Somalis' high expectations may put U.S. in dilemma CRISIS IN SOMALIA

December 04, 1992|By Jane Perlez | Jane Perlez,New York Times News Service

MOGADISHU, Somalia -- Many Somalis expect Americans to bring a lot more than food to this famine- and war-ravaged country.

They welcome the imminent U.S. military intervention's narrowly focused goal -- protecting the delivery of food aid -- as a mere sideshow to what really interests them: an end to the clan violence, economic reconstruction and political reconciliation.

This mismatch in expectations -- the Somalis seeing the Americans as the economic and political salvation of their ravaged country and the Americans planning a mission designed to avoid any long-term involvement -- could turn the operation sour quickly, Somalis and international aid workers say.

Educated Somalis, many of whom have been holed up in their houses in the capital for the last two years while the country has been devastated by clan fighting, say the Americans must stay for at least a year to solve the problem of the starving, disarm the population and get political and economic reconstruction going.

They talk of such things as schools being reopened, armed vagabonds being trained for jobs and roads being paved, all under the auspices of the United States.

"The Americans are in for a surprise," said Ahmed Jama, the British- and U.S.-educated former national police chief in Somalia. "The expectations are very high. The Somalis think they will do a lot of things for them. And if they don't do these things -- deliver the humanitarian food, then disarm the people and then bring people together for political reconciliation -- it will revert to chaos."

It also became clear yesterday that Gen. Mohammed Farah Aidid, the most aggressive of the Somali clan leaders, had expectations other than food and medical aid for his people when he accepted Washington's proposal last week. General Aidid said he planned military action against a rival clan this weekend at Bardera, one of the hardest-hit towns in the famine zone.

Bardera, where more than 100 Somalis die of hunger and disease daily, is understood to be a chief target for the Americans, a place they would secure and then deliver food to. It is under the control of the forces of Gen. Mohammed Said Hersi Morgan, the son-in-law of the deposed president, Mohammed Siad Barre.

General Morgan's forces stage armed attacks daily on the warehouses stocking food for the International Committee of the Red Cross and CARE.

General Aidid said on Somali radio Wednesday night that he would attack Bardera, 250 miles west of here, unless General Morgan's forces left the town, which they took from General Aidid two months ago. All international aid workers were advised yesterday by General Aidid's office to leave Bardera.

Several Somalis said General Aidid's ultimatum appeared to reflect a calculation by the Soviet-trained general, who has been weakened by military setbacks, that he could forge an alliance on the ground with the U.S. forces moving into Bardera and use them to regain control of the city.

But Somalis said it would not be enough if the Americans secured Bardera against the assaults of General Morgan or General Aidid, even if the Americans repeated that process around the country.

Mr. Jama said long-term goals were even more vital than feeding the hungry. He said that if those goals were not addressed, factions in the country, which is brimming with weapons and ammunition from the CoLd War superpowers, would continue "to fight over what is left."

"This coming and going out is not worth it," said the former police chief. "It's just a waste of time. They shouldn't come if that's what it is, because when they leave things will spark up again. They should be here for about a year if they are serious about it."

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