Letter: Violence moves across Somalia

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Sir: The UN and US military operation in Somalia is in danger of displacing violence and disorder to areas of the country which have been relatively peaceful, extending the misery already experienced in towns such as Baidoa.

The military contingent is advancing in deliberate stages, giving some Somali factions time to move their operations to new areas. Many reprisal killings are taking place. About 200 people were massacred last week in Kismayo by forces under the command of Colonel Omer Jess, who takes orders from one of the two principal faction commanders, Mohamed Aideed. Several key community leaders were assassinated.

Many of the victims were Somali aid workers, considered dispensable because American troops are expected to take responsibility for delivery of food. By choosing not to establish an immediate presence across the country - especially in places such as Kismayo, Bosaso, Galkayo, Beletweyn and Berbera - the intervention force has facilitated the spread of violence within Somalia and helped to destabilise relatively orderly areas.

A second point of concern is that most resources are being concentrated in the Mogadishu area. This will recreate the uneven distribution of political and economic resources that produced the Siad Barre regime and the collapse of clan relations that followed. Resources must be spread across the country in ways that strengthen rather than undermine the credibility of clan elders. North-eastern regions have received least because some order has been maintained there. If the balance is not redressed, the leaders of these regions will be seen to be penalised, and therefore weakened, for governing responsibly.

Yours faithfully,


Director, Christian Aid

London, SE1