Preparing for the Mission
|2 September 92
This morning the rumours are confirmed as we received the official word that we are
going to Somalia. We have been told to expect to be on the ground by 15 October. After
last year when we spent months preparing to go to the Western Sahara, only to have it
cancelled after many delays, everyone is skeptical, but underneath it all there is a
strong feeling that we will actually be going. Rumours have been flying all summer and
we've all know something was up.
Yesterday afternoon we received a briefing on Somalia outlining where we will be going
and what we will be doing if in fact we do go. The briefing was short and we all took it
with a grain of salt after the Western Sahara.
The news broke today and we were on all the local and national news programs. There had
been hints and speculations before, but these treated it as fact that we are going.
3 September 92
On morning parade we were told that 2 RCR has been committed to Yugoslavia and that we
should expect to leave for Somalia in three weeks. It took us months to prepare for the
Sahara and they expect us to head off in a few weeks! I know we can do it, but what a
logistical nightmare it will be. The Airborne Regiment can be prepared to move in a matter
of days, but the rest of the Canadian Forces does not maintain our state of readiness.
We could easily end up without logistical support if we move too quickly. I
guess I shouldn't expect much free time in the next little while.
Apparently Canada now has its largest UN commitment ever, even larger than that of
Korea, something like 2500 troops and it is severely straining the system. Maybe it will
make them take a good look at what they have been doing to the military with their force
reduction plan. Troops are on a constant rotation of tours and it is beginning to
put a strain on the soldiers' families and the forces as a whole.
Everything is changing so rapidly with this new world order. Instead of the mission of
war we have been given the mission of Peace, a much more worthwhile aim in my eyes.
Depending on how things go in the next couple of years, I might have to re-examine my
priorities and stay in the military.
10 September 92
An intense week so far. Last Friday we had our first briefing on Somalia. Then after a
needed long weekend we were back at work. Ranges, classes and more briefings, but still no
concrete information. We will be going to Bossasso in the north and the advance
party will be leaving in a couple of weeks with the rest of us leaving in a few more
weeks. The Provider will be sailing soon and will be supplying us for the first couple of
months, but it still looks like we will be eating IMP's for awhile.
We went through the departure assistance group (DAG) today and even though it took
forever I am good to go.
The newspapers are reporting that the United Nations is estimating that
2 million people will die in Somalia if sufficient amounts of food are not
delivered quickly enough. The Red Cross estimates that 60,000 tons
of food are needed. Meanwhile Somali truck drivers in Beled Weyne
have parked their trucks on the airstrip in Beled Weyne turning back aid
flights because they lost the contract to haul the food.
20 September 92
Canadian and German relief planes came under
attack recently while delivering supplies at an airstrip near Hoddur which
is about 280 kilometers northwest of Mogadishu. Luckily Somali
security forces repelled the attack, killing three of the bandits.
Meanwhile, General Aidid, one of the main Somali warlords called on the
United States to withdraw the marines who are waiting off the coast.
He says that they will not contribute to peace in his country. He also does not want the UN to deploy troops.
The aid agencies are pleading with the UN to deploy troops
though. They say that their efforts have been severely hampered by
widespread looting and attacks by bandits. Only last Friday,
airlifts were cancelled to Beled Weyne after an American cargo plane was
hit by a bullet.
19 October 92
We've spent the weeks watching the news, packing
kit, training and listening to the excuses for the delays. More and more this is
beginning to sound like last year all over again, but we are trying our best to keep
moral up and keep going. We have the day off today so I haven't heard anything, but the
Recce party returned yesterday so we may hear something soon. They spent a week in Bossasso
in the north. At least things are happening.
The warlord Mohammed Abshir Musa who controls the area around Bossasso
has agreed to us coming in to guard the aid shipments in that area.
Word is that Bossasso is relatively calm compared to other parts of the
country, but they are anxious for our arrival. Our equipment is in
Halifax and ready to be loaded on the ships.
A Canadian and
a Belgian Herc came under heavy machine gun fire as it was unloading aid a few days
ago and Tommy Thomson, a UN official came under heavy fire as he left the airstrip in Mogadishu.
His vehicle was flying a Red Cross flag at the time. Also, fighting between General Morgan
(Siad Barre's son-in-law) and General Aidid has intensified.
The defence minister, Marcel Masse,
and General de Chastelain are pleading with the government for additional funding to support our UN commitments. We
have no faith in Masse though and do the best we can with what we have
and hope for some relief in the future.
27 November 92
The United States has offered to send as many as
30,000 troops into Somalia. The United Nations is considering their
offer and a tough new mandate for the troops. If this is
approved, we will first secure the ports and airstrips, then key roads and food distribution points.
John Watson, the executive director of Care Canada has sent a letter to
Brian Mulruney asking that we be sent to the more heavily populated south
where lawless gangs have disrupted relief operations. Watson says
that the Federal Government is afraid of the political backlash if
Canadian Troops become involved in fighting. He says, "Canada is
going to have to assign troops to a place where they would have to fight
and kill people."
2 December 92
The UN Security Council has approved a US led
force for Somalia. They feel that the peacekeeping approach they have been
taking so far has failed and they are talking about sending troops in a
combat role to force the peace. Once peace is established it will
pave the way for a more conventional peacekeeping force. We are
still unsure what this will mean for us, but we are watching the news and reading the papers, anxiously waiting
4 December 92
We were jumping today when we found out that we were going in with the US troops. We
have mixed feelings about the Americans, but moral is high and we are all looking forward
to a probably much more interesting mission. We had all been wondering why we were
going to Bossasso when the problems were in the south . . .
After the repeated delays, we had all thought this
was a repeat of the Western Sahara fiasco, but now it seems like a
reality. The Americans are planning a two phase operation in
which we first go in and secure major ports and airstrips, then move
out and forcefully disarm the militias and clan
warlords. At the same time we will be setting up relief stations, delivering food and setting
up basic social services like schools and hospitals.
It is estimated that about 80 percent of the aid
is currently being stolen by the warlords. Our presence can only
help get the food to the people who really need it. We are being
given a mandate which is very similar to the Gulf War. With powers
that broad, we should be able to do our job for a change
instead of being crippled by typical UN bureaucracy. This is the
first time that the United Nations have intervened in a countries internal affairs with
a mandate to use offensive force. The United Nations resolution was drafted under Chapter
7 of the UN Charter, which allows the use of force "to maintain
or restore international peace and security."
In the newspapers, analysts are saying that this is the largest and
most dangerous mission ever undertaken by the UN in Africa. They
also say that the fighting in Somalia has caused the worst man-made
famine this century which has killed at least 300,000 people and left two
million more on the brink of death. They say though that only a
prolonged operation can rebuild the country, and that there is no way that
it can be completed in the four or five months that the US is
estimating. People are already beginning to compare this to Vietnam
and Beruit. They feel we will get pulled into a lengthy conflict
with no easy way out.
The External Affairs Minister Barbara McDougall has agreed that our
mandate will be to shoot first and ask questions later. This
is the first combat mission for Canadian Ground troops since the