New era as the US re­turns to Mo­gadishu

The East African - - NEWS -

By ABDULKAIR KHALIF

AT THE on­set of the civil strife in the So­mali cap­i­tal Mo­gadishu in Jan­uary 1991, the US com­pound was used as the main sta­tion to air­lift all for­eign diplo­mats to safety.

The large com­pound was called Sliligga (weird), be­cause it was en­closed by a barbed wire and a con­crete wall. Sliligga was eas­ily the most pro­tected for­eign diplo­matic mis­sion in Mo­gadishu.

But, as soon as the air­lift­ing of the diplo­mats was over, loot­ers de­scended on the for­ti­fied com­pound, cart­ing away ev­ery mov­able item they lay their hands on.

It would take an­other year be­fore the US mis­sion would come back to life again.

That was in De­cem­ber 1992, when for­mer US pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush, who died last week, or­dered over 30,000 marines to land on the beaches of So­ma­lia.

The mis­sion was not to con­quer Mo­gadishu, or re-es­tab­lish nor­mal diplo­matic re­la­tions with the Horn of Africa state, but to ini­ti­ate a hu­man­i­tar­ian op­er­a­tion co­de­named Op­er­a­tion Re­store Hope.

The op­er­a­tion co­in­cided with the peak of the So­ma­lia civil war, as rebel groups that had de­feated the dic­ta­to­rial regime of Gen Mo­hamed Siad Barre turned their guns on each other.

It was the recipe for wors­en­ing the famine that had over­whelmed the coun­try from the early 1990s.

Op­er­a­tion Re­store Hope also at­tracted many other coun­tries to join the US in the solemn mis­sion of ex­tend­ing hu­man­i­tar­ian as­sis­tance.

The mis­sion also made his­tory when Ge­orge W. Bush be­came the first and only US pres­i­dent to set foot on So­mali soil.

Of course, pres­i­dent Bush was con­clud­ing his term and was about to be re­placed by the al­ready pres­i­dent-elect Bill Clin­ton.

Pres­i­dent Clin­ton too would make his­tory when he ended Op­er­a­tion Re­store Hope, fol­low­ing the down­ing of two US Black Hawk he­li­copters and the deaths of 18 marines on Oc­to­ber 3, 1993.

Al­though the US re­mained one of the strong­est sup­port­ers of So­ma­lia, es­pe­cially in peace-build­ing and re­lief op­er­a­tions, its ac­tiv­i­ties were largely based in Nairobi.

When So­ma­lia adopted the first tran­si­tional fed­eral con­sti­tu­tion in Au­gust 2012, paving the way for the end of the in­terim gov­ern­ment, the US re­acted pos­i­tively.

The newly elected Pres­i­dent Has­san Sheikh Mo­hamoud

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