Somali elders appeal to UN to abandon use of force: Peace group wants lower US profile and general disarmament

NO ROOM for compromise appears to exist between supporters of the Somali warlord General Mohamed Farah Aideed and the United Nations, which is attempting to hunt him down as a wanted criminal on allegations of organising the 5 June massacre of 23 Pakistani troops.

Those who applaud the UN attempts to pacify the country are quickly branded stooges of imperialism by Aideed supporters, while critics of the UN military forces' recent bombings are described as being hoodwinked by what the United States Liaison Office described on Saturday as Gen Aideed's 'campaign of lies and innuendo'.

Most Somalis find themselves somewhere between these positions, many having witnessed the suffering caused by Gen Aideed's ruthless drive for power but also having been shocked by the United Nations' apparent disregard for civilian life in last week's bombing raids and ground assault. These hit not only the warlord's installations but also innocent bystanders, the city's biggest hospital, Digfer, and the compound of the French relief agency, the Association Internationale Contre la Faim.

One prominent group of concerned citizens is a broad-based Peace Committee of Somali elders, which is sharply critical of Gen Aideed but at the same time believe the United Nations strategy in Somalia is deeply flawed. The committee is made up of former ministers, businessmen, and civil servants from such traditionally warring clans and sub-clans as Gen Aideed's Habir Gedir, the Abgal of his main rival, Ali Mahdi Mohamed, the Dir, and the Rahawain. It has attempted to convince the UN Special Envoy to Somalia, the retired US Navy Admiral Jonathan Howe, that brute force will not work.

But the views of this group, others like it, and the UN intervention force have been largely ignored by the warring factions and many Somalis. The committee's failure to influence events, however, has not discouraged its members.

Ironically, it was elders' committees such as these that the UN said it was trying to promote as an alternative to the warlords when the US marines launched Operation Restore Hope last December. Instead, the then US special ambassador, Robert Oakley, boosted Gen Aideed's legitimacy by meeting him in an effort to smooth the way for US troops.

'A day before the big assault, we presented our petition to the UN special representative (Admiral Howe),' said the committee's spokesman, Abdikassim Salad Hassan, a former deputy prime minister and minister of the interior in the government of the fallen dictator Mohamed Siad Barre. 'But he ignored our appeal. It left us very dispirited.'

The one-page petition said the committee called on Admiral Howe 'to stop without delay the air bombardments and to refrain from any other action which may further exacerbate the situation'. Because Somalia's court system has collapsed, the committee said, responsibility for the 5 June massacre of Pakistani troops should be determined by a commission made up of members from the United Nations Operation in Somalia (Unosom), Gen Aideed's Somali National Alliance, and community elders. 'Right now it is Unosom which is accusing Aideed, and they will also establish the court. How can that be?' asked a Peace Committee member, Abdulkadir Sheik Mao, a businessman, economist and former secretary-general of the Mogadishu municipality. 'If one is not convicted by a court he is not guilty. They came to a conclusion before setting up the investigating committee,' he said. 'That is not right.'

Should the UN military forces kill or capture Gen Aideed, many committee members believe there will be a bloodbath in Somalia.

The committee's solution is to restructure the UN hierarchy in Somalia by reducing the prominence of the Americans involved. They favour immediate disarmament applied to all factions. 'We supported disarmament, but it has only been in the southern Mogadishu area,' said Mr Salad Hassan. 'It must be generalised.' And it must be accomplished as far as possible with the co-operation of the warlords, as set out in agreements signed earlier this year at the UN-sponsored negotiations in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. 'One hand is shelling, while the other hand is asking for disarmament,' Mr Sheik Mao said. 'If it continues the disarmament will fail.'

(Photograph omitted)

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: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own