Aideed’s enemies say attacks could give peace a second chance



 

Mark Huband in Mogadishu

The Guardian , 16 June 1993

 

THE Somali warlord Ali Mahdi Mohammed yesterday demanded that United Nations forces capitalise on their recent destruction of the arms dumps of his arch-rival, General Mohammed Farah Aideed, by moving to arrest him.

Leading members of Mr Ali Mahdi’s alliance of 11 political factions also warned that the attacks on Gen Aideed’s power base in the capital had created a political vacuum that could prolong rather than shorten the violence gripping the country.

They were speaking amid continuing displays of hostility towards the UN forces, and towards the US in particular in whose recent air attacks 15 people have died. At the weekend a further 20 were killed when Pakistani , troops opened fire on a demonstration in the traditionally pro-Aideed southern suburbs of the capital.

“The military action was the only answer. I’m sure [the UN] have tried many times to deal peacefully, but Aideed never accepted it,” said Mr Ali Mahdi. “We have tried many times to convince [the UN] of the reality, and I’m sure that if Aideed ever comes again to the negotiating table the Somalis will never reach any peace. Aideed and his group should be removed completely from the country. There’s no role for him here, and the UN has to see it in the same way.”

Mr Ali Mahdi’s military alliance was on the point of attacking Gen Aideed when 28,000 American troops were sent to Somalia on December 9. This deprived them of the opportunity to restart the war and, according to them, end his control of southern Mogadishu.

But throughout the past year of attempts to bring the factions together, the UN’s political role has been tempered by the need to avoid conflict with any side to keep corridors for humanitarian relief open.

Now, the UN has to seize a second chance to try to engineer a peace settlement. “After the raids the UN should call a conciliation conference. And they should arrest Aideed, for they are prolonging the process by not arresting him,” said Mr Ali Mahdi, who controls north Mogadishu.

The UN’s key consideration now is how to assess the extent to which Somalis should be left to control the peace process, free from UN interference.

“We have reported to the UN that they should take the initiative of disarming the people. If they do that it will be very easy for them, and all the people in the area under the control of the 11 clans are ready to give back their weapons,” said Awad Ahamed Asbarh, vice-chairman of the joint committee on which these allied clans are represented.

“The UN lost its first chance. So now it’s the second chance for Unosom. They have to go house to house and disarm all the people,” he said.

Mr Ali Mahdi’s supporters have refrained from capitalising too openly on the UN attacks against Gen Aideed, preferring to stress the fact that they are the result of past mistakes by the UN. There is a feeling within Mr Ali Mahdi’s alliance that the military strikes have created a void.

“These raids have the impact of retarding the process because it diverts the attention and resources away from the restoration of peace and tranquility in Somalia,” said Mr Asbarh.

Relief workers, faction leaders and even military personnel speaking privately, blame the failure of the American troops to disarm the gunmen when they arrived in December for the continued crisis in the country. Somali public opinion was then very much in favour of the gunmen being disarmed.

Now, in an atmosphere of heightened political tension, many people want to keep their guns to defend themselves. Numerous sources have said that the price and demand for plastic sheeting has risen in the past week as people wrap up their machine guns and bury them in case of future trouble.

 

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