| The Somali conflict |
Several significant developments have taken place since Mark Bradbury submitted his report in October 1993.
1. On 34 October several US servicemen and numerous Somalis were killed in the Bakhara Market in Mogadishu, when US special forces attempted to capture the leaders of General Aideed's Somali National Alliance. As a result, the USA and UN took the decision to wind down their military operations in Somalia. In Mogadishu itself, UN and US forces have been largely confined to barracks, and only minimal protection has been offered to humanitarian agencies.
2. US policy is motivated by the attempt to withdraw completely from Somalia with some measure of honour. A temporary build-up of the use of military hardware was accompanied by an announcement that all US forces would be withdrawn by 31 March 1994. At the same time, greater diplomatic emphasis was put on scaling down the conflict with Aideed and the SNA. Much of this work was carried out by ax-Ambassador Oakley. It led ultimately to the withdrawal of the warrant for Aideed's arrest, and the release in January 1994 of all detainees held by the UN, among them several of Aideed's key aides.
3. The US decision to withdraw by the end of March 1994 was quickly followed by similar decisions by the Belgians, Germans, Swedes, and Italians - indeed, by all the European forces under the UN umbrella. As a result of these unilateral decisions, the UN has been forced to scale down its whole peace-enforcement operation in Somalia, with a target of approximately 18,000 troops on the ground after March 1994.
4. The impending withdrawal of the US and European contingents from UNOSOM created expectations of a drastic deterioration in security, and renewed clan fighting. However, while there has been an upsurge in random banditry, there has also been a quiet but noticeable increase in political 'peace-making' discussions between key clan groups and warlords - notably between Aideed's and Ali Mahdi's sub-clans. The combination of these renewed discussions, fuelled by a strong reaction against what is regarded as foreign interference in Somali affairs, plus a general public revulsion at the thought of renewed fighting, and the release of detainees by the UN, has engendered a more positive mood in Mogadishu and southern Somalia. It is interesting (and very much confirms the key thesis of this report) that internal processes now offer the best hope of improving the overall political and security situation. It is possible that the UN-sponsored humanitarian and peace meetings which took place in Addis Ababa between 30 November and 2 December 1993 contributed to this process, but there is little hard evidence for this, especially as some of the main Somali leaders did not attend, or attended only some short sessions.
5. Progress towards setting up District and Regional Councils (with a view to establishing a Transitional National Council by March 1995) continues, but at a slower pace. It is not yet clear how the various peace-making initiatives on the part of the clans will mesh in with the UN process of re-establishing civilian structures.
This will be one of the challenges for the future. Agency work in rehabilitation and development continues, as the security situation allows, and the challenge here will be to work out ways in which these activities can be taken on and taken over by genuine, popular Somali institutions.
Regional Manager for the Horn of Africa
Oxfam (UK and Ireland)