Aideed allies test UN plan for Somalia



Mark Huband in Mogadishu

The Guardian, 22 July 1993


SENIOR clan leaders allied to the renegade Somali warlord, Mohammed Farah Aideed defied United Nations’ attempts to obliterate their political influence yesterday by forming an alliance to confront the increasingly violent foreign intervention in the country.

In a desperate bid to avert their eclipse, leaders of Gen Aideed’s beleaguered Habergidir clan decided with his apparent agreement to dilute their leader’s influence by forming a supreme council of the Habergidir which does not include Gen Aideed himself, but upon which its four sub-clans are equally represented. At present Gen Aideed’s Saad sub-clan is a dominant force.

The emergence of the supreme council will be the strongest test yet of the UN’s commitment to allow Somalis to take the lead in the political reconstruction of their country. While the UN has used radio and newspaper propaganda, as well as leaflet drops, to claim that it is not the enemy of the Habergidir but simply wants to capture Gen Aideed, it has failed to convince the Somalis besieged in Mogadishu.

The existence of the council could allow the UN to restart direct discussions with Gen Aideed’s supporters.

The meeting at which the council was initially to have been established was attacked by American Cobra helicopters earlier this month. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross (lCRC) 16 Tow missiles were fired in Mogadishu on July 12, killing 54 people.

It now appears almost certain that Gen Aideed, who has been in hiding in Mogadishu since the UN issued a warrant for his arrest on June 17, attended that           meeting but left before it was bombed. According to sources who are in regular contact with his inner circle, he may have been tipped off about the UN plan to attack. Claims by diplomatic sources in Mogadishu that Italian UN troops, unhappy about American domination of the UN operation, warned him of the attack have been strongly denied by the Italian government.

The UN denies the ICRC casualty figure, saying that up to 20 people died. The UN military spokeswoman, Major Leann Swieczkowski, said that photographs taken inside the building showed it was Gen Aideed’s “forward command centre”, but that the UN military photographer’s camera had broken so evidence of the number of deaths was not recorded.

Among those killed was Sheikh Mohammed Iman, the religious leader of Gen Aideed’s Saad sub-clan, who had met Admiral Jonathon Howe, the UN special representative in Somalia, for discussions only three days before. The attack also left at least one member of the Hawardley clan dead.

The deaths throw the UN’s competence into doubt. On July 9, Hawardley leaders approached Adm Howe with a request for support in their attempts to reconstitute the United Somali Congress militia as a Hawardley-controlled organisation which would also incorporate other clans, including Gen Aideed’s Habergidir. The USC was run by Gen Aideed and his rival Mogadishu warlord Ali Mahdi Mohammed until Gen Aideed assumed the chairmanship in 1991.

Hawardley control of the USC would have allowed the UN to deal with the most powerful single military faction in the country, with which it currently has no formal contact.


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