NEW YORK (Oct. 5)
Gen. Mohamed Farah Aideed, chairman of the Somali National Alliance, has accepted an offer of aid for starving and homeless refugees from Israeli philanthropist Abie Nathan and said he welcomes humanitarian aid from Israel and its non-governmental organizations.
Aideed also invited Nathan and representatives of his Voice of Peace organization to visit Somalia to discuss the establishment of refugee camps there.
Responding to a letter from Nathan, Osman Hassan Ali, adviser to the general, wrote that the “Somali National Alliance has requested (the) international community for help to contain and rehabilitate the displaced people in Somalia, and Israel and their nongovernmental organizations are indeed equally wholeheartedly invited to participate in this vital project.”
The acceptance seems to mark a reversal for Somalia, a Moslem nation which had recently rejected any aid from Israel that was identified by an Israeli emblem, according to a spokesman at the Israeli Consulate in New York.
Somalia, a member of the Arab League, has had a history of hostility to the Jewish state.
The Israeli spokesman could not say who in Somalia had rejected the aid.
Aideed is one of several warring leaders in Somalia, where he controls a part of the southern region that includes the airport and port. International relief agencies have been dealing with Aideed.
Somalia’s longtime leader, Mohamed Siad Barre, fled the country in January 1991 and the country has since descended into a warring patchwork of feuding fiefdoms.
The invitation to Nathan was announced by the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, which has been coordinating his efforts to get the organized Jewish community to contribute $1 million for a tent city for Somali refugees in neighboring Kenya. Fourteen Jewish groups calling themselves the Jewish Coalition for Somali Refugee Relief are sponsoring an advertisement in the New York Times seeking money for that project.
The Somali invitation will not interfere with the plans for the Kenyan tent city, said Rabbi Eric Yoffie, vice president of the UAHC.
Yoffie welcomed the acceptance of Israeli and Jewish help by ruling parties in Somalia. “To the extent that the Somalian authorities are going to be positive and authoritative, that is good. It will make Abie’s job easier,” said Yoffie.
He said Nathan had been distressed over published reports of hostility by the Somalis to Israel.
“He has no desire to offend them,” Yoffie said. “He apprised us of the fact that there have been some changes there which appear to indicate a new attitude toward his endeavor.”
But the country’s instability remains a major issue. On Thursday, the U.S. government warned Somalia’s parring warriors that Washington will not help that country rebuild unless it accepts a U.N. peacekeeping force.
Deployment of some 3,500 U.N. troops has been delayed because of objections by the various Somali factions, who fear losing control of their respective turfs.