Following the downfall of President Siad Barre in 1991, a civil war broke out in Somalia between the faction supporting Interim President Ali Mahdi Mohamed and that supporting General Mohamed Farah Aidid. The United Nations, in cooperation with the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and other organizations, sought to resolve the conflict. The Secretary-General in 1991 dispatched an envoy to whom all faction leaders expressed support for a United Nations peace role. The United Nations also became engaged in providing humanitarian aid, in cooperation with relief organizations. The war had resulted in nearly 1million refugees and almost 5 million people threatened by hunger and disease.

The Security Council in January 1992 imposed an arms embargo against Somalia. The Secretary-General organized talks between the parties, who agreed on a ceasefire, to be monitored by United Nations observers, and on the protection of humanitarian convoys by United Nations security personnel. In April, the Council established the United Nations Operation in Somalia (UNOSOM I).

The relief effort was hampered by continued fighting and insecurity. The Security Council in August decided to deploy some 3,000 additional troops to protect humanitarian aid. But the situation continued to worsen, with aid workers under attack as famine threatened 1.5 million people.

The United States in November 1992 offered to organize and lead an operation to ensure the delivery of humanitarian assistance. The Security Council accepted the offer and authorized the use of "all necessary means" to establish a secure environment for the relief effort. The Unified Task Force (UNITAF), made up of contingents from 24 countries led by the United States, quickly secured all major relief centres, and by year's end humanitarian aid was again flowing. UNOSOM remained responsible for protecting the delivery of assistance and for political efforts to end the war.

At a meeting convened by the Secretary-General in early 1993, 14 Somali political movements agreed on a ceasefire and pledged to hand over all weapons to UNITAF and UNOSOM. In March, the United Nations organized an aid conference at which donors pledged over $130 million. At a reconciliation conference organized by the Secretary-General and his Special Representative for Somalia, the leaders of 15 political movements endorsed an accord on disarmament, reconstruction and the formation of a transitional Government.

The Security Council in March decided on a transition from UNITAF to a new United Nations peacekeeping operation -- UNOSOM II, authorizing it to use force if necessary to ensure its mandate -- securing a stable environment for the delivery of humanitarian assistance. UNOSOM was also mandated to assist in the reconstruction of economic, social and political life. But while UNITAF had patrolled less than half of the country with 37,000 well-equipped troops, the 22,000 United Nations peacekeepers were given the mandate to cover all of Somalia.

The factions, however, did not observe the ceasefires. In June 1993, 24 UNOSOM II soldiers from Pakistan were killed in an attack in Mogadishu. Subsequently, clashes between UNOSOM and Somali militiamen in Mogadishu resulted in casualties among civilians and UNOSOM.

In October, 18 United States soldiers of the Quick Reaction Force -- deployed in support but not part of UNOSOM -- lost their lives in an operation in Mogadishu. The United States immediately reinforced its military presence, but later announced that it would withdraw by early 1994. Belgium, France and Sweden also decided to withdraw.

The Secretary-General in October held talks in Somalia, while UNOSOM and United Nations agencies continued their reconciliation and relief efforts. Somali elders held reconciliation meetings in various parts of the country, while over 100,000 refugees returned to relatively peaceful parts of Somalia.

The Security Council in early 1994 revised UNOSOM II’s mandate, stressing assistance for reconciliation and reconstruction, and setting a March 1995 deadline for the mission.

At talks brokered by a Secretary-General's envoy, the 15 major political movements in March 1994 signed a declaration on reconciliation: it provided for a ceasefire, the disarmament of militias and a conference to appoint a new Government. But preparations for the conference were repeatedly postponed.

The Secretary-General told the Security Council in September that UNOSOM II’s ability to provide security had been reduced by troop withdrawals, budget restrictions and military actions by the Somali factions. Wider problems included the lack of commitment to peace by the factions and insufficient political will by Member States. The Council approved reductions in the force.

With faction leaders still not complying with the 1993 and 1994 agreements, the Security Council extended UNOSOM for a final period. It urged factions to enact a ceasefire and form a Government of national unity. As no further progress was made, UNOSOM withdrew in March 1995.

During the three-year effort (UNOSOM I and UNOSOM II), 157 United Nations peacekeeping personnel had died. But the United Nations had brought relief to millions facing starvation, helped to stop the large-scale killings, assisted in the return of refugees and provided massive humanitarian aid. Under difficult conditions, United Nations agencies have continued their humanitarian work.


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