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

Recruitment Genius: Food Production / Operations Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is a large and well ...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Accounts Assistant is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Executive / Account Manager

£26000 - £34000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The company is a small, growing...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Services Assistant

£12000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A leading online retailer in the Home Im...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas