Somalia to let UN guard aid convoys




Mark Huband in Mogadishu

The Guardian, 12 August 1992

United Nations troops will arrive in the Somali capital within weeks after a breakthrough in negotiations between UN representatives and four main faction leaders.

Until now these factions, united as the Somali Alliance (SNA), have refused a UN military presence, on the grounds that it would constitute an occupation by invading forces.

The UN special envoy to Somalia, Mohamed Sahnoun, last night confirmed that the SNA leader,  General Mohamed Farah Aideed, had agreed to the deployment of 500 UN troops to guard  Mogadishu port. UN troops will also guard convoys of relief food travelling to as many as 1.5 million people facing starvation, Mr Sahnoun said.

“General Aideed has accepted the deployment of security personnel in the port of Mogadishu and to delivery points and centres of food distribution. However, negotiations are still going on,” he said, adding that conditions on deployment had still to be discussed. He refused to elaborate.

He confirmed that Gen Aideed’s main rival, the interim president, Ali Mahdi Mohamed, who has called for a 100,000-strong UN force, had agreed to the deployment.

Mr Sahnoun met Mr Ali Mahdi yesterday, at a meeting attended by the Irish foreign minister,  David Andrews, who is visiting the country. Mr Sahnoun is to meet Gen Aideed at his base in the western Somali town of Bardera today, where the final details of the troop deployment will be worked out.

Permission to have the convoys guarded by UN troops outside the port is an important breakthrough, as Gen Aideed had not appeared ready to see UN forces spread out into territory under his control, other than the port.

Mogadishu port contains 7,000 tonnes of food provided by the UN World Food Programme, and 2,000 tonnes of French government food aid on board a ship. Distribution is being hampered by routine theft from the port and during transport to famine areas.

The diplomatic breakthrough welcomed by relief agencies, who have had food stolen and staff threatened by armed fighters.

David Shearer, director of the Save The Children Fund’s operations in Somalia, said: “If the Somali people are happy about the UN troops coming and it means that more food is able to come in, then we are delighted. The key is that people accept the UN troops as a humanitarian protection force rather than an occupation force.”

The UN security council approved the dispatch of 500 troops last month, to provide security for the port and food convoys.

The UN’s chief military observer in Mogadishu, Brigadier­General  Amtiar  Shaheen, said last night that troops likely to be sent from Pakistan could ready within days and could arrive in Somalia within a week. Other  troops  are  expected  to come from Indonesia and possibly Egypt.


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