Somalia - UNOSOM II

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This text was last updated effective 21 March 1997

Not an official document of the United Nations





DURATION: March 1993 - March 1995

STRENGTH: Approximately 28,000 military and police personnel; there was also a provision for some 2,800 international and locally recruited staff

FATALITIES: 147 (143 military personnel, 3 international civilian staff and 1 local staff)

EXPENDITURES: $1,643,485,500 net

FUNCTION: Established to take over from the Unified Task Force (UNITAF) - a multinational force, organized and led by the United States, which, in December 1992, had been authorized by the Security Council to use "all necessary means" to establish a secure environment for humanitarian relief operations in Somalia. The mandate of UNOSOM II was to take appropriate action, including enforcement measures, to establish throughout Somalia a secure environment for humanitarian assistance. To that end, UNOSOM II was to complete, through disarmament and reconciliation, the task begun by UNITAF for the restoration of peace, stability, law and order. Its main responsibilities included monitoring the cessation of hostilities, preventing resumption of violence, seizing unauthorized small arms, maintaining security at ports, airports and lines of communication required for delivery of humanitarian assistance, continuing mine-clearing, and assisting in repatriation of refugees in Somalia. UNOSOM II was also entrusted with assisting the Somali people in rebuilding their economy and social and political life, re-establishing the country's institutional structure, achieving national political reconciliation, recreating a Somali State based on democratic governance and rehabilitating the country's economy and infrastructure. In February 1994, after several violent incidents and attacks on United Nations soldiers, the Security Council revised UNOSOM II's mandate to exclude the use of coercive methods. UNOSOM II was withdrawn in early March 1995


The following text is adapted from the "Blue Helmets" - A Review of United Nations Peacekeeping. The Blue Helmets is a United Nations Sales Publication issued in December 1996. Click here for SALES AND PUBLICATIONS

May 1993: UNOSOM II succeeds the Unified Task Force (UNITAF)

Crisis conditions of wide-spread famine, inter-clan fighting, absence of a government authority and general lawlessness continued to prevail in Somalia in May 1993, when the United Nations Operation in Somalia II (UNOSOM II) took over from the Unified Task Force (UNITAF). UNITAF troops were deployed in the country under United States central command in December 1992 to create the necessary security environment for the humanitarian relief activities of UNOSOM I, the first United Nations Operation in Somalia, which was set in train by the Security Council in resolution 751(1992) in April 1992 (click here for information on UNOSOM I).

UNOSOM II was established by the Security Council in resolution 814(1993) on 26 March 1993, following recommendations by the Secretary-General of 3 March 1993. He indicated that since the adoption of Council resolution 794 (1992) in December 1992, UNITAF had deployed approximately 37,000 troops in southern and central Somalia, covering approximately 40 per cent of the country's territory. UNITAF had a positive impact on the security situation in Somalia and on the effective delivery of humanitarian assistance. However, despite those improvements, a secure environment had not yet been established, and incidents of violence continued. There was still no effective functioning government in the country, no organized civilian police and no disciplined national army. The security threat to personnel of the United Nations and its agencies, UNITAF, ICRC and NGOs was still high in areas of Mogadishu and elsewhere in Somalia. Moreover, there was no deployment of UNITAF or UNOSOM troops to the north-east and north-west, or along the Kenyan-Somali border, where security continued to be a matter of grave concern.

UNOSOM II mandate established under Chapter VII of the Charter

The mandate of UNOSOM II, as approved by the Security Council in resolution 814(1993) under Chapter VII of the Charter, covered the whole territory of Somalia and included:

In resolution 814(1993), the Council also requested the Secretary-General, with assistance from all United Nations entities, offices and specialized agencies, to provide humanitarian and other assistance to the people of Somalia in rehabilitating their political institutions and economy and promoting political settlement and national reconciliation. The assistance included repatriation of refugees and displaced persons within Somalia, the reestablishment of national and regional institutions and civil administration in the entire country, the re-establishment of Somali police, and mine-clearance.

The four phases of UNOSOM II

The Secretary-General recommended that UNOSOM II military operations be conducted in four phases:

By 4 May 1993, budgetary, administrative and military control of the operation were transferred from UNITAF to UNOSOM II. The Secretary-General had appointed Admiral Jonathan Howe (Ret.) (United States) as his new Special Representative for Somalia effective 9 March 1993. The Secretary-General appointed Lieutenant-General Çevik Bir of Turkey as Force Commander of UNOSOM II.

Conferences on Somalia

The deployment of UNITAF forces improved the security situation and facilitated the flow of food and other emergency relief supplies into the neediest areas of Somalia. The level of malnutrition and death from starvation fell dramatically in many areas. However, the humanitarian and political situation in many parts of the country remained difficult and tense. To facilitate the voluntary return of approximately 300,000 refugees and internally displaced persons; help provide jobs and work for millions of unemployed Somalis; and to help the Somalis rebuild their society and rehabilitate its decayed infrastructure, the United Nations convened a Conference on Humanitarian Assistance to Somalia, (Addis Ababa, 11 to 13 March 1993). Donors attending the conference pledged over $130 million of the estimated cost of $166.5 million to implement the Programme.

The Conference on National Reconciliation in Somalia met on 15 March 1993 in Addis Ababa. The leaders of all 15 attending Somali political movements signed, on 27 March 1993, an Agreement of the First Session of the Conference of National Reconciliation in Somalia. The Agreement had four parts: disarmament and security, rehabilitation and reconstruction, restoration of property and settlement of disputes, and transitional mechanisms.

Violent incidents against UNOSOM II peacekeepers

Following the transition from UNITAF to UNOSOM II in May 1993, it became clear that, although signatory to the March Agreement, General Mohammed Farah Aidid's faction would not cooperate in the Agreement's implementation. Attempts by UNOSOM II to implement disarmament led to increasing tensions and, on 5 June, to violence. In a series of armed attacks against UNOSOM II troops throughout south Mogadishu by Somali militia, 25 Pakistani soldiers were killed, 10 were reported missing and 54 wounded. The Special Representative of the Secretary-General stated that the soldiers were "murdered as they sought to serve the neediest people in the city". The Security Council adopted resolution 837(1993) on 6 June, strongly condemning the unprovoked armed attacks against UNOSOM II. On 8 June, 11 Somali parties condemned the attacks and expressed support for resolution 837.

UNOSOM II responds militarily

To implement resolution 837(1993), UNOSOM II initiated military action on 12 June 1993, conducting a series of air and ground operations in south Mogadishu. UNOSOM II removed Radio Mogadishu from the control of the United Somali Congress/the Somali National Alliance (USC/SNA) (General Aidid's faction), and disabled or destroyed militia weapons and equipment in a number of storage sites and clandestine military facilities. The Secretary-General said that the objective of the action was to restore peace to Mogadishu "so that the political reconciliation, rehabilitation and disarmament process can continue to move forward throughout Somalia".

In parallel with its disarmament operations, UNOSOM II instituted an investigation of the 5 June incident. On 17 June, citing mounting evidence implicating SNA militia in the attack, the Special Representative called on General Aidid to surrender peacefully to UNOSOM II and to urge his followers to surrender their arms. He directed the UNOSOM Force Commander to detain General Aidid for investigation of the 5 June attack and of the public incitement of such attacks. However, efforts to capture General Aidid proved unsuccessful and attacks on UNOSOM II by his militia continued.

Incidents of 3 October 1993

After the June 1993 events, UNOSOM II pursued a coercive disarmament programme in south Mogadishu. Active patrolling, weapons confiscations, and operations were directed at the militia and depots of General Aidid's faction (USC/SNA). A public information campaign was instituted to explain these activities to the population.

In support of the UNOSOM II mandate, United States forces -- the United States Rangers and the Quick Reaction Force -- were deployed in Mogadishu. These forces were not under United Nations command and control. As part of the coercive programme, the Rangers launched an operation in south Mogadishu on 3 October 1993, aimed at capturing a number of key aides of General Aidid who were suspected of complicity in the 5 June attack and subsequent attacks on United Nations personnel and facilities. The operation succeeded in apprehending 24 suspects, including two key aides to General Aidid. During the operation, two United States helicopters were shot down by Somali militiamen. Eighteen United States soldiers lost their lives and 75 were wounded. One United States helicopter pilot was captured and subsequently released on 14 October 1993. The bodies of the United States soldiers were subjected to public acts of outrage, and the scenes were broadcast by television stations around the world.

Following these events, the United States reinforced its Quick Reaction Force with a joint task force consisting of air, naval and ground forces equipped with M1A1 tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles. At the same time, United States President William Clinton announced the intention of the United States to withdraw its forces from Somalia by 31 March 1994.

On 9 October 1993, USC/SNA declared a unilateral cessation of hostilities against UNOSOM II forces. After this declaration the situation was generally quiet, but Mogadishu remained tense and, in the capital and elsewhere, major factions were reportedly rearming, in apparent anticipation of renewed fighting.

Secretary-General reviews situation: a critical juncture

After the Security Council, by resolution 878(1993) of 29 October 1993, had extended the UNOSOM II mandate until 18 November 1993, the Secretary-General, on 12 November reviewed for the Council the priorities of the United Nations role in Somalia -- the highest of which was humanitarian relief. He pointed to the dramatic and visible success that had been achieved in reducing starvation deaths and conditions of famine in the country. Significant improvements had also been made in the fields of public health, education, agriculture and other areas.

As to the refugee situation, by November 1993, some 1.7 million people had been displaced as a result of the turmoil and the famine in Somalia; more than 1 million had crossed into Kenya and Ethiopia. Over 250,000 persons moved to Mogadishu, and about 60,000 persons to Kismayo and Baidoa. The northern regions were supporting at least 250,000 refugees and internally displaced persons. The number of refugees returning from camps in Kenya was increasing. About 70,000 refugees in the Mombasa area had returned by boat to Kismayo, Mogadishu and Bossasso.

Despite the progress achieved in many areas, however, the Secretary-General stressed that UNOSOM II was at a critical juncture. There was still no effectively functioning government, no disciplined national armed force, and no organized civilian police force or judiciary, although impressive progress had been achieved towards restoring the police and judiciary.

Commission of inquiry

On 16 November 1993, the Security Council adopted resolution 885 (1993) authorizing a Commission of Inquiry, in further implementation of its resolutions 814 (1993) and 837(1993), to investigate armed attacks on UNOSOM II personnel which led to casualties among them. In accordance with the Council decision, UNOSOM II suspended arrest actions against those suspected, pending the completion of the report of the Commission. By the end of November 1993, all but eight of those arrested and detained following the June 1993 incidents were released.

Revision of mandate set

On 18 November 1993, the Security Council renewed the mandate of UNOSOM II for six months to 31 May 1994. The Council decided in resolution 886 (1993) that it would fundamentally review the mandate by 1 February 1994. The Secretary-General pointed on 6 January 1994 to two primary obstacles on the political level: (1) deep divisions between the two main factional alliances, the Group of 12 supporting Mr. Ali Mahdi , and the SNA led by General Mohamed Farah Aidid, and; (2) the continued rejection by USC/SNA of all political initiatives undertaken by UNOSOM II. The Secretary-General saw support of national reconciliation as a key task of UNOSOM II. Progress notwithstanding, the Secretary-General concluded that the mandate of UNOSOM II was far from being achieved. Only when the Addis Ababa agreement of March 1993 was fully implemented, culminating in the holding of general elections and the installation of an elected Government, could that mandate be considered fully implemented.

By resolution 857(1994) of 4 February 1994, the Security Council approved the Secretary-General's recommendation for the continuation of UNOSOM II, with a mandate to: assist the Somali parties in implementing the Addis Ababa Agreements, particularly in disarmament and cease-fire efforts; protect major ports, airports and essential infrastructure; provide humanitarian relief to all in need throughout the country; assist the reorganization of the Somali police and judicial system; help repatriate and resettle refugees and displaced people; assist the political process in Somalia, and; protect the personnel, installations and equipment of the United Nations and its agencies, as well as of NGOs providing humanitarian and reconstruction assistance. The Council authorized a gradual reduction of UNOSOM II to a force level of 22,000.

Nairobi Declaration

Upon completion by Admiral Howe of his year-long assignment as Special Representative, the Secretary-General appointed Deputy Special Representative Lansana Kouyate as Acting Special Representative in February 1994. Mr. Kouyate then began efforts to ease the relationship between UNOSOM II and SNA, and to help the Somali faction leaders in restoring dialogue and personal relationships among themselves. On 24 March 1994, Mr. Ali Mahdi and General Aidid signed, for the Group of 12 and SNA, respectively, a Declaration on National Reconciliation. The Somali faction leaders repudiated any form of violence as a means of resolving conflicts and committed themselves to implement a cease-fire and voluntary disarmament. They also agreed to restore peace throughout Somalia.

National reconciliation prospects

The Security Council, by resolution 923 (1994) of 31 May 1994, renewed the mandate of UNOSOM II until 30 September 1994, subject to a review no later than 29 July. From 1 July 1994, the Secretary-General appointed Mr. James Victor Gbeho (Ghana) as Special Representative. On 17 August 1994, the Secretary-General reported to the Security Council that conflicts within the dominant Hawiye clan, to which both Mr. Ali Mahdi and General Farah Aidid belonged, constituted the major obstacle to national reconciliation. No meaningful progress could be made in the political process without first finding a solution to the conflict among the Hawiye sub-clans (Habr Gedir, Abgal, Hawadle and Murosade). The Special Representative believed that if Hawiye reconciliation could be attained and the differences between Mr. Ali Mahdi and General Aidid resolved, the prospects for national reconciliation and the establishment of a national government would be significantly improved.

UNOSOM II down-sized

A special mission sent by the Secretary-General visited Somalia from 28 July to 4 August 1994. It found that the Special Representative and the Force Commander were in consensus on reducing the number of troops to about 17,200 all ranks by the end of September 1994. The authorized strength of UNOSOM II was then 22,000 all ranks and the actual strength on 2 August was 18,761. A troop level of approximately 15,000 represented the critical minimum below which the mandated tasks could not be implemented. Gradual reduction to the level of 15,000 was to be achieved by November 1994. On 30 September, the Security Council, by resolution 946 (1994), extended the mandate of UNOSOM II until 31 October 1994.

Secretary-General takes stock

The Secretary-General reported to the Security Council on 14 October 1994 that national reconciliation had not kept pace with achievements in the humanitarian area. Security had been progressively deteriorating, especially in Mogadishu, and the Somali leaders had not carried out commitments entered into under the Addis Ababa Agreement and the Nairobi Declaration. UNOSOM's goal of assisting the process of political reconciliation was becoming ever more elusive, while the burden and cost of maintaining a high troop level was proving increasingly difficult for Member States to justify. The protracted political impasse had created a vacuum of civil authority and of governmental structure in Somalia, leaving the United Nations with no foundation to build on. In the Secretary-General's view, only the Somalis themselves could establish a viable and acceptable peace. The international community could only help in that process, but such assistance could not be sustained indefinitely.

Security Council mission and final extension of mandate

Pursuant to Security Council resolution 946(1994) of 30 September 1994, a seven-member mission, headed by Ambassador Colin Keating of New Zealand, visited Somalia from 26 to 27 October. The mission concluded that 31 March 1995 was the appropriate date for the end of the mandate of UNOSOM II. None of the Somali factions had requested a longer extension; nor did the humanitarian agencies or NGOs. On 4 November 1994, the Security Council, by resolution 954 (1994), decided to extend the mandate of UNOSOM II for a final period until 31 March 1995.

Somali National Alliance (SNA)/
Somali Salvation Alliance (SSA) Agreements

Following the Security Council's decision to end UNOSOM's mandate on 31 March 1995, the rival factions in Mogadishu began to work together. On 21 February 1995, a peace agreement was signed by General Aidid and Mr. Ali Mahdi on behalf of SNA and SSA, respectively, to promote national reconciliation and a peaceful settlement. In that agreement, the two sides accepted the principle of power-sharing. They pledged not to seek the presidency through military means but through democratic elections, and agreed to the resolution of disputes through dialogue and peaceful means and agreed on a common platform for tackling problems. The Agreement also included provisions for the confinement of "technicals" to designated areas and discouraged the open carrying of arms in the streets of Mogadishu. In addition, it called for the removal of roadblocks and the reopening of the main markets. The seaport was opened for commercial traffic on 9 March 1995.

UNOSOM II withdraws

By 2 February 1995, UNOSOM II troop strength was reduced to 7,956, comprising Pakistani, Egyptian and Bangladeshi contingents and the remaining headquarters personnel. As the withdrawal accelerated, military support provided by UNOSOM troops to United Nations agencies, human rights organizations and NGOs still engaged in humanitarian activities was greatly reduced. With the major reductions starting in mid-February, it was no longer possible for UNOSOM II troops to extend the necessary protection even within Mogadishu. Agencies were then advised to evacuate their international staff to Nairobi by 14 February 1995. The mission's withdrawal was completed by 28 March 1995.


The withdrawal of UNOSOM II marked a point of transition in the efforts of the United Nations to assist a people and a country caught in the throes of famine, civil war and the collapse of all institutions. The major political achievement of the United Nations in Somalia was to help bring about a cease-fire, first in Mogadishu and then nationally. Although its ambitious plan to rebuild the internal structures of a functioning State did not prove possible in the face of the inability of the Somali factions to come to terms with each other, the United Nations did help to put in place 52 (of a possible 92) district councils, and 8 regional councils (of a possible 18). Opposition to the formation of these councils from SNA prevented the creation of the Transitional National Council envisaged in the Addis Ababa agreement of March 1993.

Success was greatest in the humanitarian field. Millions of Somalis benefited from these activities and, at a minimum, an estimated quarter of a million lives were saved. There were also achievements in terms of reviving the Somali police: some 8,000 were deployed in 82 district stations. By March 1995, there were 46 district courts, 11 regional courts and 11 appeals courts, all functioning because the United Nations had helped with funds, training and rebuilding of infrastructure.

The withdrawal of UNOSOM II did not mean that the United Nations was abandoning Somalia. The United Nations agencies and organizations, as well as NGOs, were determined to continue humanitarian operations in Somalia. In the post-UNOSOM II era, they focussed on rehabilitation, recovery and reconstruction, without prejudice to emergency relief where that was necessary.

Composition of UNOSOM II

The command structure for UNOSOM included a Special Representative of the Secretary-General as political head. The first Special Representative was Mr. Mohammed Sahnoun (Algeria). Upon his resignation, Mr. Ismat Kittani (Iraq) was appointed on 3 November 1992. He was in turn succeeded in March 1993 by Admiral Jonathan Howe (Ret.) (United States). In February 1994, upon Admiral Howe's resignation, his Deputy, Mr. Lansana Kouyate (Guinea), was appointed as Acting Special Representative. The Secretary-General appointed Mr. James Victor Gbeho (Ghana) as his Special Representative from 1 July 1994, and Mr. Kouyate then took up a new assignment at United Nations Headquarters. Mr. Gbeho served as Special Representative until April 1995.

The Chief Military Observer of UNOSOM I was Brigadier General Imtiaz Shaheen of Pakistan, appointed on 23 June 1992. The authorized strength of UNOSOM I according to resolution 751 (1992) was 50 military observers. They were provided to UNOSOM I by Austria, Bangladesh, Czechoslovakia, Egypt, Fiji, Finland, Indonesia, Jordan, Morocco and Zimbabwe. Resolution 751 also authorized a 500-strong security unit, which Pakistan later agreed to provide. The first group of security personnel arrived in Mogadishu on 14 September 1992. General Shaheen then served as Force Commander. These forces remained in Mogadishu under UNOSOM I command following the deployment of UNITAF in December 1992. On 28 August 1992, the Security Council, by resolution 775 (1992), authorized the increase of the total strength of United Nations security personnel to 3,500, and on 8 September, it agreed to a further addition of three logistical units, raising the total authorized strength of UNOSOM to 4,219 troops and 50 military observers.

The first Force Commander of UNOSOM II was Lieutenant-General Çevik Bir (Turkey), appointed in April 1993. On 18 January 1994, he was succeeded by Lieutenant-General Aboo Samah Bin Aboo Bakar (Malaysia). The original authorized strength of UNOSOM II under resolution 814 (1993) was approximately 28,000 military personnel and some 2,800 civilian staff. Military personnel were provided by the following countries: Australia, Bangladesh, Belgium, Botswana, Canada, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Kuwait, Malaysia, Morocco, Nepal, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Republic of Korea, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United States, and Zimbabwe. The civilian component consisted of United Nations staff, personnel seconded from Member States, and locally recruited staff.

Supporting UNOSOM II in the field, but not part of it, were approximately 17,700 troops of the United States Joint Task Force in Somalia. A Quick Reaction Force was part of the United States presence. These troops remained under United States command.

Reference Note:

For further referenced information, "The United Nations and Somalia -- 1992-1996"; Blue Books Series, Volume VIII, with an introduction by Boutros-Boutros Ghali, Secretary General of the United Nations, is available (United Nations Publication Sales No. E.96.1.8) (Click here for SALES AND PUBLICATIONS)

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