Cover Image
close this bookThe Somali Conflict (Oxfam)
close this folderPart III: Mogadishu: peace-enforcement
View the document1. The internationalisation of the Somali conflict
View the document2. The politics of UNOSOM II
View the document3. Conclusions
View the document4. District councils
View the document5. Humanitarian issues: NGOs and UNOSOM II

2. The politics of UNOSOM II

UNOSOM II, at $1.5 billion, is the most expensive UN peace-keeping operation in the world. (The next is Bosnia, at $222 million.) Somalia is hosting the largest number of UN troops ever deployed. Under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, the UN peacekeeping role in Somalia has been transformed to one of peace-enforcement. UNOSOM Somalia is a new experiment for the UN, with very high stakes. It is not surprising, therefore, that there are internal conflicts within UNOSOM. The conflict between Aideed and UNOSOM has helped to highlight, and one suspects may arise from, divisions within the organisation. The vested interests of various parties within UNOSOM certainly impede its ability to respond adequately to the situation in Somalia. It is therefore necessary when assessing the present situation in Somalia to be aware of the dynamics at play within UNOSOM II.

2.1 New Agendas

In his Agenda for Peace (1992), Secretary-General Boutros-Ghali sets out his vision for the future peace-keeping role of the UN in the post-Cold War period. His vision gives the UN a central role in policing the 'new world order', and intervening in situations of armed conflict. This includes the ability to enforce peace, where necessary. At the same time, the USA is also looking for a new role in this postCold War period. The Clinton administration envisages that the USA should no longer respond unilaterally to crises, but seek to play a role of 'world policeman' through the UN. As part of his plan to restructure the UN, Boutros-Ghali believes it is necessary to establish a new UN command centre for all military and civilian peace-keeping operations.

The political dynamics that these new UN and US agendas create have a direct bearing upon the actions of UNOSOM and the situation in Somalia. The political machinations within the UN in New York over who will lead this new Peacekeeping department directly affect the UNOSOM II operation.

2.2 Structure of UNOSOM II

UNOSOM has four main divisions (see Diagram 5): Force Command, the Division for Humanitarian Relief and Rehabilitation (DHRR), the Division for Political Affairs, and the Justice Division.

These divisions are officially coordinated by, and report to, the office of the Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG). Since March 1993 the SRSG, and head of UNOSOM, is retired US Admiral Jonathan Howe. He replaced the former envoy Kittani. His deputy is Lansane Kouyate, Guinean Ambassador to the UN, who has been with UNOSOM since February 1993. The SRSG reports to the Secretary General in New York, as well as Kofi Annan, Under Secretary for Peacekeeping Operations and Jan Eliasson, Under Secretary for Humanitarian Affairs (DHA). A former US Admiral and National Security Advisor, he presumably also reports to the US State Department. The SRSG is advised by the Policy and Planning Group, headed by Dr Omar Halim.

1. Force Command: These are the military peace-keepers turned peace-enforcers, responsible for over-all security in Somalia, and charged with protecting the UN operations. The Force Commander is a Turkish General, Cevik Bir, appointed in February 1993, who reports to Kofi Annan in the Department of Peace-keeping. His second in command, Major General Montgomery, is a US military officer, who is assumed to be more influential. As commander of the US Quick Reaction Force, with their Cobra helicopter gunships and over 1,000 troops, he is responsible to General Shahin, Chief of Operations at the US Pentagon.

2. Division for Humanitarian Relief and Rehabilitation (DHRR):, This is responsible for the planning and coordination of all humanitarian activities. The head of the DHRR is Hugh Cholmondeley, appointed in February 1993. He officially reports to the SRSG, but is also responsible to the Under Secretary for the DHA, Jan Eliasson.

3. Division for Political Affairs: This is responsible for promoting political reconciliation and building of transitional governmental and administrative structures. The head of this division since late 1992 is Kapungo. While officially reporting to the SRSG, he is also responsible to James Jonah, Under Secretary for Political Affairs.

4. Justice Division: This is responsible for the formation of civil police and rehabilitation of the judiciary.10 Responsibilities also include monitoring violations of international law, and bringing to justice those guilty of human rights abuses.

The UN agencies, UNDP, UNHCR, UNICEF, WFP, and FAO fall outside this structure. Almost equivalent to NGOs, they report directly to their offices in New York. Having their own (and greater) funding sources than the DHRR, they are able to safeguard their independence.

2.3 Personal and Political Conflicts of Interest

At the highest levels of this structure there are problems, both personal and political. Plans to restructure the UN peace-keeping division have created tensions between the Peace-keeping, Humanitarian, and Political divisions. The tensions were clear in disputes over who should be in control of UNOSOM: the military, the humanitarian, or the political divisions? Relations between Boutros-Ghali and Eliasson are said to be very poor. Eliasson, an experienced mediator himself, is said to be open to more dialogue with Aideed, and has been openly critical of the military emphasis of the operation in Mogadishu.

The relationship between the SRSG and his deputy, Kouyate, is also reported to be strained. It is reported that Kouyate was Boutros-Ghali's original choice to replace Kittani as the SRSG in Somalia. His appointment was overturned when the USA insisted that an American had to be in charge, because of the large number of US troops in Somalia. Admiral Howe, a former National Security Advisor under Bush, seems to have been chosen to provide the continuity between the Bush and Clinton Administrations. Kouyate appears to have more of a political role in Somalia, involved in direct negotiations with the factions. He also has a direct line to BoutrosGhali.

The domination of the US Administration and the Pentagon in the affairs of UNOSOM is no secret. The USA has dominated the operation since US troops led the UNITAF intervention. Somalis are aware that it is President Clinton, rather than Dr Boutros-Ghali, who speaks on behalf of the UN of the 'successful' raids against Aideed. Although UNOSOM II is a multi-lateral operation, with over 27 countries involved, the decision-makers in Somalia are primarily American. Other countries have very little representation within the overall command structure of UNOSOM. The military commanders of each contingent therefore insist on maintaining their command structures with their own governments. This has led to public disputes between the USA and UN and other countries with military forces in Somalia, in particular Italy, France, Pakistan, and Germany.

Diagram 5: Structure of UNOSOM II11

Diagram 6: Structure of Zone Offices

The UNOSOM have divided Somalia/Somaliland into five Zones:

1. Northwest - Zone Office Hargeisa
2. Northeast - Zone Office Bosasso
3. Central - Zone Office Baidoa
4. South - Zone Office Kismayo
5. Mogadishu - Zone Office N. Mogadishu

Three political factions have developed in UNOSOM. One ('the Hawks') includes Howe, US adviser Teitlebaum, the American Ambassador Gosende, Generals Bir and Montgomery and, when she was in post, Howe's senior adviser, April Glaspie (former US Ambassador to Iraq). It is this group which has dominated the policies of UNOSOM. It has been reported that Gosende and Glaspie were determined to marginalise Aideed, in preference for other more moderate leaders, such as General Mohamed Abshir.12 Glaspie has been identified as the one who approved the arms search of Radio Mogadishu which resulted in the deaths of the Pakistani soldiers on 5 June 1993.13 It is also reported by sources in UNOSOM that the 12 July ('Bloody Monday') bombing of Abdi's house in Mogadishu was intended to kill Aideed, and as many others as possible, an objective supported by the Hawks.14

A second political faction includes the Deputy SRSG (Kouyate). This is considered more moderate. It is Kouyate who has been involved in attempts to develop dialogue with Aideed. The DHRR could probably be included in this group. A third political faction is Kapungo's Division for Political Affairs. The district council programme managed by Kapungo has received a great deal of criticism from within UNOSOM.

These conflicts within UNOSOM reflect political disputes at the highest levels of the UN. The effect is that UNOSOM is dominated by political concerns that have more to do with internal political wranglings in the UN, and long-term plans for UN and US policy, than with the immediate situation in Somalia, or the Somali people.

An important division in UNOSOM is the special Policy and Planning Group attached to Admiral Howe's office. This is headed by Omar Halim, who seems to command respect among moderates within UNOSOM. The extent to which this group is actually able to influence UNOSOM policy, given the other vested interests, is unclear. To my knowledge, the Policy and Planning Group includes the only social scientist in UNOSOM whose knowledge of Somalia is based on experience.

In addition to these internal conflicts within UNOSOM and the UN, an additional factor affecting the UNOSOM operation in Somalia is an old animosity between Boutros-Ghali and Aideed. This stems from a time when Boutros-Ghali was Foreign Minister of Egypt. At the time Egypt, one of Barre's main supporters (after Italy), was involved in trying to mediate between the military factions and Barre. Aideed, who was trying to raise support for his war against Barre, was deported from Egypt. Aideed went on to become a 'warlord' and BoutrosGhali went on to become Secretary-General of the UN. Some people (Aideed's supporters in particular) perceive a personal conflict between Aideed and Boutros-Ghali within the conflict between the UNOSOM and Aideed.