A mismatch in expectations may turn the U.S. mission sour

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

MOGADISHU, Somalia -- Many Somalis welcome the imminent American military intervention in their country, but they view the narrowly focused goal of protecting the delivery of food to the destitute as a mere sideshow to what really interests them: an end to the clan vio- News analysis

lence, economic reconstruction and political reconciliation. And they expect the Americans to deliver on all counts.

This mismatch in expectations, with the Somalis seeing the Americans as the economic and political salvation for their destroyed country and the Americans planning a brief mission designed to avoid any longterm involvement, could turn the operation sour very quickly, Somalis and international aid workers say.

Educated Somalis, many of whom have been holed up in their houses in the capital for the past two years while the country was 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 schools being reopened, job training for the armed vagabonds, roads being paved, all under the Americans' auspices.

"The Americans are in for a surprise," said Ahmed Jama, a British- and American-educated former national police chief. "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 became clear yesterday that Gen. Mohammed Farah Aidid, a Somali clan leader, had expectations other than food aid when he accepted Washington's proposal. Mr. Aidid said he planned military action against a rival clan this weekend at Bardera.

Mr. Jama said the long-term goals were even more vital than feeding the hungry. He said that if they were not addressed, 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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