Somalia News Update, Vol. III No. 25 October 11,1994

Somalia News Update, Vol. III No. 25 October 11,1994

In this issue:

* The Somalia Task Force: CRITIQUE OF S-G's September 17 Report.


               S O M A L I A  N E W S  U P D A T E  


Vol 3, No 25            October 11, 1994.             ISSN 1103-1999  

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By The Somalia Task Force, Washington DC, October 1994

(The Somalia Task Force is an independent policy discussion group composed of academic specialists and representatives of NGOs, as well as observers from U.S. and U.N. agencies. It serves as a forum for interaction between research specialists and practitioners in Soma- lia, in order to generate policy proposals that best serve the long- term interests of the Somali people. The following is one of a series of planned critiques and discussion papers regarding the present and future role of the international community in Somalia.)


The report on Somalia issued by the Secretary-General to the Security Council on September 17, 1994 (S/1994/1068) comes at a critical mo- ment in U.N. policy toward Somalia, as the Security Council deliber- ates on the future mandate of UNOSOM (United Nations Operation in So- malia). The document in question is the first of a two-part report. Part one is intended to give "a factual account of recent develop- ments in Somalia;" part two, to be submitted in mid-October, will provide recommendations for the Security Council, based in large part on the results of the visit to Somalia undertaken from September 15- 19 by Mr. Kofi Annan, the Under-Secretary-General for Peace-Keeping Operations.

Disturbingly, the September 17 report to the Security Council contains some inaccurate and misleading analyses of the situation on the ground in Somalia. While distortions in earlier UN reporting on Somalia have been cause for concern, the inaccuracies in the section "Political Developments" of the most recent report are especially egregious and require clarification. In the critique which follows, the Somalia Task Force attempts to correct some of the most serious misreadings contained in the Secretary-General's report.

We also raise more general concerns about the need for honest, depoliticized, and accurate reporting by the UN administration to its member- states. The criticism we level at the reporting of the UN Secretariat is intended to be constructive, based on our collective desire to see the UN function more effectively, in Somalia and else- where. To be effective as it takes on new and complex challenges, the organization must, at a minimum, build and maintain a reputation for truthful and transparent reporting.


Routinely, the Security Council requests of the office of the Secre- tary-General progress reports on the growing number of U.N. peacekeeping missions. The report is generally due one month prior to the Security Council's decision to renew the mandate of the mission in question -- usually once every six months. The Secretary-General's report carries both a factual account and analysis of the situation and a set of recommendations regarding the mandate of the peace op- eration. While key member-states lobby for their own proposals during the drafting of the report, the UN Secretariat clearly is able to protect its own organizational interests as well. Once the final re- port is submitted, it is unusual for the Security Council to deviate significantly from the recommendations made by the Secretary-General. The Secretary-General's report is, therefore, of considerable impor- tance.

In the case of Somalia and UNOSOM, the first drafts of the Sec- retary- General's many progress reports to the Security Council have been written by UN officials in Mogadishu. Though the document re- flects continuous dialogue with New York, the officials in Mogadishu have considerable influence in shaping both the analysis of the cur- rent situation and the recommendations submitted for the Security Council's consideration. Yet the officials in Mogadishu also have the strongest personal and organizational interests to protect the mis- sion from criticism, budget reductions, and premature closure. As a result, UNOSOM officials have been tempted to cleanse reports of un- pleasant realities facing the mission. It is likely that this dynamic affects the reporting practices of other UN field operations as well. For a number of reasons outlined below, it is a corrupting and poten- tially dangerous practice.


Sections of the Secretary-General's report in question are provided; the critique follows.

Report text: II. Political Developments 3. ". . . the Council will recall that, in my previous report (S/1994/977), I expressed agreement with the assessment of my Special Representative that conflicts within the Hawiye clan constituted the major obstacle to national reconciliation and that the successful conclusion of a Hawiye peace conference would greatly facilitate the national reconciliation process."

Critique: In reality, top UNOSOM officials in Mogadishu have acknowl- edged in interviews that they never believed that a pan-Hawiye peace conference was possible in the short-term. Moreover, virtually no one in New York, either in the Secretariat or among Security Council mem- ber-states, believed it either, as UN officials admit. Throughout the summer and into September of 1994, heavy intra-Hawiye clashes oc- curred outside the walls of UNOSOM in south Mogadishu, making the proposition that a Hawiye reconciliation was within grasp seem un- likely. Yet that was the premise on which UNOSOM sought, and secured, justification for the renewal of its mandate.

Report text: 4. ". . . the Imam of Hirab confirmed to my Special Rep- resentative the willingness of both Mr. Ali Mahdi and General Aideed to participate in the [Hawiye] conferences."

Critique: This was in fact what UNOSOM has been led to believe, by both the faction leaders and the Imam of Hirab. But at the same time that the Secretary-General's report was released, General Aideed un- expectedly told UN officials that he believed the focus on a Hawiye reconciliation was divisive and was creating tension among non-Hawiye clans; therefore he would not support the process. In this instance, the Secretary-General's report was simply overtaken by events on the ground, and is no longer accurate.

Report text: Paragraphs 4-10. [Summarizes developments for a pan- Hawiye peace meeting, and the initiatives of the Imam of Hirab to reconcile various Hawiye sub-clans].

Critique: The report is at this point guilty of omission. In a full page reporting on developments toward Hawiye reconciliation, the re- port fails to mention any of the very serious incidents of armed hos- tilities which have occurred within the Hawiye clan, including: the Habar Gedir attack on the Hawadle clan in Beled Weyn and surrounding towns; Hawadle-Habar Gedir clashes in the airport area of south Moga- dishu; the fighting within the Murosade which has divided along SNA- USC lines and threatens to spill over into broader factional clashes in Mogadishu; and Murosade-Habar Gedir fighting in the Medina neigh- borhood of South Mogadishu. A "factual account of recent develop- ments" should not have omitted these important setbacks in the search for Hawiye reconciliation; they are critical prerequisites for clear assessment of the likelihood of successful Hawiye peace initiatives.

Report text: 12. "The Lower Juba Reconciliation Conference was suc- cessfully concluded on 18 June 1994. There have been no major viola- tions of the Lower Juba peace agreement and the cease-fire is hold- ing. The implementation committee has been meeting in Kismayo with a view to formulating a plan of action for the implementation of the agreement. The leaders of the Lower Juba Reconciliation Conference and the Absame Reconciliation Conference have continued to meet in both the Lower and the Middle Juba regions. The Chairman of the Lower Juba Reconciliation Conference, General Mohamed Ibrahim Ahmed "Liqliqato," held successful meetings from 7 to 9 September 1994 with Imam Sayid Hussein, Chairman of the Absame Reconciliation Conference, and General Mohamed Said Hersi "Morgan." Agreement was reached at these meetings to set priorities for the Juba regions and to expedite the implementation of the Lower Juba and Absame Peace agreements."

Critique: This summary of the situation in the Juba/Kismayo region is misleading and omits important contrary information: * The lower Juba reconciliation conference was not as successful as UNOSOM has portrayed it. In fact, it was seriously flawed, as it omitted one of the two main parties to the conflict -- the Ogadeni clan -- from the conference. The signing of a peace between Morgan and the Habar Gedir representatives in the Juba valley will not re- solve the underlying conflict in the region between the Ogadeni and Harti clans.

* Recently the Habar Gedir have withdrawn their militia and represen- tatives from the lower Jubba valley, leaving the "administration" of the region in the hands of Ogadeni Col. Omar Jess, who rejected the lower Jubba accord. This very likely means that the lower Jubba ac- cord is dead in the water.

* UNOSOM's own internal reports acknowledge that the Absame recon- ciliation meeting, far from representing another successful local peace, essentially broke up without resolving most of the differences still dividing the clan.

* Fighting has broken out in two locations in the Juba region. In Jilib, armed clashes have taken place on several occasions between the Habar Gedir and their former allies, the Ogadenis, with numerous casualties; and fighting between the Aulihan (Ogadenis) and the Aju- raan clan in Buaale has led to casualties and instability.

* Tensions in Kismayo are extremely high, as the Marehan clan and most of the Dolbahante clan have broken ranks with General Morgan over the signing of the peace treaty with the Habar Gedir. This ten- sion was especially high during the meeting between Sayid Hussein, Liqliqato and Morgan, which was not successful, contrary to UNOSOM's assessment.

* Virtually all international NGOs and UN agencies have withdrawn from Kismayo and the Jubba region due to continued security problems and extortion.

In sum, the situation in the Juba region is much more troubled than the Secretary-General's report portrays it.

Report text: 13. "The Fifth Congress of SSDF, following two months of intensive consultations, elected Colonel Abdullahi Yusuf as its new Chairman on 22 August 1994. The election of Colonel Abdullahi Yusuf has been accepted and Mr Abdirizak Haji Hussein, the nominee of the supreme committee of the sultans of the north-east to the chairman- ship of SSDF, has recognized the election of Abdullahi Yusuf. . . Following his election as SSDF Chairman, Colonel Yusuf has affirmed his commitment to assist in bringing together the southern factions in Mogadishu in order to facilitate national reconciliation, on the basis of the Addis Ababa agreement and the Nairobi Declaration."

Critique: This assessment of the political situation in the north- east of Somalia is extremely deceptive. In reality, there is consid- erable confusion over the leadership of the SSDF and the Mijerteen clan. After the committee of sultans nominated Abdirazak -- a sur- prise choice -- Abdullahi Yusuf rejected their nomination and con- vened his own congress, which named him Chairman of SSDF. This meet- ing was by no means representative of all of the Mijerteen, however, who remain divided over leadership of the SSDF. Abdirazak left the north-east under physical threat by the Yusuf militia, which does not, as UNOSOM falsely implies, constitute an endorsement of Yusuf on the part of Abdirazak. Gen. Mohamed Abshir Moussa, Abdullahi Yusuf's rival, did not participate in the conference which selected Yusuf, and rejects the outcome. Most observers fear that tensions within the Mijerteen clan may soon spill over into armed clashes, which would be especially tragic since the Northeast has been the one region to es- cape armed conflict during the Somali civil war. But nowhere does the Secretary-General's report reflect this concern. Nor does it ade- quately capture the level of complexity and flux which now character- izes politics in the Northeast of Somalia.

Report text: 14. "With respect to developments concerning the par- ticipation of SNM in the national reconciliation process as called for under the Nairobi Declaration, the SNM Chairman, Mr. Abdirahman Ahmed Ali, met with the chairmen of the other three north-west-based political factions (SDA, USP, and USF), in Djibouti, from 13 to 17 August 1994, to consider the situation in the north-west. At the end of their meeting, they issued a joint statement declaring, inter alia, that secession of the north was neither feasible nor desirable and that the national reconciliation conference envisaged under the Nairobi Declaration was long overdue and should be convened not later than September 1994. The statement also proposed the adoption of a federal system of government for Somalia and conveyed an offer by the four factions to use their good offices to mediate between the fac- tions in the south."

Critique: This paragraph is also extremely misleading, as it falsely implies that there is broad support in the Northwest, or "Somaliland," to rescind the declaration of secession and rejoin ef- forts at national reconciliation in the south. In reality, Abdirahman Ahmed Ali "Tour" represents very few of his Isaaq clansman and has been repeatedly and explicitly rejected as a representative of the people of the Northwest by the "government" of Somaliland. UNOSOM is aware that Tour possesses almost no constituency and therefore does not meaningfully represent anyone in these meetings. Indeed, it was in part because of its continued dealings with Tour that UNOSOM was expelled from "Somaliland" by the Egal government in August, a seri- ous setback that the Secretary-General's report fails to discuss, re- ferring only once to the lack of any UNOSOM presence throughout northern Somalia. This section of the report thus bears very little resemblance to political reality in the Northwest of Somalia. In this instance UNOSOM seems to be wilfully misleading the Security Council, and in the process raising false expectations of an impending politi- cal settlement of the Northwest issue.

Furthermore, since the issuing of the September 17 report, Tour has publicly distanced himself from this initiative and denounced the possibilities of reaching a southern reconciliation. Therefore, the UNOSOM initiative with Tour is no longer relevant to national recon- ciliation efforts in Somalia.

Report text: III. Military and Security Aspects [Paragraphs 17-27 review the first steps of the UNOSOM military draw- down, and comments on recent security problems, including the attacks on UNOSOM forces at Beled Weyn (29 July) and Bale Dogle (22 August), in which a total of eight UN soldiers were killed. These incidents are reported as follows:] 26. " On 29 July, in Belet Weyne, troops of the Zimbabwean contingent were completely overrun by a strong militia force. . . . . On 22 August, an Indian unit escorting a supply convoy was ambushed by armed militia. . . "

Critique: The report omits a critical aspect of these and several other security incidents that have resulted in UNOSOM casualties -- that they were unprovoked attacks by the militia of the Habar-Gedir, the clan of General Aideed. This fact has been a major political com- plication for UNOSOM in its dealings with Aideed, and should be an important factor in the Security Council's deliberations over UNO- SOM's relationship with the Somali faction/militia leaders and its current negotiating strategy.


There is ample evidence to suggest that the September 17, 1994, Sec- retary- General's report on Somalia bears little resemblance to ac- tual political developments on the ground. Moreover, while some of the inaccuracies in the report are the result of changing circum- stances in the months of August and September, many appear to be wil- ful misreadings and misrepresentations, designed to portray the situation in Somalia in a much more positive light than the situation warrants.

There are a number of dangers inherent in misleading and possi- bly politicized reporting within the UN. First, it is possible that the Security Council will act on faulty information, issuing resolu- tions that do not serve the best interests of either the host popula- tion (in this case, the Somali people) or the international commu- nity. More realistically, however, most of the Security Council mem- bers have their own independent sources of analysis and will not be misled by poor reporting on the part of the Secretariat. But that presents a different kind of danger to the office of the Secretary- General -- namely, the erosion of the credibility of the institution. In the case of Somalia, UN agencies, non-governmental organizations, member-states, the media, and the Somali people are all well aware of the actual political situation in Somalia. The UN only damages its own credibility by issuing reports that distort or omit the truth.

The Somalia Task Force appeals to the office of the Secretary- General to insure that its reporting to the Security Council, and, by extension, the international community, reflects the highest levels of integrity and accuracy. In particular, we appeal to the Secretary- General's office to insure that the upcoming October 15 report on So- malia, which will contain important policy recommendations on the fu- ture of UNOSOM, reflect a realistic assessment of the situation in Somalia rather than the largely illusory one presented in the Septem- ber 17 report. To this end, the Somalia Task Force will commit itself to the task of critically reviewing future UN reports on Somalia and, if necessary, issuing public rejoinders. Finally, we call on academic area specialists and NGOs working in other countries in which the UN has major operations to assume a similar "watch-dog" role in order to hold the UN to the highest standards of accurate and depoliticized reporting.

SNU is an entirely independent newsletter devoted to critical analy-
sis of the political and humanitarian developments in Somalia and So-
maliland. SNU is edited and published by Dr. Bernhard Helander, Upp-
sala University, Sweden. SNU is produced with support from the Scan-
dinavian Institute of African Studies, Uppsala, Sweden. 

 Date: Tue, 11 Oct 1994 23:05:08 +0100
From: Bernhard Helander 
Message-Id: <>
Subject: Somalia News Update, No 25

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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