What went wrong with the US-led UN Peacekeeping operation in Somalia?


The American-led United Nations peacekeeping mission in Somalia has been considered one of the most disastrous events in the history of the nation. This is because it ended up creating a situation where the entire Somali population felt the negative effects of American presence in their country. The United States military was in a unique position in Somalia because it was capable of making sure that the peacekeeping efforts as well as dialogue between the warring factions was conducted. However, it did not take advantage of its position and in the process sought to impose its will on the people of Somalia through the advancement of the American agenda in the country. A consequence is that the peacekeeping mission ended up going very wrong. In this paper, there will be an assessment of the manner through which the American-led United Nations peacekeeping mission in Somalia went wrong, and the responsibility that the United States bears in the worsening of the humanitarian situation in this country.

One of the most fundamental mistakes that were committed during the entre mission was that the American mission failed to coordinate effectively with the Somali warlords. This was to such an extent that they ended up in a situation where the Americans sought to impose their way of handling issues on the warlords. Coordinating with the warlords, who controlled a significant part of the country, was an essential means of making sure that there was the achievement of humanitarian corridors through which food supplies could be made to reach a majority of the population that had been affected by famine. In this process, the Americans failed to take on the leadership role that was required of them to make sure that the humanitarian goals was achieved because they did not make arrangements to coordinate their efforts with the warlords. The lack of involvement of the latter meant that it was extremely difficult for food and other humanitarian aid to reach the population and this was to such an extent that it led to considerable tensions between the rival factions in Somalia and the peacekeeping mission. There was a failure to consider that the population was quite hostile to the presence of foreign military forces in their country, and the lack of coordination with the warlords meant that this situation only got worse. The potential of a conflict between the different armed groups in the country was quite high especially considering the high-handed manner that the American forces conducted their operations with total disregard for the local leadership; namely the warlords.

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In addition, the most powerful warlord in Somalia was Mohamed Ali Farah Aidid, who had been the victor in the conflict against its former ruler, Siad Barre. Following the conflict, however, Aidid had not been willing to make a deal with the United States concerning getting into the latter country’s orbit in international relations. A consequence was that the United States was determined to capture this individual so that he could not stand in the way of its agenda in the country. General Aidid, because of his considerable power in parts of the country as well as the alliance that supported him, was able to not only escape capture, but also make attempts to make sure that he drove the peacekeeping forces out of Somalia. Therefore, a consequence of American action was to make a potential ally a hostile one. This is especially the case considering that the main mission was to ensure that humanitarian aid reached the population affected by famine while at the same time promoting the peaceful coexistence of the people in the country. However, the United States’ decision to go after one of the most important parties in the Somali conflict can be considered to have been a move away from its intended mission; resulting in considerable hostility from the local population. Despite its stated mission, the United States military presence in Somalia was one that was essentially considered a foreign one, and its actions did not help matters at a domestic level because Aidid was an essentially part of the political solution to the conflict.

Another situation that went wrong with the peacekeeping operation was the attempt to disarm the warlords. This is because such attempts were often met with open hostility because the disarming process would lead to a situation where the various factions would not be able to have the leverage that they needed in the conflict. Furthermore, the disarmament initiative was conducted by a foreign power with a history of intervening in conflicts in order to achieve its own national interests rather than the interests of the locals. The result was the advancement of the need by the various warring factions to ensure that the presence of the United States, as well as the other participants in the peacekeeping mission, was driven out of Somalia. The strategic blunder that was made by the United States was seeking to take away the weapons that were the major guarantee of the continued political aspirations of the various warlords in the country. A consequence of this blunder is that it led to a situation where there was open hostility towards the American forces on the ground to such an extent that it forced them into the defensive. This is because the Americans, while a vastly superior force, were still in a land where they would have a hard time in achieving their objectives because the population had suddenly become more resistant to American intervention in the conflict. This circumstance would have forced about a situation where it was essential for the American forces in Somalia to take a step back from their operation. However, this turned out not to be the case because there was suddenly an escalation of the conflict as the fight between the American forces and the warlords ended up in the streets.

The sudden direct involvement of the United States in the Somali conflict can be considered one of the things that went wrong with the peacekeeping mission. This is because rather than being an outside observer with the intention of keeping the various factions in Somalia from fighting one another, the United States had become a player within it. A result of this situation was that there was the development of a situation where it was extremely difficult for the Somali population to continue accepting the American presence in their country. The events that took place following direct American intervention in the Somali conflicts are depicted in the film Black Hawk Down, which shows the manner through which the American forces were subjected to a humiliating situation where they not only lost 18 individuals, but also opened fire on unarmed civilians. The aftermath of this scenario cannot be underestimated because the American behaviour seems to have also influenced the peacekeeping missions from other western countries, which ended up committing a diversity of atrocities against the civilian population of Somalia. These atrocities are well documented and they show the manner through which the peacekeepers ended up becoming caught up in the Somali conflict in such a way that they ended up killing the very people they had been sent to protect. The situation could have been handled better but this was not the case because the American sought to make use of brute force in order to achieve their objectives.

Moreover, there was a failure to consider the grievances of the local population, especially when it came to the way that the American-led mission handled the peacekeeping process. The Somali population had, despite the civil war as well as the famine, achieved a level of recovery when the peacekeeping mission was initiated. The population had not only gotten well on the way towards recovery, but had also become determined to initiate a political process aimed at promoting peace in the country. However, the involvement of the American-led mission forced the country once more into conflict because the United States sought to undertake its mission objectives without the input of the local population. It ended up in a situation where the Somalis came to believe that the United States was essentially an army of occupation that sought to mould their will based on its own agenda. The result was that there was an open challenge to the United States to ensure that it remained strictly to peacekeeping; a call that was not heeded by the military as it further escalated its conflict with the warlords. The United States failed to consider the grievances of the local population against its presence which had, despite its official purpose, essentially made things worse in Somalia to such an extent that a country that had been along the right path towards the achievement of peace ended up becoming completely ungovernable and unsafe for a considerable part of its population, which either sought refuge in neighbouring Kenya or were internally displaced.

Furthermore, the American-led mission ended up looking upon the Somali population as one that was hostile and engaged in the killing a considerable number of unarmed civilians, including women and children. The bombing of a meeting of prominent clan elders and killing many of them by the American mission led to a situation where the local peace process was undermined. The Somalis had taken the initiative to make sure that there was the achievement of means through which peace could be made to prevail without outside intervention. The clan elders that were killed were individuals who had met to create a way forward in bringing an end to the conflict. The killing of these individuals by the American mission frustrated this effort and this was to such an extent that the conflict ended up going on for decades. The American-led Somalia mission seems to have acted more on impulse than on any real strategy when it decided to leave its stated mission behind and became more involved in the conflict in Somalia. In a country that was well on the way towards recovery and reconciliation, the American-led presence only made things worse because the individuals involved in the conflict found themselves face to face with a new player that did not have the interests of the Somali population at heart. Instead, the American-led presence was one of escalation as it sought to dominate a country that did not require any foreign intervention to solve its problems. The United States had waited for too long for it to intervene in the Somalia conflict, and when it did, it was inopportune because the Somalis were in the process of achieving of coming up with means through which they could achieve lasting peace among them.

In conclusion, the American-led United Nations peacekeeping operation in Somalia turned out to be a complete disaster for the latter. This is because Somalia was not able to recover from the effects of American intervention because this intervention killed many important opportunities that would have led to the achievement of lasting peace. The operation instead ended up targeting unarmed civilians; essentially attacking the very people that they had been mandated to protect and pushing the country backwards for decades.

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