Security a key question for Somlia relief

First Edition

THE Americans preparing to fly desperately needed aid into Somalia face a dilemma: tight security will be needed to make sure that the food is not hijacked by bandits and that US personnel are not in danger, but any such military presence could be seen by African countries as close to an armed invasion.

The mission of the US Provide Relief force gearing up in Mombasa for its first airlift into Somalia, expected next week, is specifically to transport food to designated points, where it will be handed over to relief organisations already on the ground.

Brigadier Frank Libutti, the commander of the US task force, was involved in detailed discussions yesterday on how to ensure the safety of the troops under his command. 'He will ensure US forces are not placed at undue risk,' Lt-Col Bob Connelly, the media liaison officer for the task force in Mombasa, said.

The US is clearly wary of appearing to take over sections of the country by force of arms. At the same time it will not want to mount an operation of this size and leave vehicles and personnel at the mercy of the thousands of heavily armed bandits who have contrived to reduce most of the country to a state of anarchy.

Around 13,000 tons is being transported before the end of the month, and a further 20,000 tons in September, before the promised airlift of 145,000 tons begins, probably towards the end of October.

If the Americans wish to ensure a reasonable degree of security, and if they do not wish to be seen to be establishing a form of Pax Americana in an exceedingly dark corner of Africa, they would seem to have no alternative but to cajole the international community, and specifically the United Nations, into providing a structure of international legitimacy under which they could act.

The Desert Storm enterprise may provide a model. 'The airlift is in many ways a dramatic spur to all other issues,' a spokesman at the US embassy in Nairobi said, 'bringing to light lots of difficulties and forcing people to look at larger issues more constructively.'

The 500 armed personnel the UN has agreed to send to Somalia are still waiting to be deployed. Confidence that the current UN presence can provide anything like the level of security needed for a relief operation of the size necessary for Somalia has not been increased by the leaked recommendations of a UN fact-finding team - which left Somalia just over a week ago without having proper consultations with aid agencies established on the ground - to the effect that a further 1,000 troops would be needed.

Colonel Connelly said that the site most extensively surveyed for the first mission into Somalia was Baidoa, 150 miles north-west of Mogadishu. Aid organisations would suggest other points, which would be surveyed for suitability. However, there were plans 'for now' to fly to Mogadishu.

Clearly the Americans would not wish to land their C-141 Starlifters or C-130 Hercules - complete with food and all necessary defence capabilities - near a city that is divided between the forces of the rival warlords, Ali Mahdi Mohamed and General Mohamed Farah Aideed, and marauding gangs who are accountable to no one.

The establishing of food security structures in the more remote rural areas would be less controversial than an intervention in the capital city and carries less risk that the Americans could become deeply embroiled in a chaotic situation.

The International Committee of the Red Cross cancelled two food airlifts to Baidoa on Friday for security reasons. One of the French planes that have been flying food from Djibouti did not land on Friday for similar reasons. Looters stole 300 tons of food aid from warehouses in Baidoa earlier this month, and apparently the Friday flights were cancelled for fear of looting. However the plane left Djibouti for Baidoa yesterday carrying 18 tons of food.

US assurances of a continuing liaison with non-governmental organisations in the field should go some way to smoothing fears expressed by an aid agency staff member that the introduction of UN or other groups into Somalia could put their own operation and effort at risk.

The misunderstandings with the government of Daniel arap Moi appear to have been smoothed over.

Elements within the Kenyan government and military were clearly alarmed at the apparent threat to Kenyan sovereignty imposed by the arrival of the Pentagon's humanitarian force. Colonel Connelly said yesterday that there was now proper co-ordination with the Kenyan Ministry of Defence and liaison officers were being exchanged at several locations.

Drought has left more than 2 million people in imminent danger of starvation in Kenya and Somalia, with thousands dying daily.

To add to Kenya's problems, about 320,000 Somalis have poured across its border to escape famine and war and UN refugee officials say another 2,000 arrive daily.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
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: Account Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: You will also work alongside their seasoned sa...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Property Manager

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you looking for your first step into...

Recruitment Genius: Mechanical Design Engineer

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This innovative company working...

Recruitment Genius: Car Sales Executive - OTE £36,000

£12500 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This established Wakefield Deal...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat