I propose to take Questions Nos. 13, 19, 25 and 92 together.
The primary purpose of my recent trip to Somalia was to visit Irish personnel serving with UNOSOM II — whom I found to be in excellent spirits. I was greatly impressed by their sense of commitment to the important work which they are undertaking in the cause of international peace.
I had meetings in Nairobi with General Aidid, interim president Ali Mahdi and Ambassador Kouyate, Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General. I also had meetings in Mogadishu with the UNOSOM Force Commander, General Aboo and Mr. Abdul Touray, Political Official with UNOSOM.
My meeting with General Aidid was most cordial. The General expressed deep interest in doing everything possible to ensure the safety of Irish troops and assured me that the Irish are most welcome in Somalia.
The current mandate of UNOSOM II is as follows: encouraging and assisting the Somali parties in implementing the "Addis Ababa Agreements", in particular in their co-operative efforts to achieve disarmament and to respect the cease-fire; protecting major ports and airports and essential infrastructure and safeguarding the lines of communications vital to the provision of humanitarian relief and reconstruction assistance; continuing its efforts to provide humanitarian relief to all in need throughout the country; assisting in the reorganisation of the Somali police and judicial system; helping with the repatriation and resettlement of refugees and displaced persons; assisting in the ongoing political process in Somalia which should culminate in the installation of a democratically elected government and providing protection for the personnel, installations and equipment of the United Nations and its agencies, as well as of non-governmental organisations providing humanitarian relief and reconstruction assistance.
The Irish contribution to UNOSOM II consists mainly of an 80 strong transport company. It has the capacity to defend itself and has sufficient trained personnel and weapons for this purpose. The contingent is based in a secure camp in Baidoa and is escorted on the move by the units of the Indian Brigade. Arrangements which are currently being made to provide two SISU armoured personnel carriers to the unit will add greatly to troop security, providing enhanced communications and the ability to evacuate personnel should they come under fire.
It has been established that the attack on the UN convoy which was returning from Mogadishu to Baidoa on 15 March last was almost certainly unpremeditated. As far as can be ascertained, the convoy got caught up in an armed confrontation between rival sub-clans. Personnel from the Indian Brigade who were on escort duty with the convoy fired on the attackers. The Irish and Indian personnel did not suffer any casualties.
The latest peace agreement between the main rival factions, recently signed in Nairobi, gives some grounds for hope that the levels of conflict in Somalia may decrease. Since the US military withdrawal the Irish contingent has not experienced any increased hostility.
When the tour of duty of the contingent at present in Somalia ends in September next, the Defence Forces will have given 12 months' service in Somalia. That will represent a substantial contribution by the Defence Forces in Somalia and consideration as to whether the Irish presence there should be further extended is now timely. I am initiating a full scale review of the situation, including a fundamental assessment by the military authorities.
The question of a third rotation is a matter for the Government.