By Mohamed Mukhtar
It is common to question the exactitude of many UN reports, but when some reports stretch the degree of truth too far or present dubious claims as watertight evidence they lead people to doubt the seriousness of the UN. At the beginning of November, the four member panel, which includes a Belgian, an American, a Kenyan and a Colombian that monitors the UN arms embargo against Somalia, produced an 86-page report linking Hezbollah with Islamic militias in Somalia. The report states that there were 720 Somali militias who fought along Hezbollah in its July battle with Israel. The report suggests that fighters agreed to receive $2,000 in payments for their services, and about $30,000 if killed.
There is overwhelming evidence that several countries have failed to respect the UN arms embargo against Somalia. On January 23rd 1992, the UN adopted a resolution that imposed a general and complete embargo on all deliveries of weapons and military equipment to Somalia. It was expected that the resolution would frustrate or plug up the arms supply to Somalia. Perplexingly, 14 years after the resolution was passed, Somalia is not short of heavy weapons and small arms that are the instruments of death and destruction, and there is no single gun made inside Somalia.
The report rightly names the countries that have consistently violated the arms embargo against Somalia, but it has some flaws which could lead the whole report to be discredited. The report indicates the involvement of Somalis during the 34-day war between Hezbollah and Israel. Funnily enough, Somali fighters were invisible to the rest of the world. This summer's 34-day war received a global media attention and there was not a single report indicated black people fighting along Hezbollah. If Somalis were in Lebanon, Israel would have been the first to notice. Haaretz, a leading Israel newspaper, wrote, “An Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said he had not seen the report and could not confirm knowledge of Somalian fighters operating alongside Hezbollah in the war.”
Strangely, the UN Security Council met on 24th November and chose to adopt the report formally despite many experts expressing their reservation about the connection between Somalis and Hezbollah. Here are some of the scepticisms that experts, diplomats and media groups have expressed.
Professor MENKHAUS, a professor at Davidson College who monitors Somalia, said, “Pretty much everyone is spinning their wheels right now in Somalia mainly because Somalia just, as usual, presents the world with only a set of bad options. I would be surprised if Somalis were actually involved in the fighting.”
Ted Dagne, a Somalia specialist at the Congressional Research Service in Washington, was dismayed to learn this claim, “It would be hard not to notice a black man fighting in Lebanon"
David Shinn, a former senior U.S. diplomatic official in the region expressed his disappointment with the report, “I am very sceptical."
The Guardian aptly put it, “Critics question the finding that 720 Somali mercenaries fought alongside Hezbollah in its July battle with Israel.”
Even those who are not Hezbollah fans did not take this allegation blindly. The Fox News reported, “Hezbollah, the experts said, is an extremely secretive organization that does not recruit foreigners to join its ranks. The group is also fervently Shi'ite, which theologically clashes with the fundamentalist Sunni Islam practiced in Somalia. There have also been no other reports of Africans fighting in Lebanon.”
The New York Times joined those who question the sources of this information, “Any involvement by Somalis would be surprising because Hezbollah’s effectiveness is widely attributed to its deep familiarity with the region.”
It will be helpful if the UN takes action against countries that have systematically and flagrantly violated the arms embargo against Somalia and stop chasing imagined Somali fighters dreamed up to be in Eastern Bekaa Valley or in Southern Lebanon.
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