UN Intervention in
(The Early Years)
Why a paper on United Nations peacekeeping and why in particular its operation in
Since 1948, there have been 49 peacekeeping operations. Of these, the Security Council
between-1988 - 1998 created 36. 17 missions were underway as of 31st August 1998,
with 14,453 peacekeepers serving in the same. Well over 750,000 military and civilian
personnel and thousands of other civilians from 111 countries have served in these
operations. As of 31st August 1998, a total of 1,581 peacekeepers, or Blue Helmets as
they are popularly called, have died in different operations. At its peak in 1993, the total
deployment of United Nations military and civilian personnel reached more than 80,000
from 77 countries. Since 1948, more than 110 nations have contributed personnel at
Clearly it then goes without saying that peacekeeping is an extremely important part of
maintenance of international peace and security as well as creating an environment
ensuring good governance.
Why Somalia? Quiet simply because when the United Nations got involved in Somalia,
the nature of international politics was going through a tremendous change - the Cold war
was ending and Soviet Union had collapsed. Also the manner in which this entire
operation was handled left a lot to be desired. It was one the worst failures of the United
Nations. It brought into question the set up the peacekeeping operations, and thus its
relevance. It also impacted future humanitarian interventions.
- Nitin Madan
Symbiosis Institute of Management Studies
Crisis in Somalia – A Historical Background
Despite Somali society being divided into clans, Somali population is of the same origin,
practises Islam and follows similar traditions. This was in contrast to many other nations
in Africa. Upon gaining Independence in July 1960, it was thought that because of such
reasons of homogeneity, Somalia would be one of the most politically stable and peaceful
countries in Africa.
However, after the first nine years of parliamentary system, Somalia was riddled with
political instability. Coalition politics coupled with violence (including assassination of
officials and candidates) took its toll on the East African nation.
Under the image of national unity were heterogeneous clans. Each differed in social
organisation. There was competition for resources and political positions. This clan
tension took the form of political parties, whose numbers at one time went up to 60.
In October 1969, President Abdirashid Ali Sharma'arke was assassinated and General
Mohamed Siad Barre, through a coup, came to power.
A regional arms race, war with neighbouring Ethiopia in 1977-78 over Somali-inhabited
Ogaden region in eastern Ethiopia, and the influx of refugees from that region, all
devastated the economic, political and social conditions.
In 1978, there was a failed coup attempt. Escaping arrest, a number of officers formed an
opposition movement-Somali Salvation Democratic Front (SSDF) in the north-east. The
Somali National Movement (SNM) came up in the north-west. The United Somali
Congress (USC), drawing its support from the Hawiye clan, came up in central Somalia.
These movements took up arms against the regime of Siad Barre.
A month after declaring an emergency in December 1990, Siad Barre's army crumbled
and he fled Mogadishu with a small force. Huge quantities of heavy weapons fell into the
hands of the victorious factions.
The USC, which took control over Mogadishu, was itself divided between the sub-clans
of the Hawiye. These formed rival factions. Two of the most prominent amongst these
were that of General Mohamed Farah Aidid of the Habr Gedir sub-clan and that of Mr.
Ali Mahdi Mohamed of the Abgal sub-clan.
Throughout 1991, the war raged in Somalia and political parties divided the country. The
SNM in fact proclaimed an independent state (though not recognised by any country) in
the north-west called Somaliland. Mogadishu was itself divided amongst the warring
While the war uprooted half a million people, it also extensively militarised Somalia. As
per the 1993 Human Development Report published by the UNDP, for every dollar that
the Somali government spent on health and education, it spent five on its military. As a
consequence, the economic and social fabric further eroded.
Somalia's gross domestic product was $106 per person in 1992. The huge displacement
of people resulted in the area of cultivated land falling by almost half between 1989-
1991. Grain and seed stocks were plundered, irrigation systems were damaged, livestock
were killed, and wells of the opposing clans were polluted-all to deny the opponent food
and water. Deliveries of food and other humanitarian assistance were prevented and
many times looted. These were to be denied to the opposing clans. Towards the
beginning of 1992, only 15 of the 70 hospitals and clinics were still functioning. These
however lacked medicines and equipment. There was no political authority or police.
United Nations Intervention
Stability of the region was being threatened by the Somali civil war. The United Nations
Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar (whose term was ending) charged Mr. James
Jonah, the then Under-Secretary-General for Special Political Affairs with the task of
discussing with the Somali warring clans the possibility of a reconciliation and allowing
international aid to reach civilian populations. Except for General Aidid, all other faction
leaders gave their support to a cease-fire. However, there was unanimous support for the
United Nations role in bringing about a national reconciliation. On January 23rd 1992, the
Security Council placed Somalia on its agenda. It unanimously adopted resolution
733(1992) under Chapter VII of the Charter, imposing a general and complete arms
embargo on Somalia.
The Secretary-General reported to the Security Council that General Aidid did not
"indicate specifically whether or not he accepted the resolution (733 (1992))"1. Both sides
sent their representatives to New York for further consultations on the cease-fire. With
both sides claming the other was receiving arms from surrounding states, the Security
Council established a committee to monitor the arms embargo. Despite this, the influx of
weapons into Somalia did not stop.
In New York, both sides committed themselves to a cease-fire; however, the
representative of Mr. Ali Mahdi asserted that a cease-fire agreement without international
monitoring and supervision would not hold.
General Aidid did not want the presence of United Nations Military personnel, while Mr.
Ali Mahdi believed that without their presence, it would not be possible to maintain
security and stability in Mogadishu or distribute humanitarian aid.
The Secretary-General then recommended the establishment of a United Nations
Operation in Somalia (UNOSOM), comprising 50 military observers to monitor the
cease-fire, and a 500-strong infantry unit to provide United Nations convoys of relief
supplies with a sufficiently strong military escort to deter attack and to fire in self-
defence, should deterrence prove ineffective.
However, for the plan to be successful, all parties would have to observe the basic
principles of international humanitarian assistance. The principles incorporated the
activities and security of all NGOs providing humanitarian assistance. Distribution of
relief would be based on equity and need, and not on political or geographical
United Nations Operation in Somalia I - (UNOSOM I)
On 24 April 1992, the Security Council established UNOSOM I as per resolution
751(1992). Its mandate was to monitor the cease-fire in Mogadishu, and to provide
protection and security for United Nations personnel, equipment and supplies at the
seaports and airports in Mogadishu and escort deliveries of humanitarian supplies from
there to distribution centres in the city and its immediate environs.
In August 1992, UNOSOM I's mandate and strength were enlarged to enable it to protect
humanitarian convoys and distribution centres throughout Somalia. However, due to
continuous disagreements between the Somali factions, the effective deployment of
'Blue Helmets-Review of United Nations Peacekeeping', United Nations Sales Publication, December
UNOSOM could not take place. General Mohamad Fahrah Aidid asked for the
immediate withdrawal of the Pakistani UNOSOM and also the expulsion of the
UNOSOM Co-ordinator for Humanitarian Assistance within 48 hours. His forces shot
and shelled UNOSOM troops controlling the airport and at ships carrying food supplies.
On November 13th, Pakistani troops returned fire after being provoked. The absence of a
central authority to ensure the maintenance of law and order resulted in the hijacking of
vehicles, looting of convoys and warehouses, and detention of expatriate staff.
In December 1992, after the situation in Somalia further deteriorated, the Security
Council authorised Member States to form the Unified Task Force (UNITAF) to establish
a safe environment for the delivery of humanitarian assistance. UNITAF worked in co-
ordination with UNOSOM I to secure major population centres and ensure that
humanitarian assistance was delivered and distributed.
In response to resolution 794 (1992), President George Bush of the United States decided
to initiate Operation Restore Hope on 4th December. As per the resolution, the United
States would assume the unified command of the new operation.
The United States Central Command followed a four-phase program in order to secure
major airports and seaports, key installations and food distribution points, and providing
open and free passage of relief supplies, with security for convoys and relief
organisations and those supplying humanitarian relief.
The force level build-up of the United States was to go up to 28,000 and those of the 20
other countries was to be a total of 17,000 troops. As per paragraph 11 of the resolution, a
Trust Fund for Somalia - Unified Command was established. Its estimated target figure
was set at $400 million.
UNITAF had been effective in stabilising the security situation and ensuring the delivery
of humanitarian assistance. However, its efforts still left a lot to be desired. A secure
environment had not yet been established, and incidents of violence continued. This
despite the fact that UNITAF, covering approximately 40 percent of the country, had
deployed 37,000 troops in southern and central Somalia. There was still no effective
governmental control or police or a national army to maintain law and order. ICRC,
UNITAF, NGOs and the other personnel of the United Nations still were not secure in the
capital, as well as other parts of the country. The north-east and the north-west still had
no UNITAF or UNOSOM troop deployment.
As a result of this, on 3rd March 1993, the Secretary-General submitted to the Security
Council his recommendations for effecting the transition from UNITAF to UNOSOM II.
By this time, the expenditure on UNOSOM I had come upto $42,931,700 (net), and there
were eight fatalities (military personnel).
UNOSOM II was established by the Security Council in resolution 814(1993) on 26th
March 1993. UNOSOM II would try to complete the task of UNITAF, i.e., restoration of
peace and stability in Somalia. UNOSOM II would be empowered by its mandate to
create a new democratic state, and remedy the economic, political and social condition of
the Somali people through a process of national reconciliation.
UNOSOM II took over from UNITAF in May 1993.
United Nations Operation in Somalia II - (UNOSOM II)
The mandate of UNOSOM II was to take appropriate action, including enforcement
measures, to establish throughout Somalia a secure environment for humanitarian
assistance. To that end, UNOSOM II was to complete, through disarmament and
reconciliation, the task begun by UNITAF for the restoration of peace, stability, law and
order. Its main responsibilities included monitoring the cessation of hostilities, preventing
resumption of violence, seizing unauthorised small arms, maintaining security at ports,
airports and lines of communication required for delivery of humanitarian assistance,
continuing mine-clearing, and assisting in repatriation of refugees in Somalia. UNOSOM
II was also entrusted with assisting the Somali people in rebuilding their economy and
social and political life, re-establishing the country's institutional structure, achieving
national political reconciliation, recreating a Somali State based on democratic
governance and rehabilitating the country's economy and infrastructure.
But attempts to disarm Somali factions lead to violence. UNOSOM II troops were
attacked. On 5th June, 25 Pakistani soldiers were killed, 10 were reported missing and 54
were wounded. It was clear that despite the March agreement, General Aidid's forces
would not disarm.
A series of air and ground operations in Southern Mogadishu on 12th June 1993 initiated
the military action by UNOSOM II to ensure the implementation of resolution 837
(1993). The objective of the action was "… the political reconciliation, rehabilitation
and disarmament process can continue to move forward throughout Somalia".2.
The United States Rangers and the Quick Reaction Force were deployed in Mogadishu.
They were not under United Nations command. Their operations lead to casualties. The
United States lost two helicopters, 18 soldiers and another 75 were wounded. The bodies
of United States soldiers being dragged behind cars on the streets of Mogadishu were
broadcast all over the world and are today a stark reminder of the problems in faced in
The United States President William Clinton announced the withdrawal of United States
forces from Somalia by 31st March 1994.
By 2nd February 1992, UNOSOM II only had 7,956 troops in Somalia. These were the
Pakistani, Egyptian and Bangladeshi contingents. With their force levels reduced,
UNOSOM II was no longer able to provide protection to the United Nations agencies,
human rights organisations and other NGOs. They were advised to withdraw their staff
by 14th February 1995. By 28th March 1995, the mission's withdrawal was complete.
The total cost for UNOSOM II came up to $1,643,485,500 (net). The total number of
fatalities were 147 (143 military personnel, 3 international civilian staff and 1 local staff).
'Blue Helmets-Review of United Nations Peacekeeping', United Nations Sales Publication, December
AN ASSESSMENT OF THE UN OPERATIONS
Famine in Somalia was controlled to some extent due to the United Nations involvement.
However, the question begs us as to why a hundred percent famine eradication and the
end of the civil war not achieved? The United Nations has justified this by saying that the
Somali factions were uncooperative and failed to commit themselves to a lasting peace.
An examination of these claims proves them false.
The failure of the intervention is rooted in politics - Cold War politics, Somali politics,
politics of the United States, and the politics within the United Nations.
The intervention came at a time when there were dramatic changes in international
affairs. The Cold War had just ended, and the Security Council was loaded with the
problems in Yugoslavia and Iraq. Somalia fell through he cracks of the international
Cold War politics played an important role in the humanitarian disaster. The Super-
Powers took advantage of the rivalries between Somalia and Ethiopia. The ‘Horn of
Africa’ was a strategically important base for the Super-Powers. The Cold War rivals, for
their own selfish interest, kept Siad Barre's regime afloat. As a result, there was a massive
build up of arms and ammunitions in Somalia when the Cold War ended.
With the end of the Cold War, Somalia simply was no longer a strategic flash point and
could not garner the political attention required. More forceful action was taken in crisis
like Iraq and the Balkans. Great Powers gave more importance to tiny Cape Verde than to
Somalia. In the early phases of the conflict, the United States rejected proposals to put
Somalia on the United Nations Security Council agenda. Somalia was abandoned and left
to its own devices.
Besides Cold War politics, there was the utter failure to understand Somali clan politics.
The United Nations had not done its homework.
Somalis are 99 percent Muslims and share common ethnicity. They have a vast patrilineal
network that originated generations ago. With succeeding generations, separate branches
or sub-clans developed. Somalis identified themselves with their clan. Thus, their rivalry
was not rooted in religion, ethnicity or ideological differences, but petty men lusting for
power and loot. A Mogadishu businessman described the clan dynamic: "Siad Barre
dominates the psychology of this country. All clans want what his clan had."3
Clan details were not studied or understood. For example, few United Nations
representatives understood that Gen. Aidid and Ali Mahdi were members of the same
clan family - the Hawiye, but were from different sub-clans - the Habar Gidir and
Abgaal. These sub-clan were further broken down in sub-sub clans. These were not all in
favour of the faction leaders. Ali Mahdi's Abgaal-Harti was a minority and needed to
keep the other sub clans happy. Gen. Aidid's Habar Gidir was dependent on the Habar
Gidir-Ayr and Habar Gidir-Suleymaan for its infantry strength.
The United Nations drew charts of these clans, sub clans and sub-sub clans. They thought
that power emanated from the top and that the Somalis were one big happy family. This
again was an incorrect understanding or lack of it. The Somalis started from the bottom
up. To ensure that the foot soldier was loyal, the chief had to ensure a steady flow of the
spoils of war to him. The Somali soldier's loyalty ended when the loot stopped. The
Stevenson, Jonathan, 'Hope Restored in Somalia', Foreign Policy, No 91, Summer 1993, p142.
United Nations provided enough loot for the warring clan chiefs to keep the bottom of the
chart sufficiently loyal to the top.
Those who understood this complex sociology (Mohamed Shanoun being one of them) in
the United Nations resigned on grounds that no one listened to them.
The United Nations paid massive amounts to get Ali Mahdi and Gen. Aidid to New York
and get an agreement. They did not realise that both were using these agreements and
trips to lobby and coerce the other faction leaders to join what each believed to be their
wining side. Photo opportunities were used to raise their profile within the clans. The
United Nations did not realise that by trying to broker a deal, it was infact putting the
very same people back into power who were associated with Siad Barrre's regime. For
example, Aidid himself was in Barre's army, and Ali Mahdi's wife and some of his
closest advisors were all part of Barre's dictatorship. Most Somali's were thus against the
United Nations efforts to establish a government or central authority.
It is very important here to also study the role-played by the United States in the failure in
Somalia. Being a major donor to these missions, as well as providing troops, it failed to
fulfil responsibility of providing financial and intellectual leadership. But why did the
United States enter into Somalia - political reasons.
Gen. Powell regarded the mission in Somalia as "doable"4, and only then did the United
States enter. Another reason the U.S. war machine entered Somalia is that it needed an
enemy, it needed a mission. General Colin Powell, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, called
the operation in Somalia, "a paid political advertisement" for maintaining the current
military budget. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Pentagon had come under
growing pressure to radically cut its bloated budget. The $300 billion a year arms
industry linked over 70,000 military contractors, including the largest corporations in the
world, with the Pentagon. The Generals and the weapons makers were using the
intervention in Somalia to justify their very existence.
The Horn of Africa is one of the most strategic territories on the entire continent. It
controls access to the Red Sea and the Suez Canal. The Pentagon generals would have
loved to set up a permanent base in this critical area. Somalia is also oil rich. Several
billion-dollar oil companies have bought the oil rights from the previous regime. These
huge corporations wanted "law and order" in Somalia so they can pump out the oil. In
fact, Conoco, the oil company that had the largest holdings in Somalia, had allowed the
U.S. troops to use Conoco headquarters in Mogadishu as a command post and de facto
The failure of the United Nations mission can be attributed a great deal the United States.
As one international civil servant said, the United Nations was "seduced and then
abandoned" by the United States. The commonly held belief that the Quick Reaction
Force and the Rangers who were involved in the ill-fated firefight were under United
Nations command is grossly inaccurate. They were under a United States military
commander who reported directly to the United States Central Command. The allegation
that the United Nations greatly broadened the mission set up by the United States is also
inaccurate. The United States accused the mission of becoming over ambition - from
being 'purely' humanitarian, it became 'nation building', and this was never meant to be.
But it was the United States that began the move towards nation building. This can be
understood by understood from what Walter Clark and Jeffrey Herbst write 'by re-
Maren, Michael, 'Somalia: Whose Failure', Current History, No 95, May 1996, p202.
establishing some order, the U.S. operation inevitably affected the direction of Somali
politics and became nation building because the most basic component of nation building
is an end to anarchy…How can anyone believe that landing 30,000 troops in a country
was anything but a gross interference in its politics?'5
In fact, all the major Security Council resolution, including the one on 'nation building'
was written by United States officials.
Disarmament procedures were not adhered to. The United States chose to tell the Somali
clans to move their weapons out of Mogadishu. This would prove to be fatal not only for
the United States troop, but also for the United Nations. It gave the clan warlords time to
rearm. They also realised that once the strong United States troops were out of Somalia,
they could re-enter Mogadishu, and create problems for the lightly armed Blue Helmets.
By the time it was realised that actual disarmament should take place, UNITAF was
gone. The only war-fighting unit was the 1,200 member Quick Response Force.
The United Nations prides itself on being neutral in peacekeeping operations. By not
disarming the warlords, they were in fact siding with the stronger of the clans,
abandoning the weak.
After the October 1993 firefight, the United States ran scared and decided to pull out. It
left the United Nations to fulfil the doomed resolutions, which it could not.
Unlike the 1,000 civil-affairs officers who were posted in Kuwait City after the Iraqi's
were expelled, the United States only posted about 250-300 such personnel in Somalia.
Beyond hunger relief, no other development aid was available. There was little
connection between relief and development. Disaster relief specialist wrote an economic
recovery plan for Somalia because there were simply not enough personnel.
Not only did the peacekeeping mission leave much to be desired, but also the United
Nations relief agencies were no better. Repeated requests from private relief agencies for
medicine and medical supplies went unheeded. Save the Children (UK) delivered more
food than UNICEF did in 1992. $68 million of the UNDP remained untouched for want
of a signature from a non-existence government in Mogadishu. The UNHCR and the
WFP were stuck with the particulars of a contract to truck food into Somalia form the
neighbouring countries. All this while 50 refugees a day were dying of malnutrition.
The inadequacy of resources for rehabilitation and reconstruction, which were needed
concurrently with humanitarian relief and security arrangements, resulted in the
progressive degradation of the physical infrastructure and environment and considerably
hampered the effectiveness of the recovery effort in Somalia.
While the United Nations was swamped with bureaucratic politics, its responsibility fell
into the hands of the MSF, ICR, SOS, etc. They to a certain, but limited extent made up
for the absence of the United Nations relief agencies.
Clarke, Walter and Herbst, Jeffery, 'Somalia and the Future of Humanitarian Intervention', Foreign
Affairs, No 75(2), March-April 1996, p74.
Somalia to a great extent affected the future of Humanitarian intervention. In a recent
lecture that I attended, which was delivered by Kofi Annan at the United Services
Institute, New Delhi, he said that he believed 'Rwanda was because of Somalia.' So much
so was Somalia's effect, that the world was paralysed by it and did nothing as the Hutu
government slaughtered more than half a million Tutsis.
In Bosnia, United Nations peacekeepers under fire from or taken prisoner by Serb forces
were expected to turn the other cheek for fear of "crossing the Mogadishu line"6, a phrase
coined by Lt. Gen. Sir Michael Rose, former commander of the UNPROFOR.
Comments like these only reflect the gravity to which the Somalia mission effected future
peace keeping operations. The design of the United Nations Implementation Force in
Bosnia had been shaped by what was learnt in Somalia. The doctrine of the United
Nations was clearly affected.
The failure in Somalia also negatively impacted the psychology of the United States, a
major force in peacekeeping operations. President Clinton in a policy directive in April
1994 stated that there was to be a sharp curtailment of American involvement in future
armed humanitarian intervention, which was a renege on the earlier policies of
The Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali in the 1995 (second) edition of An Agenda
for Peace was less optimistic about the possibility of intervention than he was in the 1992
(first) edition, largely due to the United Nations failure in Somalia.
After the United Nations debacle in Somalia, there have been calls for a clear and strict
division between humanitarian intervention and nation building. Richard Hass, a special
assistant for national security affairs during President Bush's tenure has distinguished
between humanitarian interventions, which are intent on "providing protection and other
basic needs," and nation building, which envisions "recasting the institution of the social
The United Nations had no way of getting consent from the government because; quiet
simply, there was no government to give it consent. But, as Sahnoun put it "Wherever
there's oppression or a violation of human rights, the Secretary-General must take the
initiative of sending wise men very quickly." 8 And they must improvise, inventively
using the tools they find in place". But they need to be careful. Somalia showed that
without consent from a government, warring factions or the effected people, an
intervening force would be seen as hostile. The United States soldiers were seen as
'Clinton clan'. The United Nations and the United States were perceived as colonisers.
The Somali's doubted the integrity of the United Nations operation.
Hence, defining a failed state and the use of Chapter VII needs to be worked upon.
Understandably, the United Nations is not willing to utilise the Trusteeship method for its
past association with colonised territories and also the Charter would not allow it’s use
against another member state. However, a new method of creating strong domestic
institutions capable of self-government with the participation of the international
Clarke, Walter and Herbst, Jeffery, 'Somalia and the Future of Humanitarian Intervention', Foreign
Affairs, No 75(2), March-April 1996, p70.
Clarke, Walter and Herbst, Jeffery, 'Somalia and the Future of Humanitarian Intervention', Foreign
Affairs, No 75(2), March-April 1996, p72.
Stevenson, Jonathan, 'Hope Restored in Somalia', Foreign Policy, No 91, Summer 1993, p154.
community, disputing parties and the people of that state is important and urgently
Somalia sent a clear message. Once men with guns seize initiative, it becomes very
difficult to bring them to the negotiating table. The political calculations change. It also
becomes dangerous for peacekeepers, and they lose their effectiveness. The United
Nations has to act before states fail and slip into complete anarchy. They need to adopt
preventive, coercive or mediatory methods of diplomacy
In Somalia, the United Nations gave the mandate to the United States (Operation Restore
Hope). But the United Nations has to discard its white-collar attitude towards crisis.
A French colonel serving with the United Nations forces in Lebanon in early 1978 spoke
of 'the enemy' in relation both to the Christian militias and the PLO when briefing Kurt
Waldhim. Afterwards, this officer was taken aside and told that the United Nations
peacekeeping forces has no 'enemies…just a series of difficult and sometimes homicidal
The United Nations is a body that has to remain neutral. But this neutrality is not only in
the sphere of the actual field operations of the United Nations. It has to extend to the
political levels of the United Nations, i.e. mainly the Security Council. Why the speedy
intervention in Iraq and why not in Somalia? The United Nations failed miserably in its
reaction to Rwanda. With non-results like these, the question begs us - what will be the
criteria for future collective intervention? Would it be the colour of the skin, oil, geo-
strategic importance, ideology, and respect for human rights or will it be preserving peace
Today, there is one super power - United States. Unfortunately, with such a world
scenario, the United Nations cannot embark on any venture without the United States
wishes. There is an increasing danger of identifying the interests of the United States with
that of the United Nations. But the United State's role needs to be clearly defined. It has
to limit itself to monitoring situations, which may endanger international peace and
security. It has to channel its efforts through the framework of the United Nations. It has
repeatedly failed in the field and should keep out of it. Somalia has made belligerent
states and non-state actors realise that you only need to kill a few United States soldiers
and they run away.
There cannot be anything as a 'humanitarian surgical strike'. The United States Secretary
of Defence William Perry had proposed a deadline of one year for the mission. But there
can be no guarantee that a conflict, which was on for nearly 30 years, could be resolved
in one year's time. This time is also not enough to guarantee that humanitarian goals
would be achieved. Deadlines only let the disputing parties know how much relaxation
time they have. Also, the United Nations and the United States should realise that a large
military force cannot be apolitical. There were 30,000 peacekeepers in Somalia. The
United Nations and the United States were bound to get politically involved as the lives
of these 30,000 Blue Helmets were at stake.
Peacekeeping has to remain just that - peacekeeping. As the Dutch Ambassador Johann
Kaufman has noted, "Most of what is grouped together under peacekeeping is peace-or
Thakur, Ramesh, 'From Peacekeeping to Peace Enforcement: The UN Operation in Somalia', Journal of
Modern African Studies, No 32(3), September 1994, p393.
conflict-related, but not necessarily peacekeeping10." In other words, peacekeeping
should not include peacemaking or nation building.
The means and the mandates have to be in consonance with each other. The size and the
nature of the force should reflect the stages of the peace process and the level of threat on
The experiences of Somalia suggest that any force must be adequately equipped to handle
political-military operations. Civil-affairs officers did important work in Kuwait City and
Port-au-Prince. They could have done the same in Somalia. The Australians were to some
measure successful in parts of western Somalia. Some of the units need to be devoted to
psychological operations and intelligence gathering. The latter is particularly important if
it is to be ensured that the lives of the peacekeepers are not in danger. It is very necessary
to interact with the local population and promote reconciliation.
The Brahimi Report has suggested some changes amongst these, it says11:
1. "The Panel recommends a doctrinal shift in the use of civilian police, other rule of
law elements and human rights experts in complex peace operations to reflect an
increased focus on strengthening rule of law institutions and improving respect for
human rights in post-conflict environments;"
2. "The Panel recommends that the Executive Committee on Peace and Security (ECPS)
discuss and recommend to the Secretary-General a plan to strengthen the permanent
capacity of the United Nations to develop peace-building strategies and to implement
programmes in support of those strategies."
3. "Once deployed, United Nations peacekeepers must be able to carry out their
mandates professionally and successfully and be capable of defending themselves,
other mission components and the mission’s mandate, with robust rules of
engagement, against those who renege on their commitments to a peace accord or
otherwise seek to undermine it by violence."
4. "The Panel recommends that, before the Security Council agrees to implement a
cease-fire or peace agreement with a United Nations-led peacekeeping operation, the
Council assure itself that the agreement meets threshold conditions, such as
consistency with international human rights standards and practicability of specified
tasks and timelines."
5. "The Security Council should leave in draft form resolutions authorising missions
with sizeable troop levels until such time as the Secretary-General has firm
commitments of troops and other critical mission support elements, including peace-
building elements, from Member States."
6. "The Secretary-General should establish an entity, referred to here as the ECPS
Information and Strategic Analysis Secretariat (EISAS), which would support the
information and analysis needs of all members of ECPS; for management purposes, it
should be administered by and report jointly to the heads of the Department of
Political Affairs (DPA) and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO)."
7. "The United Nations should define "rapid and effective deployment capacities" as the
ability, from an operational perspective, to fully deploy traditional peacekeeping
Gian Luca Burci, United Nations Peacekeeping Operations in Situations of Internal Conflict', The New
World Order (Sovereignty, Human Rights and the Self Determination of Peoples), Ed. Morteiner Sellers,
operations within 30 days after the adoption of a Security Council resolution, and
within 90 days in the case of complex peacekeeping operations."
International peacekeeping has proved to be remarkably resilient. If the above
recommendations are adopted it will definitely go a long way in restoring the credibility
of the Blue Helmets. There is a big mistake in identifying peacekeeping as conflict
resolution. But they are another instrument of conflict resolution. The Brahimi Report
seems to have kept that in mind to a great extent. The United Nations needs to improve
its skills of bringing conflicts to the table while in infancy. To those who say that there is
a danger of the United Nations being involved in every conflict, I would ask them to read
the Charter again. If my interpretation of the Charter is correct, then it is the primary task
of the United Nations to maintain international peace and security. And conflicts today
are showing an increasing tendency to spread.
Meanwhile, there is no trace of the four billion dollars that were spent on Somalia. It is
engulfed in the same clan based politics, with an occasional short-lived glimmer of hope
followed by the occasional battle. Somalis are now responsible for their own future.
1) Maren, Michael, 'Somalia: Whose Failure', Current History, No 95, May 1996, pp.
2) Clarke, Walter and Herbst, Jeffery, 'Somalia and the Future of Humanitarian
Intervention', Foreign Affairs, No 75(2), March-April 1996, pp. 70-85.
3) Crocker, Chester A, 'The Lessons of Somalia: Not Everything Went Wrong, Foreign
Affairs, No 74(3), May-June 1995, pp. 2-8.
4) De Waal (Alex) and Omaar (Rakiya), 'Doing Harm by Doing Good?: The
International Relief Effort in Somalia', Current History, No 92(574), May 1993, pp.
5) Clark, Jeffrey, 'Debacle in Somalia', Foreign Affairs, No 72(1), 1992/1993, pp. 109-
6) Stevenson, Jonathan, 'Hope Restored in Somalia', Foreign Policy, No 91, Summer
1993, pp. 138-154.
7) Thakur, Ramesh, 'From Peacekeeping to Peace Enforcement: The UN Operation in
Somalia', Journal of Modern African Studies, No 32(3), September 1994, pp. 387-
8) Ludin, Willy, 'Towards the International Responsibility of the UN in Human Rights
Violation During Peacekeeping Operations: The Case of Somalia, International
Commission of Jurists, No 52, June 1994, pp. 47-55.
9) Biswas, Aprajita, 'Crisis in Somalia: The US/UN Intervention', African Quarterly, No
34(2), 1994, pp. 193-209.
10) Saxena, S C, 'Peacemaking and Peacekeeping Efforts in Somalia' Africa Quarterly,
No 35(3), 1995, pp. 65-73
11) 'Blue Helmets-Review of United Nations Peacekeeping', United Nations Sales
Publication, December 1996.
12) 'The UN and Somalia (1992-1996)', The UN Blue Book Series Volume III,
Department of Public Information, United Nations, New York.
13) Gian Luca Burci, United Nations Peacekeeping Operations in Situations of Internal
Conflict', The New World Order (Sovereignty, Human Rights and the Self
Determination of Peoples), Ed. Morteiner Sellers, 1999, pp 237-273.