By 1995, the 27-nation U.N. military coalition will have rooted out gunmen and bandits in Somalia, the U.N. special envoy here vows.
Envoy Jonathan Howe stressed that U.N. forces will be able to withdraw on schedule by May 1995, by which time he believes the country will be peaceful enough to rebuild its economy and restore social and political stability."There's already the start of commercial activities we're all pretty excited about," Howe, a retired American admiral, told reporters at the heavily guarded U.N. headquarters compound.
He spoke shortly after two American military police were wounded by sniper fire in Mogadishu. The soldiers, who were not identified, were reported stable while undergoing treatment at the main U.S. field hospital.
Thirty-five peacekeepers have died since June 5 in attacks blamed on gunmen loyal to renegade clan leader Mohamed Farrah Aidid, who controls southern Mogadishu. More than 100 U.N. soldiers have been wounded.
U.N. forces have retaliated with helicopter attacks on several compounds believed used by Aidid's gunmen, resulting in heavy Somali casualties and triggering international criticism about excessive force by U.N. troops.
Howe, who was appointed special representative of U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali in May, said the recent violence has been largely confined to the relatively small southern portion of the capital. He said it should not overshadow the U.N. mission's broader achievements.
"It's time the other story was told," Howe said.
He said starvation has largely been eradicated in rural areas since the foreign military intervention began with a U.S.-led operation in December. Schools, shut down by anarchy and famine during two years of civil war, are open again, and harvests are picking up, he said.
Displaced families, among more than 1.2 million refugees who fled the war, have begun returning to rebuild their homes and young militiamen say they are tired of fighting, Howe said.
He expressed confidence U.N. forces soon would end weeks of anarchy in Mogadishu itself.