United Nations Operation in Somalia I

International Information

International Operation Name: United Nations Operation in Somalia I

International Mission Name: United Nations Operation in Somalia I (UNOSOM I)

Mandating Organization: United Nations

Region Name: Africa

Location: Somalia

Mission Date: 24 April 1992 - 30 April 1993

Mission Mandate: UNOSOM I was established by Security Council Resolution 751 (1992) of 24 April 1992 to monitor the ceasefire in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia; to provide protection and security for United Nations personnel, equipment and supplies at the seaports and airports in Mogadishu; and to escort deliveries of humanitarian supplies from there to distribution centres in the city and its immediate environs.

On 28 August 1992, UNOSOM I's mandate and strength were expanded by Security Council Resolution 775 (1992) to enable it to protect humanitarian convoys and distribution centres throughout Somalia.

On 3 December 1992, after the situation in Somalia had further deteriorated, the Security Council, by Resolution 794 (1992), authorized member states to form the Unified Task Force (UNITAF) to establish a safe environment for the delivery of humanitarian assistance. UNITAF worked in coordination with UNOSOM I to secure major population centres and ensure that humanitarian assistance was delivered and distributed.

Mission/Operation Notes: The independent state of Somalia was created in 1960 following the merger of the former colonies of Italian and British Somaliland. A democratic form of government was put in place at that time, but the power of traditional Somali clans remained strong. In the end, the democratic system established at the time of independence failed to survive as General Siad Barre led a successful military coup in 1969.

By 1988 there was widespread dissatisfaction with Barre’s government. The Somali National Movement (SNM) launched a guerrilla campaign but was defeated. The next year, however, two new resistance groups were formed: the United Somali Congress (USC), led by Muhamad Faarah Aideed and Ali Mahdi, and the Somali Patriotic Movement. They, along with remnants of the SNM as well as other clan-based groupings gradually took over much of the country. Barre was finally overthrown on 27 January 1991 by the sheer weight of the opposition, but his opponents could barely be said to be working together. The SNM immediately declared an independent republic in the north; the USC split into two rival factions; and although the capital, Mogadishu, suffered the most, soon clan was fighting clan throughout most of the country.

The result was a humanitarian crisis of huge proportions, one made worse by the legacy of three years of drought in the area between 1985 and 1989. One million Somalis were said to be refugees in neighbouring countries, while perhaps as many as 4.5 million Somalis still in the country were in danger of malnutrition or starvation. Despite the obvious risks - Somalia was by now violently anarchic - the United Nations, Red Cross, and other non-governmental humanitarian aid organizations all did what they could to deliver assistance.

For its part, the UN Security Council had already called for a ceasefire, and with the support of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the Secretary General authorized a mission to help bring one about. The mission succeeded in late March, with the result that on 24 April 1992 the Security Council adopted Resolution 751 to establish a UN operation in Somalia to observe the peace and the delivery of humanitarian aid. Fifty unarmed UN military observers (UNMOs) arrived on 5 July, and within a month Aideed and Mahdi agreed to the deployment of a UN security force of some 500 soldiers. Pakistan agreed to provide these personnel, the first of whom arrived on 14 September, but despite the ceasefire and the Aideed/Mahdi agreement, clan-based factional fighting continued, not only in and around Mogadishu but also in the countryside, where heavily armed bandits were stealing humanitarian and relief supplies.

Responding to what it saw, the UN Security Council agreed to increase UNOSOM’s strength from 500 to 3,500 security personnel and to add three logistics units, but the situation continued to deteriorate. Looting became more widespread and violent; harbours and airports were attacked; ships were shelled; and both money and supplies were being extorted from the aid agencies to guarantee the safety of their workers. At times, even the UN troops in Mogadishu were attacked and their vehicles and weapons stolen.

Reacting to the chaos, on 3 December 1992 the Security Council passed Resolution 794 authorizing member states to use “all necessary means to establish as soon as possible a secure environment for humanitarian relief operations in Somalia”. UNOSOM, in short, had become a Chapter VII operation, but it would no longer be the only military organization in the country. On 9 December, the first elements of the United States-led Unified Task Force (UNITAF) arrived in Mogadishu. UNITAF quickly expanded its operations to other major relief centres to establish a secure environment for the delivery of humanitarian aid. While UNOSOM, for its part, continued to be responsible for humanitarian assistance and the political aspects of the UN’s Somalia operations, the two missions would henceforth attempt to co-ordinate their activities until the end of their mandates: 30 April in the case of UNOSOM, and 4 May for UNITAF.

Canadian Forces (CF) Information (CORDON)


Date: 4 September 1992 - 30 April 1993

CF Mission/Operation Notes: Whether Canada should participate in UNOSOM was a matter of considerable debate in Ottawa, primarily because its mandate seemed too vague and the security situation too fragile for what was supposed to be a Chapter VI, or peaceful, operation. But given indications that the UN might sanction more robust rules, on 4 September 1992 a warning order was issued detailing the Canadian Airborne Regiment as the Canadian Forces main contribution to UNOSOM, with HMCS Preserver and Hercules aircraft in support. However, on 4 December, Canada changed its offer: the Airborne Regiment would go to UNITAF rather than UNOSOM, and only a few staff officers would be provided to the latter. These were the only Canadians to participate in UNOSOM 1.

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