Somalis in Maryland praise troop deployment OPERATION RESTORE HOPE

December 05, 1992|By James Bock | James Bock,Staff Writer

Yasmin Hamud, a Somali student at Bowie State University has lost cousins and uncles to the civil war in Somalia, some shot by members of rival clans and others drowned while fleeing the country on rickety, overloaded boats.

That was reason enough yesterday for Ms. Hamud, a 27-year-old accounting major, to hail the United Nations' decision to send a U.S.-led contingent of troops to Somalia.

"I think it's an excellent idea, really overdue. This should have been done long ago, but I'm glad it's being done now," she said.

Better late than never: That was the reaction of a number of Somalis in Maryland to the troop deployment.

Abdinasir Guled, a Somali immigrant cab driver from Silver Spring, said he still has relatives in Mogadishu, the embattled Somali capital.

"I think everyone who knows something about humanitarian assistance is in favor of this," said. "They say every hour 200 or 300 people are dying in Somalia. That's something that can't be ignored."

Abdul Abdi, a Somali-American economics major at the University of Maryland at College Park, said he supported U.S. intervention "100 percent."

Mr. Abdi followed his father to the United States in 1984, then watched his country fall apart. His mother, brother and sister fled a Ethiopian refugee camp after their hometown in northern Somalia was bombed in 1988.

He originally considered Somalia's civil war an African problem to be solved by Africans. But "when I saw famine and casualties and death and starvation -- the death of probably 300,000 Somalis -- I had a change of heart.

"Everyone now sees that starvation has increased, there is no political solution in sight, and the United States is the only one that can do this," he said.

But Mr. Abdi, 29, cautioned that the United States should complete its humanitarian mission quickly and then turn Somalia over to a multinational peacekeeping force.

He said he favored a U.N. trusteeship for Somalia, similar to one in effect before the country in the Horn of Africa gained independence in 1960.

Ms. Hamud, too, worried that U.S. forces would get bogged down.

"Trying to feed people is the No. 1 priority, but then what?" she asked. "It doesn't seem like the American government has an agenda. If the Americans leave the country, the warlords could come back into power."

Somalis noted sadly that the war that has caused the starvation of thousands is, more than anything, a struggle for power among rival clans.

"It makes absolutely no sense," Mr. Abdi said. "Ultimately, everything is about who is going to sit in the presidential palace. It's a sheer showdown about power."

Fathia Karsha, 32, of Silver Spring, said she was confident that American firepower would intimidate the warring factions and that little blood would be shed.

But, she warned, "Sending troops is not enough. Nobody talks about a political settlement or any peace talks. It's not as if we are so uncivilized. We lived for hundreds of years together."

Jama Farah Mahamed is watching events unfold with particular interest -- from the confines of the Wicomico County jail in Salisbury. The 24-year-old Somali is fighting deportation after a federal judge rejected his bid for political asylum last month.

Mr. Mahamed's father and mother were killed by rebels in Mogadishu last year, and he fled to escape a similar fate, says his lawyer, Michele R. Pistone.

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