The United Nations estimates that more than 20,000 people, most of them women and children, have been killed or wounded in the battle for control of Mogadishu.
A team of United Nations officials flew to Somalia on Wednesday to deliver invitations to the leaders of the clan-based war. Mr. Jonah said the interim President of Somalia, Mohamed Ali Mahdi, had agreed to attend the meeting in New York personally and that his opponent, Gen. Mohamed Farah Aidid, said he would send three representatives.
The battle of Mogadishu pits the forces of General Aidid, the military leader of the United Somali Congress, against those of Mr. Ali Mahdi, who is also a member of the United Somali Congress. Both are members of the same tribe, the Hawiye, but belong to different clans.
Each man says he is the rightful leader of Somalia, a desert country of about seven million, mostly nomadic people on the Horn of Africa. Somalia has been in almost total anarchy since President Mohammed Siad Barre, the country's leader for 21 years, was ousted by troops of the United Somali Congress in January 1991.
The United Nations, which came under heavy criticism from the United States for its slow response to the fighting in Mogadishu, has taken an increased interest in trying to intercede since the new Secretary General, Boutros Ghali, took office last month.
This was a reflection of two factors, Mr. Jonah suggested. A "new mood" at the United Nations Security Council allowed for more involvement in internal disputes that had international ramifications, he said. And Mr. Jonah said that as a former Egyptian Foreign Minister, Mr. Ghali had dealt frequently with Somalia.
Mr. Jonah said that the Security Council had not voted to send a peacekeeping force to Somalia but that an offer had come from the new Government of Eritrea for its troops to be part of such a force should it be formed.
Despite the new attention to the bloodshed in Mogadishu, there was some skepticism today about the likelihood of a cease-fire.
Alex de Waal, the associate director of Africa Watch, a human rights group based in New York and London, said fighting in Mogadishu was particularly heavy on Thursday, the day after the United Nations team left. Mr. de Waal, who left the city today after six days there, said both sides engaged in heavy artillery shelling, which accounted for about 75 percent of the casualties.
© Copyright 1992 The New York Times Company. All Rights Reserved.
Hirab's Peace Initiative Welcomed
February 07, 1994
NAIROBI, Feb. 5 (IPS) -- The U.S. State Department director of East African affairs, David Shinn, today welcomed the encouraging and positive signs of reconciliation in the war-torn country.
"The process of political reconciliation has still a long way to go, but there has been an encouraging start," said Shinn.
He added that although the United States was withdrawing militarily in March, it was still going to play a major role in the rehabilitation of the country.
But he warned the increasing banditry in the country may have a depressing effect on donors and relief agencies.
"If Somalis continue attacks on non-governmental organizations and relief agencies, they may be abandoned by both donors and these agencies."
Shinn referred to Hirab's peace initiative which led to an accord between the Habr Gedir sub-clan of Gen. Mohammed Farah Aidid and the Abgal sub-clan of Ali Mahdi, both of the Hawiye ethnic group.
He said the resolution of the conflict among the Hawiyes was a promising sign as was the release of the remaining eight detainees of Aidid's Somali National Alliance (SNA), including Osman Ato, a close aide of the general.
Self-imposed Somali President Ali Mahdi yesterday also admitted his arch rival -- Gen. Aidid -- is showing "flexibility and positive signs for reconciliation."
Mahdi, who heads the Somali Salvation Alliance (SSA) which includes twelve factions opposed to the SNA, said there were concerted efforts for political reconciliation and formation of a transitional government in Somalia.
"I am hopeful of a positive result as General Aidid has shown some flexibility and positive signs," said Ali Mahdi.
He lauded the role of the Pakistani troops stationed in Somalia and urged the Asian country to send additional troops to fill up the vacuum being created by the withdrawal of the United States and other Western European troops.
"UNOSOM (the U.N. Operation in Somalia) must not be abandoned until the restoration of peace and stability in Somalia," he pleaded.
© Copyright 1994 Global Information Network