Embarrassed UN acts on Somalia

STUNG by bitter criticism from the United Nations Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, that it is blind to the horrors of war and starvation in Somalia, the international community is preparing to send four battalions of peace-keepers to the country.

Thanks to a raging civil war between rival clans and sub-clans, drought and the collapse of all civil authority, more than a third of Somalia's 6 million people are likely to starve to death before the year's end, according to relief experts.

The peace-keeping force is needed to ensure that the enormous airlift of humanitarian aid which relief agencies are trying to get to the country gets safely to the starving population. Efforts to get food aid to outlying areas have been held up by the warring factions in Somalia, and only a few international agencies, such as the Red Cross, have dared to operate outside Mogadishu. The planned UN force would comprise four 500-person battalions to be dispersed to four regions of the country, diplomats say.

The UN has itself been trying to get 500 security personnel into the capital for months, but General Mohammed Farah Aidid, one of the clan leaders, has threatened to kill them if they are deployed. Now, after months of patient diplomacy by a special UN envoy, Mohammed Sahnoun, the organisation has been shaken into taking a much tougher stance against the clan leaders.

The Security Council at first balked at sending a peace-keeping force to Somalia, but has been chastened by the country's deepening crisis and the public rebuke by Mr Boutros-Ghali, that it was devoting resources to Yugoslavia, the 'rich man's war', ignoring an equally horrendous conflict in Africa.

In response, the Council adopted a resolution in favour of an airlift of aid to Mogadishu airport, and it is expected to show little resistance to the dangerous and costly plan to use peace-keeping forces to protect deliveries of aid in a civil war. However, in a report to the Council last week, Mr Boutros-Ghali wrote that the 'complexity of the situation . . . combined with almost total absence of central, regional or local government, pose enormous operational difficulties for the United Nations'.

The airport has not been used to deliver aid since 1 June, when bandits stole six tons of food aid at gunpoint. Mr Sahnoun has drawn up plans to begin an emergency airlift immediately, however, without waiting for military and aid experts due to arrive in the country on Wednesday.

'Kids are dying right now,' Mr Sahnoun said, pointing out that, with 1.5 million people on the brink of death from hunger and another 4.5 million nearing starvation, the entire population was at risk.

Despite months of warning from respected international aid organisations, the UN has been caught off guard and embarrassed by Somalia's slide into chaos. Much of the trouble in the country can be laid at the feet of superpower rivalry in Africa, in which the Soviet Union and the United States saw the country on the Horn of Africa as a strategic asset.

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: This post arises as a result of the need to...

Tradewind Recruitment: Class Teacher Required ASAP In Uminster

£120 - £150 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: I am recruiting on instruction o...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wimbledon, SW London

£24000 - £28000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wim...

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore