Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

UN in Somalia Caught in a Debate over Force vs. Diplomacy DISARMING WARLORDS

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

UN in Somalia Caught in a Debate over Force vs. Diplomacy DISARMING WARLORDS

Article excerpt

IS the United Nations operation in Somalia too strong on force and too weak on diplomacy?

Critics, including the Italian government, which supplies the third largest UN peacekeeping contingent in Somalia, say yes. In their view, the onetime UN humanitarian operation has become a Rambo-style military effort that is overly focused on one uncooperative warlord: Gen. Mohamed Farah Aideed. The result, they say, has been far too much bloodshed and increasing anti-UN sentiment. The Organization of African Unity has urged the UN to review its mandate in the East African state.

Even a senior official complained yesterday that UN members were spending at least 10 times as much on their military operation in Somalia as they were on aid.

In a rare criticism of a UN operation by a high-ranking official, Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Eliasson warned that the original aim of sending troops to Somalia - to protect aid - risked being forgotten, he told a UN group.

But other UN officials counter that the chaos would be far worse if UN troops were to pull out, arguing that UN resolve is being tested and that the organization cannot afford to back away. They say a secure environment for delivering aid cannot be established until all Somali factions disarm.

"Disarmament is a critical component of returning peace to Somalia," agrees David Smock, an expert on Africa with the Washington-based US Institute of Peace, "but I think the approach has to be an evenhanded one that doesn't just focus on Aideed."

"We're dealing with a peace enforcement situation," insists Kofi Annan, UN undersecretary-general for peacekeeping operations. "Only one faction is behind the violence in Mogadishu today.... It's not a question of being partial or singling out Aideed {who he says has defied UN disarmament orders}; I would hope the UN would treat any faction similarly that behaves in this way."

The current standoff between the UN and General Aideed began June 5 when gunmen believed to be acting on the warlord's orders ambushed and killed 24 Pakistani UN troops. The UN Security Council demanded the arrest and prosecution of those responsible. Jonathan Howe, the UN secretary general's special envoy in Somalia and a retired US admiral, followed with an order for Aideed's arrest.

Much of the current criticism of the UN was triggered by the July 12 air assault on a suspected Aideed command and control center in which more than 50 Somalis died, according to the International Committee for the Red Cross. Since the end of May, 35 UN peacekeepers have been killed. A case against Aideed

"I feel very strongly that Aideed needs to be held personally accountable. …

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