By: Abdullahi Haji Hassan
Many believe the crisis in Somalia can be solved by sending 8,000 AU Troops. Others call it re-victimizing the Somali people. The enthusiast of this AU mission tends to forget the consequence of the peace keeping mission dubbed "Restore Hope". What a beautiful mission by name but at that time it destroyed the hope of a peaceful Somalia.
Allow me to take you back to the failure of "Operation Restore Hope". In December 1992, in one of his last maneuvers as a President; George H.W Bush proposed to the U.N. that United States will send 25,000 U.S combat troops to lead the intervention force. President Bush affirmed that this would not be an “open-ended commitment.”
The objective of Operation Restore Hope was to swiftly secure the trade routes in Somalia so that food could get to the most needed people. Nevertheless in the end the operation caused the lives of 24 Pakistani armed personnel, 18 American soldiers and thousands of civilians were killed in cold blood by the Americans. This was a failure and more than open-ended commitment.
On March 16, 1993, a young Somali boy named Shidane Arone was captured by Canadian soldiers who were part of the so called mission of "Restore Hope". Two Canadian soldiers captured and later tortured him to death beyond recognition. More than half a dozen soldiers watched Arone's torture as he cried for help and no soldier came to his aid while his lament for help were heard throughout the Canadian camp.
In the eyes of Somali Canadians and the Human Rights Advocacy, justice was never served for the well documented crimes committed by the Canadian soldiers (Airborne Regiment) against Arone.
The judge heading the inquiry, Gilles Letourneau, acknowledged a cover up "We were cut short as we were going up the ladder". The inquiry wildly known as "Dishonored Legacy" was concluded on March of 1997 and was given 160 recommendations. Nevertheless more than a decade latter there are more reports suggestive of Canadian soldiers committing the same abuses in Afghanistan.
Canadian soldiers Airborne Regiment were not the only peace keeping force who tortured the very people they were supposedly to protect. Peace keepers from Belgian, Italy and others were found guilty of torturing, murdering, as well as sexual misconduct against Somali civilians of all ages in the name of peace.
So a question comes to mind. What makes the African Union troops who are to be deployed to Somalia any different from those who maltreated Somalis in the early 90's? Well not much! If anything they are worst in many ways. These forces are coming from poorer countries that can hardly grip their own affairs. They belong to countries that are devastated with HIV/AIDS and where human right violations are very common.
Deploying these troops may be an easy task for now to protect and keep the peace in Somalia, but who is going reassure the Somalis these forces are coming only for that mission and nothing else?. Who is going to be responsible for their actions? What exactly would these forces be doing? Combating against any government resistance? Would Somalis see them as occupying forces or peacekeepers?, or will the be hiding in fearing of being targeted as the Ethiopians are doing it?
Sending peacekeepers into Somalia without clear vision and answers to these questions will be pre-mature and catastrophic in the long-run. After all these invaders are no different than those who were sent to Bosnia, Liberia, Congo, Timor, Sierra Leone, Burundi, Guinea, Afghanistan, Haiti and Iraqi. Where they kept the peace by sexually abusing girls as young as 12, by trading money and food for sex in Liberia, and abandoned dozens of children whose mothers were rape victims in Timor and Haiti.
Earlier this year a Daily Telegraph revealed that "members of the United Nations peacekeeping forces in southern Sudan are facing allegations of raping and abusing children as young as 12." The article interviewed more than 20 victims in one city and reported that hundreds more may have been abused by U.N. peacekeepers since the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) arrived in the region.
This is quite different than what the Sudanese expected when these forces were sent to their country, but quite the same as what few Somalis and the rest of the world are expecting from the peace keeping forces to accomplish.
These peacekeepers are immune from local bylaws, which mean Somalis can't hold them responsible for any crimes, let alone getting prosecuted by their home country, because some countries don't even have sexual assault laws. In the end, the alleged suspect is often merely a repatriate.
History teaches us military is not the solution to any conflict nor its has work in recent years, the Somali conflict can not and will never be solve militarily, they now it too well so they chose to ignore the will of the people and re-victimizing them once again.
Abdullahi Hagi Hassan
E-mail: [email protected]