In Somalia, Best Option Is Withdrawal

Posted: October 20, 1993

Most people have only a one-sided view of Aidid, Mogadishu, and the present state of instability in Somalia.

Seven years ago, I spent two-weeks in Somalia, in Mogadishu and Hargeisa. I visited the refugee camp Tug Wajalle "B" where there were 120,000 refugees

from the Ethiopian/Somalian "War of Nerves." I found the Somalis to be handsome, kind, warm, totally an agrarian society.

I was in Somalia in September 1992 (with CARE U.S.) to visit the towns of Bardera, Bardo and Mogadishu. I personally witnessed the human tragedy of starvation, death and total breakdown of all services.

It was frightening to see firsthand children dying like flies. With food being the main means of exchange, the real culprits are the merchants to whom the food was brought by the gangs (12- to 15-year-olds), and traded for guns, jeeps and Western currency.

I was at a meeting with Aidid and President Hamadi. The one thing that was clear was that the clans, of which I believe there are seven, are ruled by the elders. Aidid and Hamadi defeated Siad Barre (prime minister and dictator for many previous years) during the "War of Independence." So Aidid and Hamadi split the city north and south and the allegiance of the hoodlums still remained with the merchants.

I've often felt that Westerners trying to push their Western ideals and Western politics on local leaders, it would only bring all of the clans together, which surely is happening now.

The United Nations cannot win. The Somalis are now as one in their refusal to allow U.N. presence, and it will only continue to get worse for the U.N. forces.

Getting Aidid is not the answer, as the Somali people are united against the West. It's a no-win situation.

It does not show a sign of weakness to negotiate in a no-win situation. The only alternative is to totally withdraw all U.N. forces and hope that a benevolent and strong individual will assume the role.

If left as is, eventually the U.N. forces will be picked off daily like flies by the Somalis who want the U.N. forces out.

This article was written Sept. 1, and as the fighting intensifies, the killing of U.S. soldiers and other U.N. personnel becomes almost a daily occurrence.

It is now more of a reality, the no-win situation is at hand.

We must find a face-saving departure from what was initially a humanitarian effort, and now is a violent and costly military endeavor.

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