THE arrival yesterday of the first armed United Nations troops in Mogadishu to guard distribution of relief food marks the second step in a three-part UN plan to curb massive starvation and armed anarchy in Somalia.
It is considered a highly risky move. As the first 60 Pakistani soldiers, to be joined later this month by 440 more, prepare to take up their UN posts, UN officials, Somalis, and Western relief workers express concern.
"We certainly hope to avoid having a Sarajevo situation," says Jan Eliasson, the UN's under-secretary-general for Humanitarian Affairs, referring to the UN peacekeeping troops killed in the former Yugoslav republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
The UN's three-part plan is to: provide large-scale food relief; protect distribution efforts from the armed bandits who have been stealing much of the relief supplies; and try to arrange a peace settlement among warring Somali factions.
Already, UN personnel in Somalia and workers from other humanitarian organizations have become "targets and not only innocent bystanders in the internal conflict," Mr. Eliasson says. Two of the 50 unarmed UN monitors already in Mogadishu to report violations of a cease-fire between the two major factions recently were shot and wounded at a Somali checkpoint. The two were riding in a clearly marked UN vehicle. Several international and Somali relief workers also have been wounded or killed.
THE UN plan for armed troops "isn't going to work," predicts Bob Koepp of the Lutheran World Federation. Mr. Koepp used to work for the UN in Somalia. "The present generation [of Somalis] carrying the guns doesn't care about human lives. If [UN troops] get in the way, [Somalis] are going to shoot them."
But Hussein Siad, a Somali who has held posts in the former dictatorial regime of Maj. Gen. Mohamed Siad Barre and under current Interim President Mohamed Ali Mahdi, suggests armed Somali looters will be intimidated by a UN show of force.