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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

5. Humanitarian issues: NGOs and UNOSOM II

The justified and vociferous criticism by NGOs of the UN's inaction in Somalia, between 1991 and 1992, was partly responsible for the eventual US-led UN military intervention. Many NGOs at that time supported military intervention as a necessary international response to Somalia's problem. Others were more cautious. This caused a serious rift in the NGO community in Somalia.

Initially, relationships between the NGOs and UNITAF were relatively good, as UNITAF was able to break the strangle-hold of banditry and extortion rackets that had held up the delivery of humanitarian relief. Since the assumption by the UN of a wider political and military role in Somalia, relationships have deteriorated. This arises from a failure by UNOSOM to create a secure environment, and the increasing prioritisation of military over humanitarian objectives. There is now deep concern among NGOs at the path the UNOSOM military operation has taken. In particular there is concern:

· that the humanitarian objectives of UNOSOM have become secondary to the military objectives, and the UNOSOM II operation risks losing direction;

· at the continuing ineffectiveness of the DHRR (70 per cent of all humanitarian assistance to Somalia is being handled by NGOs);

· that the security of NGOs' humanitarian operations is being compromised, and the lives of Somali and international staff working for humanitarian agencies put at risk (with Somali staff subject to harassment by both Somali and UNOSOM military, there is concern at continuing insecurity outside Mogadishu, particularly along roads north and south of the city);

· at the conduct of UNOSOM troops in Somalia and the lack of accountability for their actions;

· that little or no progress had been made on disarmament agreements signed by the Somali military factions;

· that few of the agreements reached at Addis Ababa in March 1993 are being implemented;

· that, since the departure of Mohamed Sahnoun, there has been no attempt at any real diplomacy and dialogue between UNOSOM and the Somali people. The level of involvement of Somalis in decisions affecting the future of their country is extremely small.

At the Second UNOSOM Informal Donor Consultation in Nairobi in July 1993, NGOs made these concerns known to the donors. They argued that, rather than military operations being a 'success', the fact that UN troops have had to be used in combat is a reflection of the 'failure' of the mission.

On 10 July, the International NGO Consortium (NGO-C) for Somalia wrote to the SRSG, expressing their concerns on the deteriorating security in Mogadishu. In July MSF France submitted an appeal to the UN for an investigation of events surrounding the 17 June UN bombings in Mogadishu. African Rights (July, 1993) and Africa Watch have made similar appeals. On 11 August, 26 international NGOs from the NGO Consortium wrote to the Secretary General, drawing his attention to their concern at the effects that military force was having on humanitarian efforts, at the moral and legal questions raised over UNOSOM's military action, and at the need to 'search actively' for alternative, durable solutions to conflict (NGO-C, August 1993).

By and large, however, there has not been the same vigorous criticism of the UN that was witnessed the previous year. This arises from the lack of unanimity among NGOs since the intervention, which some supported and others opposed. There is some reticence in criticising UN operations against Aideed, whom few would consider a legitimate representative of the Somali people. There is concern that further criticism of the UN may lead to a withdrawal of UN and donor assistance to Somalia. International commitment to Somalia is limited to short-term goals, when what is needed is a long-term commitment. The UN 1993 Relief and Rehabilitation programme was developed within the short-term framework of a relief programme, when what is needed is longer-term rehabilitation. While the USA contributed $750 million to the UNITAF operation, it has pledged only $50 million for rehabilitation.

NGOs consistently stress in their communications the need for a constructive dialogue between the NGOs and the UN. The sentiments of ENCAS17 are not untypical, when they propose that NGOs should 'make every effort to come to a constructive and positive relationship with the UN agencies, no matter how critical we are of certain actions and policies' (ELCAS, July 1993). However, given the present domination of the military in UNOSOM, it is difficult for NGOs to build up that constructive relationship.

Although UNOSOM and most international NGOs have offices and residences in southern Mogadishu, communications between them are minimal. Contact is maintained through daily security briefings at the Civilian and Military Operations Centre (CMOC), which is part of DHRR. As most information is regarded as sensitive military information, the briefings, which are dubbed 'weather reports', are very brief and uninformative. They normally begin with a claim that the situation in Somalia is 'generally stable'.

The NGO Consortium in Mogadishu provides a useful medium of communication between the NGO community and UNOSOM. It has done much to facilitate coordination among NGOs in various sectors, a role that should have been fulfilled by UNOSOM DHRR. Relations between the NGOs and DHRR have been strained and reached a low point in February 1993, after the appointment of a new Coordinator of the DHRR, Hugh Cholmondeley. A rapprochement took place after 5 June, when DHRR and NGO international personnel were evacuated to Nairobi, and they were able to find common ground in their concerns over the military operations of UNOSOM. This was reflected in the criticism of UNOSOM by Jan Eliasson in July, that for every $10 spent on military protection, only $1 was spent on humanitarian assistance.18

Diagram 7 Structure of Division of Humanitarian Relief and Rehabilitation

For NGOs, the DHRR should provide the best avenue to influence the military. The problem is that, while the DHRR Coordinator reports to Howe, he has limited access to him. Howe refers instead to his smaller circle of advisers. Furthermore, the DHRR is heavily underfunded; of the $166 million requested at Addis Ababa in March 1993, only $93 million was pledged and, by August 1993, only $15 million had been received. Their only capacity seems to be for staff recruitment. Some NGOs question whether the DHRR would be so open to NGOs if the DHRR had more resources of its own. The lack of funding severely undermines the effectiveness of the DHRR.

UNOSOM, more generally, has a staffing problem. At full capacity UNOSOM civilian staffing should be over 1,000. The total number of staff in the DHRR is supposed to be 59. By mid-August 1993 there were reported to be as few as 10 sectoral officers for 35 posts. Under-staffing means that UNOSOM are unable to provide full regional, political and humanitarian representation. Consequently this gives the military a greater role in these affairs. Furthermore, the majority of contracts are for a short term (six months), so there is a problem of continuity and consistency in staffing. UNOSOM salaries make Somalia an attractive option for those who want to make money in a short time. Thus the quality of those staff recruited varies enormously.

What DHRR has shamefully failed to do is respond to its own rhetoric to recruit Somalis. There remains a reluctance within UNOSOM to recruit Somali staff for any but the most junior positions. There have been demonstrations by Somalis, complaining about the small number of staff requited by UNOSOM (NGO-C June 1993).

In August 1993 relationships between the DHRR and the NGOs deteriorated again. This arose partly through the extended absence of Hugh Cholmondeley from Somalia and the lack of clear leadership within the DHRR, but also because of the escalating conflict between UNOSOM and Aideed. For NGOs the weakness of DHRR means that there is little opportunity to influence the situation. At a time when the role of the DHA, world-wide, is under review, some aid agencies are concerned that the inability of the DHRR in Somalia to influence the military wing, and provide an alternative approach, could have serious repercussions on peacekeeping operations elsewhere in the world.

5.1 RecommendationsAdvocacy: Agencies need to reinforce to donors the need to meet funding requirements for the DHA/DHRR programme Agencies should publicly support the concerns of the Under-Secretary for the DHA in this. They should take these concerns to their own governments.At the same time, agencies need to retain a critical perspective on the DHRR/DHA operation in Somalia. Their faults in Somalia cannot be entirely laid at the door of the military. Agencies must emphasise the need to increase Somali involvement at all levels of the DHRR.NGO Consortium: The consortium is an important body for coordination of information on NGO activities. (One suspects that the Consortium has been important in psychological ways in providing a forum for NGO workers to meet and share common problems and concerns.) Agencies might consider increasing support to it:
1. To strengthen its political lobbying and coordination role with the UN, and its role in coordinating information on NGO operations.

2. To enable it to expand its network in Somalia. It is too narrowly focused on south Mogadishu. It needs to be aware of what is happening in other areas of the country.

3. lb increase its network with bodies outside Somalia.

4. To explore whether the consortium could have a role in supporting regional Somali bodies in planning and coordination.

5. To provide the focus for inter-agency training programmes, or workshops (such as the Oxfam workshop in Hargeisa, see Appendix D), for NGO Somali staff from different regions. In this way it might have a role in peace-building.