The Anger of Somali Families

To many, the UN represents the outside world, which has come to their nation and behaved badly

A GRAFITTO sprayed across some of the walls of Mogadishu slums reflects the anger among Somalis at the United Nations.

For many people in southern Mogadishu - the fiefdom of a fugitive warlord who is wanted by the UN for human rights crimes - UN military operations here have made their homes more dangerous than during two years of civil war.

Derisively, the painted words say: ``Animal Howe, Go Your Home,'' a reference to the United States special envoy to the UN here, retired Navy Adm. Jonathan Howe.

Somalis in the capital detest the UN (the blue UN helmet has become a target), and violent clashes with gunmen have damaged UN credibility and caused Somalis to dig more graves for their loved ones.

``I don't understand,'' is a regular refrain of civilians here. For most Somalis in Mogadishu, the UN is the entire outside world, which has come to their country and - at least in this port city - behaved badly.

The UN compound here, a broad and exposed 80-acre complex that once housed the US Embassy, has come to be called, ``The home of the people with the blood on their hands.''

The label has a feel more of tact than malice, but in a society traditionally united or divided according to blood feuds and clan rivalries, it is nonetheless a dangerous distinction.

Just as US senators and congressmen will have difficulty trying to explain to parents why their sons died while on a ``humanitarian'' mission - and have few answers to offer - so Somalis will find it difficult to convince the young men among them not to take up arms against the UN to avenge the deaths of their Somali brothers.

Regardless of where the UN places the blame for the bloodshed, reality for many Somalis is that family members and friends have been caught up in intense military operations and firefights, and have died at the hands of the UN.

They may know that Gen. Mohamed Farah Aideed, the warlord targeted by the UN, may well have killed UN troops or orchestrated their deaths. But it was not General Aideed who pulled the trigger that killed their friends.

Revenge can be simple, as that meted out recently in northern Kenyan town of Wajir, along the Somali border.

A US pilot was killed there by a Somali because he was American. The Somali was the son of a man killed during a daylight raid by American helicopters on July 12.

About 70 Somalis died that day, and the will for revenge attacks is simmering among many Somali families.

The anger in Mogadishu contrasts with the feeling among Somalis and other clans enjoying relative peace elsewhere in the country.

Somalis away from the violence are the first to recognize that the reason for this peace is that they are watching the UN attempt to crush Aideed, the leader of a strong rival clan.

If the UN is successful in doing so, these Somalis reason, there will be more political power to spread around between the 14 remaining warlords, men who Somalis also know have been responsible for various atrocities just as reprehensible as Aideed's.

Still, the sight of Somali blood spilled in Mogadishu makes members of Aideed's Haber Gadir clan seethe.

``We will fight the UN to the last man,'' vows businessman Mahdi Ali.

His reason: His best friend's daughter was killed by UN troops while caught in a UN battle that he thinks never should have happened.

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