New outbreak of fighting hampers Somali aid effort






Mark Huband in Nairobi

The Guardian, 16 October 1992

FIERCE fighting between rival Somali clans has left relief operations in turmoil and disrupted peace negotiations by exposing the weakness of clan leaders with whom top United Nations officials had been trying to negotiate.

Forces of the Somali National Front swept into the north-west town of Bardera on Tuesday and are now threatening to advance to Baidoa and the port town of Kismayu. Until last week Bardera was the headquarters of Somalia’s main clan coalition, the Somali National Alliance, led by General Mohamed Farah Aideed.

SNF forces, led by General Siad Hersi Morgan, had been encamped 30 miles from Bardera for months, and timed their attack on the town to coincide with Gen Aideed’s first visit to the capital, Mogadishu, since April. SNA leaders are planning a counter-offensive, spokesmen in Mogadishu said yesterday.

Gen Morgan, the son-in-law of Somalia’s former dictator, Mohamed Siad Barre, who was overthrown by forces under Gen Aideed in January 1991, has been hovering around Somalia’s southern border region ever since he was driven into Kenya earlier this year.

More than 200,000 people live in 104 villages surrounding Bardera. All of them are totally reliant on food distributed by the American relief organisation Care International. In Bardera itself, Care has been feeding 60,000 people who arrived as refugees from fighting elsewhere in Somalia.

All relief flights to Bardera have been suspended and aid workers who were moved out on Tuesday said the town was almost deserted after people fled the fighting. However, Unicef is planning to meet an SNF request for medicines to be flown to the town tomorrow.

Relief organisations have withdrawn half the 50 foreign aid workers in Baidoa, 150 miles north of Mogadishu, in fear of the fighting spreading to the town from Bardera 90 miles away.

© Guardian Newspapers Limited