Key Somali faction welcomes UN troops


Way paved for 3,000 more blue berets to guard food aid


Mark Huband in Mogadishu

The Guardian, 15 September 1992


SENIOR officials from one of Somalia’s most powerful warring factions yesterday welcomed the first contingent of United Nations troops sent to guard food relief convoys, and signalled growing acceptance of the further 3,000 troops expected to be sent to Somalia soon.

Thirty-six troops from Pakistan’s Frontier Force, artillery and engineer regiments were brought by United States’ Air Force C-l30 transport planes from Islamabad via Djibouti. Another 20 troops will arrive today and 440 by September 25.

The troops’ chief operations officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Mohammed Parvaiz, said his troops were there to guard the humanitarian relief effort which was aimed at saving the lives of the estimated 2 million people facing starvation.

In an important gesture, Abdulkarim Ali, the secretary-general of one of the main factions in the civil war, the United Somali Congress, signalled its approval of the troops’ arrival by greeting them at Mogadishu airport, which is under USC control.

“The USC doesn’t feel that the UN is going to take over the country, but there are some people at the UN in New York who don’t care about Somalia and don’t know what is going on. Let them see the situation on the ground, like [UN special envoy Mohamed] Sahnoun. He knows the reality and we hope the UN will support him,” Mr Ali said.

The USC had objected that any UN military deployment was an infringement of Somalia’s sovereignty. But in an admission of the USC’s inability to discipline even its own fighters, Mr Ali said the leadership was likely to accept the deployment of 3,000 more troops, though it would take time to convince its soldiers to accept them. A UN presence will deprive the soldiers of the opportunity to steal relief food.

The issue of UN troops has been complicated by internal conflict among Somalia’s clan-based factions. The USC’s main enemy, the interim president, Ali Mahdi Mohamed, called for 10,000 UN troops to be sent, and will treat yesterday’s arrivals as a personal victory.

Britain’s Minister for Overseas Development, Baroness Lynda Chalker, met the Pakistani troops during a three-hour visit to Mogadishu.

© Guardian Newspapers Limited