US officials meet Aideed allies



Mark Huband in Mogadishu

The Guardian, 24 July 1993


US officials have met two leaders of the Habergidir clan of the Somali warlord, General Mohammed Farah Aideed, it emerged yesterday. The two had demanded talks in a bid to end the conflict with the United Nations following the killing of Pakistani members of the force last month.

The leaders, Ahmed Rage and Abdikasim Salad Hassan, head of the supreme council of the Habergidir, which was established this week apparently with Gen Aideed’s approval to distribute power equally among the clan’s five sub-clans.

However, in a sign of friction inside the clan, a statement broadcast on a pro-Aideed radio station on Thursday night appeared to condemn any attempts at reconciliation with the UN.

Using the fundamentalist rhetoric which Gen Aideed himself adopted just before he went into hiding, the statement said Somalis “psychologically supporting” the US and the UN would be considered to have rejected the prophet Mohammed.

The two clan leaders, former senior officials of Somalia’s deposed dictator, Mohamed Siad Barre, insisted on meeting the US officials after initially being told by a UN political officer that such a meeting was impossible.

“There are two factions within the Habergidir,” said Dr Abdikassim in an interview yesterday. “They are both sensing the current danger, They want to overcome that. It’s not just danger for the Habergidir, but for the country as a whole. We don’t want to be seen as the clan that is destabilising the country.

“Aideed is aware of all these processes, and he has played a role and welcomes these decisions of the Habergidir. The UN role is not to kill people, but to mediate and establish peace.”

In separate talks, the UN special representative to Somalia, Admiral Jonathon Howe, has met Habergidir “Moryan” gunmen, who claimed to represent the youth wing of Gen Aideed’s United Somali Congress.

According to a political source who attended the meeting, the Moryan had backed Gen Aideed because he allowed them to take whatever property they could loot. Since he had gone into hiding from the UN and could no longer give them what they wanted, their commitment to him appeared to be diminishing, the source claimed.

Dr Abdikasim, a member of the Habergidir’s Ayr sub-clan which has influence because it traditionally provided Gen Aideed’s United Somali Congress with its fighters, claimed the clan’s moderate and hardline wings had been united by the UN’s military onslaught despite long-standing differences.

“Everyone is at the centre because of the situation here. The military campaign didn’t contribute to changing anyone’s mind. Instead it led to people rallying behind Aideed,” he said.

But he added: “To be a president of this country you have to have the consensus of the majority of the people, and neither [Aideed’s main rival] Ali Mahdi nor Aideed have that.”

Conciliators within the Habergidir believe Gen Aideed should stand trial in a neutral court, and defend himself against the accusation that he ordered the ambush which led to the 23 Pakistani deaths on June 5.

“If the UN has a case then the USC will participateā€¦Aideed would participate, but he has followers who would be outraged if he were captured. So there’s no way he will give himself up. That would be to poison himself or kill himself,” Dr Abdikasim said.


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