Using Force to Help a Gentle People

The Rahanwein people of southwest Somalia Using Force to Help a Gentle People: Once U.S. troops secure the aid lines, the people in the hardest-hit area are capable of resuming productive, orderly lives.

The Rahanwein people of southwest Somalia are facing the same threat of genocide by massacre and starvation that confronts the Muslims in Sarajevo
Their situation has grown extremely grave over the past five weeks, as order has completely broken down in the area where they live between the Shebelle and Jubba rivers.

Unless there is an urgent deployment of sufficient international forces to ensure the delivery of food and to protect relief workers and civilians, these gentle farming people, caught in the cross-fire of a civil war between outside factions, may disappear from the face of the Earth.

As a result of my very recent experience as the U.N. envoy, I know that the situation in southwest Somalia is far less complex than in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Indeed, I believe that the humanitarian aspect of the crisis in Somalia can be stabilized within a matter of weeks--if a forceful military presence from outside is organized.

Troops should be deployed to, in effect, occupy the southwest region of the country stretching in a quadrant from Mogadishu to Kismaayo to Bardera to Baidoa, where the worst starvation is taking place. Their task must be to protect relief-agency workers and ensure the delivery of food, as well as to promote a local structure of law and order. These troops should remain in control until people can be regularly fed and are better able to care for themselves.

This fertile land between two rivers is not, after all, a poor region. It is an agricultural area with viable farms. If they are protected, people are ready to go to work to feed themselves as soon as they are physically able.

A large-scale troop deployment cannot, of course, resolve the fundamental problem in Somalia. It can only create the preconditions for pursuing efforts at national reconciliation.
Once each tribal group is stabilized within its own territory--something which the faction leaders now agree should be done--then most of the multinational troops can leave. Beyond the troubled southwest area of the country, where tribes from outside are fighting on Rahanwein territory, most of Somalia is already more or less stabilized. When this is accomplished in the southwest as well, a national conference can establish a sort of coordinating commission to administer the country.
December 03, 1992|MOHAMMED SAHNOUN | Mohammed Sahnoun, an Algerian diplomat, was U.N. special representative for Somalia until October, when he resigned after charging that the U.N. effort in Somalia had been ineffective.

Los Angeles Times