A decade has passed since an Australian force took part in a United Nations task force to provide protection to humanitarian aid in civil war ravaged Somalia. This operation was one of the most significant since Australian Defence Force (ADF) involvement in multinational peacekeeping commenced with the contribution, in 1947, of military observers to what was initially titled the United Nations Good Offices Commission.
First UN Operation in Somalia (UNOSOMI) 1992-1993
Strength: 30 ADF Movement Controllers
In late 1990 and throughout 1991, Somalia collapsed into clan warfare and then civil war. As 1992 progressed the civil war worsened and the country effectively ceased to function as an organised nation state. Mass starvation and anarchy followed. Beginning tentatively in September 1992, the UN stepped in to protect the delivery of humanitarian assistance and to reconstitute Somalia as a functioning political, social and economic entity.
On 20 October 1992, the 30 Strong ADF Movement Control Unit (MCU) arrived in Somalia to assist UNOSOM I cope with the influx of assigned forces.
Unified Task Force in Somalia (UNITAF): 1992-1993
(Operation Solace) Strength: Approx 1,200. 1 RAR (Royal Australian Regiment) Battalion Group, Australian HQ and HMAS Tobruk.
By late 1992, the catastrophic situation in Somalia had outstripped the UN’s ability to quickly restore peace and stability, mainly because the UN was hamstrung by insufficient forces and UN peacekeeping principles and methods could not cope with the need to use force in such complex situations. On 3 December 1992, UN Security Council Resolution 794 authorised a coalition of UN members led by the US to form UNITAF and intervene to protect the delivery of humanitarian assistance and restore peace.
Australia deployed a battalion plus supporting elements, including a squadron of armoured personnel carriers, HQ staff, engineers, communications and electronic warfare specialists, administrative elements and HMAS Tobruk. The RAAF was also used to move the Australian forces to and from the area of operations, and conducted regular resupply missions from Australia . The battalion group operated the 17,000 square kilometre Baidoa Humanitarian Relief Sector in south-western Somalia.
The battalion group was very successful at
fostering and protecting humanitarian relief efforts and won widespread
international praise for its efforts in restoring law and order and
re-establishing functional legal, social and economic systems.
Second UN Operation in Somalia (UNOSOMII) 1993-1996
Strength: 36 Movements and Air Traffic Control Staff, 12 man Ready Reaction Security Team (mainly SAS) and some HQ staff -- some 50 personnel per tour of duty-totalling approx 250.
On 5 May 1993, UNITAF handed over to a reinforced UNOSOM II. The Australian Battalion Group withdrew to Australia. The ADF Contingent provided movement control, air traffic control, some HQ staff and a ready reaction security team (mainly SAS) at the Mogadishu airport.
The Australian force was withdrawn in 1996.
Reproduced with the kind permission of the Australian Peacekeepers and Peacemakers Association
Copyright © ANZAC Day Commemoration Committee (Qld) Incorporated 1998.