1.5 Million Threatened by Starvation; U.N. to Meet with Warlords
MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) _ About 1.5 million Somalis are at risk of starving in the next few weeks, and another 4.5 million need at least some aid, the United Nations’ special envoy to the Horn of Africa nation said Friday.
That is virtually the country’s entire population.
The U.N. special representative for Somalia, Gen. Mohammed Sahnoun of Algeria, traveled to the Somali capital on Friday for talks with opposing clan warlords on deploying cease-fire monitors in the divided city.
In New York, meanwhile, Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali called for an urgent airlift to Somalia’s interior and said he was dispatching a technical team to study expanding U.N. operations to four regions outside the capital.
Boutros-Ghali on Thursday admonished the Security Council for focusing on the war in Yugoslavia to the exclusion of Somalia, which he said was in worse shape and had gotten less help. Boutros-Ghali rejected a plan by the Security Council - which has already sent 15,600 peacekeepers to Yugoslavia - to send an additional force to secure a cease-fire for Sarajevo, the Bosnian capital.
Sahnoun deplored the United Nation’s tardiness in getting involved in Somalia’s tragedy.
″Somalia is a forgotten country,″ Sahnoun told reporters. ″I don’t want to minimize the needs of other countries. But when I see the airlift into Sarajevo, I wonder why we can’t do it here.″
Sahnoun noted that the crisis in Somalia was more than a year old before the United Nations got involved in April.
While the cease-fire signed by Mogadishu’s warlords on March 3 has generally held, the city has been wracked by looting and killing by hundreds of young men with guns but no allegiance to any authority.
The violence has disrupted shipments of emergency food through Mogadishu’s port and international airport, depriving tens of thousands of starving people in and around the city.
Tens of thousands already have died - an estimated 30,000 of them in the months of heavy fighting in Mogadishu, and untold thousands more from starvation from the combined effects of war and drought.
Somalia’s crisis began in January 1991 when the rebel United Somali Congress drove President Mohammed Siad Barre from Mogadishu after a month of heavy fighting. Soon, two of the rebel group’s leaders, Mohamed Ali Mahdi and Gen. Mohamed Farrah Aidid, began fighting each other for control of the city and the nation.
Neither has succeeded in extending his authority much beyond the city, and the country has dissolved into a patchwork of clan fiefdoms.
Sahnoun and Brig. Gen. Imtiaz Shaheen of Pakistan, the commander of the 50- man U.N. monitoring team, said they would meet with leaders on both sides of the city on Saturday to discuss deployment of the unarmed military monitors.
Sahnoun saw the team’s task as more than mere observers.
″I see them as some kind of catalyst between the people who are in charge - to get them involved with the United Nations, to get them talking, to build confidence,″ Sahnoun said.
The general said he hoped to have his men deployed by Monday: 21 in northern Mogadishu, 21 in the south and the rest administering the operation.
Sahnoun said he would not yet recommend a proposed force of 500 armed U.N. peace-keepers. ″Why spend millions on men and tanks when I need millions to feed people?″ he asked.
Besides, he said, the 500-man force being considered by the U.N. Security Council would be too small. ″It would take thousands,″ he said.
In a report to the Security Council on Friday, Boutros-Ghali proposed a U.N. presence in all regions of Somalia: Berbera in the northwest, Bossasso in the northeast, Mogadishu in the central rangelands and Kismayo in the south.
He called for the U.N. to carry out humanitarian activities, emergency relief and rehabilitation, and cease-fire monitoring in all four areas.
″U.N. efforts need to be enlarged so that it can help bring about an effective cease-fire throughout the country, while at the same time pressing forward with parallel efforts to promote national reconcilation,″ Boutros- Ghali said in the report.