Date: Sat, 9 Dec 1995 17:24:11 GMT-5
Reply-To: H-NET List for African History <H-AFRICA@msu.edu>
Sender: H-NET List for African History <H-AFRICA@msu.edu>
From: H-AFRICA—-Mel Page <AFRICA@ETSUARTS.EAST-TENN-ST.EDU>
Organization: East Tennessee State University
Subject: REPLY: Pres. Aideed’s Somalia
To: Multiple recipients of list H-AFRICA <H-AFRICA@msu.edu>
Date sent: Thu, 07 Dec 1995
From: Walter Clarke, US Foreign Service, retired <firstname.lastname@example.org>
According to the most recent Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) report on Somalia (29 November), there are more than one million Somalis who remain dependent on emergency food aid. A UNICEF spokesman in Kismayu calls for more foreign assistance to Somalia on 1 December.
On 5 December, Reuters reports that three militiamen were killed in Mogadishu in fighting between Habr Gedir sub-groups. In Cairo, opponents to Somali warlord Aideed complain that Libya is supporting him. On 2 December, 15 militiamen are reportedly killed in skirmishes between Murusade and Abgal near Mogadishu. The Somalia disaster is still with us.
I continue to mull over the recent articles by Harold Marcus on H-Africa and Frank Crigler in *The Washington Post*. The authors are both personal friends and colleagues, but I cannot agree with the main messages of their articles.
I believe we share certain ideas about Somalia and its demise: It was unfortunate that the failure of the Somali state brought foreign intervention. The only people who can legitimately save Somalia are the Somali people. Where we differ is how this can be accomplished. Although I am loathe to use personal impressions to bolster a philosophical discusion, I think that my observations may have some value in explaining the widely-varying interpretations we hold in the Somali debate.
I had the opportunity to work as deputy director of the US mission in Somalia for several months in 1993. When I arrived in March 1993, the humanitarian goals had been largely attained. The US liaison office was principally engaged in its initial mode of supporting the protection of the US intervention force.
During the several days that my predecessor and I overlapped, it quickly became apparent that the mission’s actions in pursuit of the force protection goal were very limited in scope: (1) To provide a daily massage for Mohamed Farah Aideed’s rather substantial ego; (2) To attend daily meetings with the UNITAF staff to assure them that they were doing a magnificent job (and certainly not raise disturbing political issues); and (3) And in the immediate weeks, to badger the UN about the slowness of the institution to take over the UNITAF command.
The new team’s instructions from the Department were simple and
Make certain the UN operation works. None of the
existing procedures within the mission contributed to fulfilling these
instructions. Without going into all the gory details, it became
immediately clear that Mohamed Farah Aideed did not share the goal of
ensuring any kind of UN success
In fact, it had been apparent from the outset of the Restore Hope operation that he shared none of the humanitarian or developmental goals supported at great expense by the world. At no point during the period prior to his attack on the UN did he demonstrate any acts of statesmanship or responsibility to facilitate the actions of the world community to ease the suffering of his fellow Somalis. His sole interest was to ensure that he remained at the center of all political solutions. Despite his obstacles, we did not, however, end our contacts with Aideed. Events helped clear the air on that matter.
What most of the critics of the post-Oakley period forget (or do not know) is that Aideed was absent from Mogadishu from about 9 March 1993, when he left for meetings in Addis Ababa, until 20 April, when he returned from a post-Addis tour which took him to Khartoum, Sanaa, Entebbe and Nairobi, etc. After his return to Mogadishu, he busied himself shoring up his SNA position which had suffered from his long arms and money-gathering trip.
He also spent much time in the central region, gathering up new
fighters and the weapons which were sent out of Mogadishu during the
two-week period between the arrival of the Marines on 9 December and
the UNITAF decision to bar technicals and heavy weapons from the
streets of Mogadishu. The subsequent so-called
Conference achieved its intended purpose of splitting the
political forces opposing him to the north. The
conference ended on 4 June 1993. He was now ready to confront the
foreign military forces which obstructed his plans for Somalia.
We were not surprised by Aideed’s ambushes of the Pakistanis on 5 June. We had warned that Aideed was planning something. We did not know when and where the confrontation would take place, but it was clear that Aideed was intent on breaking the back of the world’s intervention in Somalia. We were surprised by the wide scope and savagry of the attacks. It is surprising, even amazing, that anyone believes that Aideed was provoked into attacking the Pakistanis.
At one of the ambush sites, the radio station, the Pakistanis were
ambushed while they were withdrawing from a fully-authorized arms
inspection. The simultaneous ambush at food distribution site number
50—the bloodier of the two main killing sites—was pure
butchery of brave soldiers who had put their arms down to help feed
Somalis and to demonstrate their benign status. Aideed’s
message to the world:
I am in control and I want to recognized as
national leader. Subsequent events demonstrated just what can
happen to a military intervention without a political end-game.
This lengthy recollection is intended only to demonstrate that while
we had no intention of
demonizing Aideed, it was difficult to
escape the conclusion that it was Aideed who decided we were the
enemy, not the contrary.
The fact that the Bush administration avoided the establishment of any clear political goals for the operation (again, for force protection—a conscious decision to leave the hard stuff for someone else) and the Clinton administration’s naive belief that the UN could solve Somalia’s problems using traditional peacekeeping methods, left the political/military initiative entirely up to the one warlord in Somalia whose single-minded purpose was to reconquer the state for his personal account.
Having lived that period in Somalia, I do not understand how anyone can characterize Aideed as exemplifying Somali nationalism. As noted above, at every opportunity that he could have demonstrated either statesmanship to the outside world or compassion for his fellow Somalis, he opted for shallow propaganda or intimidation.
In Harold Marcus’ article on H-Africa, he makes much of
Aideed’s ability to look like a president. With all respect to
my good friend, the article could just as easily be titled
Marcus’ Aideed. Aideed has always pretended to be the leader
of Somalia. Aideed, of course, reveled in the attentions he received
from UNITAF. He was the one warlord with a photographer permanently
available to catch visitors in the act of shaking hands with the
Let us not forget that Aideed was
elected president of Somalia
by 115 hand-picked delegates at a conference he put together hurriedly
after Osman Ato stole the party leadership from him. No less than 85
of the hand-picked delegates were subsequently made
government. If they have helped clean up southern
Mogadishu, that is an excellent initiative, but something more is
needed before they are accorded national stature. A charade is a
charade is a charade.
Aideed no doubt took great comfort in the article in *The Washington Post*, and I assume that he has been provided a copy of the H-Africa article. The fact that Aideed paid for the trips to Somalia does not mean that either Harold or Frank are lackies to Aideed’s propaganda machine. Far from that; both reached the pinnacle of their respective careers on the basis of their skills in observation, analysis and synthesis and personal integrity.
In my view, within their reports on the Somalia trips, there is little of the balance expected of scholars and diplomats. We have all spent a great deal of time in Africa. The time of uncritical observation of aspiring potentates is long past. If Aideed deserves to be the next national leader, then I would very much appreciate an analysis of the internal dynamics which would either cause his fellow Somalis to so select him or permit the leader to conquer them.
My reaction to efforts to paint Aideed as beknighted nationalist is to
recall the hundreds of Somalis—including many among his own Habr
Gedir—who pleaded with us not to abandon Somalia to his hands. I
think of the 35-50,000 people who died to facilitate his partial
takeover of Mogadishu in 1992-3. I wonder at his selection of Omar
Jess, who played a starring role with Aideed enemy Morgan, in the
shelling and mining of Hargeisa in 1988, as
The rape of Hargeisa caused some another 35-50,000 civilian deaths.
The message for Somalis, however, is quite clear.
Aideed’s recent takeover of Baidoa guarantees more tragedies for the people for the Juba valley, as thousands of newly-displaced persons are deprived of the excellent international safety net that existed in the Bay region before his forces stripped and destroyed it. The Baidoa takeover guarantees more war. Aideed has always looked at legitimacy as determined by physical possession rather than gaining hearts and minds. He will continue to beat up on the agriculturalist communities in the upper Juba just as Central Region hoards have done for centuries.
Does he bring anything new to the Somalia clan equation? He has a firm vision of his own importance, and we all know just how effective this can be in achieving political goals. But does this make a statesman? On just what grounds do outsiders justify their choice of Aideed for Somali national leadership?