UN troops will face Somali bandit threat to food aid


Mark Huband in Nairobi

The Guardian, 9 September 1992


UNITED NATIONS troops face the prospect of armed conflict with bandits and looters when they finally arrive in I the Somali capital of Mogadishu on Saturday to guard convoys of relief food for up to 11.5 million starving people.

An advance party of 60 Pakistani troops will arrive in the city and will be followed by a further 440 Pakistanis on September 20, the force’s commander, Brigadier General Imtiaz Shaheen, said yesterday. They will be confined to guarding food convoys in the city, as agreed between the UN and leaders of the Somali National Alliance (SNA), a four-member coalition of warring groups in the country led by General Mohamed Farah Aideed.

The troops’ arrival comes two weeks after a car carrying three UN ceasefire observers was shot at in Mogadishu. Two were wounded.

The SNA faction leaders, as well as armed bandits determined to steal hundreds of tonnes of relief food of which they will be deprived when the troops take up positions at Mogadishu port and airport, are determined that the UN should not undermine their authority or access to food, the main currency in the country.

The attack and statements by Gen Aideed and another coalition leader, Abdi Warsarme Isak, objecting to a planned 3,000 more UN troops arriving in the next few months, have made the UN’s role increasingly precarious.

As airlifts to the interior are launched to prevent a population drift to the city by providing food in towns and villages, security outside Mogadishu is becoming of greater concern.

A US food airlift, which has taken 300 tonnes of World Food Programme food into Somalia, last week began taking food into the famine-struck town of Baidoa. Security is still a major problem there and food is stolen and resold openly in the town’s market.

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