1.5 Million Threatened by Starvation; U.N. to Meet with Warlords
MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) _ A U.N. official - who predicted mass starvation in Somalia without immediate aid - hoped today to convince rival clan warlords to support the deployment of truce monitors in the ravaged capital.
In New York, meanwhile, U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali has called for an urgent airlift to the Horn of Africa nation, and said he will send a team to study expanding U.N. operations outside the capital.
Gen. Mohammed Sahnoun of Algeria, a U.N. special envoy, said he seeks have the unarmed military monitors on patrol by Monday.
The force would provide a symbolic presence in Mogadishu, but do little to ease the plight in Somalia - where drought, corruption and conflict have come together in a deadly mix.
About 1.5 million people are on the brink of starvation, and 4.5 million more need some aid, Sahnoun estimates.
But Sahnoun accused the United Nations of waiting too long to become involved in Somalia’s plight.
″Somalia is a forgotten country,″ Sahnoun told reporters Friday. ″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,″ he said.
Sarajevo is the capital of Bosnia-Herzegovina, where separatists are fighting ethnic Serb seeking want to maintain links with Yugoslavia.
In Somalia, the cease-fire signed March 3 has generally held, but hundreds of armed young men have looted the city in a murderous rampage.
The violence has disrupted shipments of emergency food through Mogadishu’s ports, depriving tens of thousands of starving people in and around the city.
Tens of thousands already have died from the combined effects of war and drought.
Sahnoun and Brig. Gen. Imtiaz Shaheen of Pakistan, the commander of the 50- man U.N. monitoring team, said they would meet with rival militia leaders today.
Boutros-Ghali, the United Nations’ first African leader, on Thursday criticized the Security Council for ignoring Somalia’s tragedy while focusing on the civil war in the former Yugoslavia.
In a report to the council Friday, Boutros-Ghali proposed that the United Nations carry out humanitarian activities and monitor cease-fires in Somalia’s four major regions.
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. Two of the rebel group’s leaders, Mohamed Ali Mahdi and Gen. Mohamed Farrah Aidid, soon 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.