SHOCKING ACCOUNT OF HOW CANADIAN SOLDIERS TORTURED AND
KILLED SOMALI TEENAGERS
2 May. 2002
week in Saskatoon (Canada) it was reported by the Canadian
Press that failure to find a key witness forced the adjournment
of the hearing for a Canadian soldier still facing charges
in the death of Abukar Shidane Arone, a Somali teenager nine
years ago. The charge is against Clayton Matchee, a member
of the disbanded and disgraced Royal Canadian Airborne Regiment.
prosecutor said he has been unable to find Kyle Brown,
another soldier involved in the 1993 beating of Abukar
Shinade Arone in Belet-weyne which left a black mark on
Canada's much bandied peace keeping forces in war-torn
countries. Brown was sentenced to five years after he
was convicted of manslaughter in the death and torture
of the Somali youth and the shooting two others in the
back as they tried to flee.
in Belet-weyne was certainly the worst Canadian military scandal
in the post-war. It was most devastating development in the
45-year history of Canadian peace keeping tradition.
COULD THIS TRAGEDY HAVE BEEN ALLOWED TO HAPPEN?
patrol found Abukar hiding in a portable toilet. Detained
as a suspected thief and after binding his arms behind his
back with plastic handcuffs the soldiers began to beat "the
shit out of him", according to one of the key witnesses, quoting
Commando platoon leader, Captain Michael Sox as saying. The
Captain later denied making that statement. Abukar's cries
of agony pierced the stillness of the night. At least several
Canadian soldiers heard or witnessed firsthand the assaults
against the Somali youth. Yet no one lifted a finger to stop
the unfolding tragedy. Abukar claimed through an interpreter
that he was looking for a lost child. But the beating of the
malnourished youth continued unabated. A martial court found
only Pte. Elvin Kyle Brown guilty of manslaughter and torture
in Abukar Shidane Arone's death. The names of three other
soldiers have been omitted because of a "partial" publication
ban imposed by the judge advocate. Colonel Carol Mathieu,
Commander of the Regiment, who faced charges of negligent
performances of his duties, later resigned and is probably
growing roses in his hometown - a luxury he could live with
followed were recriminations, cover-ups and basing the buck
to others. Canadians and Somalis may never know the full story
of what happened in Belet-weyne nine years ago; they will
almost certainly never understand why some members of Canada's
military elite force behaved so abominably.
there was, however, a lively discussion among the city elders
about the amount of taxpayer's money ($25 million) spent on
the marathon hearings in Ottawa, which, paradoxically, is
still inconclusive, despite the fact that they were well aware
of those bad apples who committed the heinous crimes. "Would
it not be better if that money was given to the parents of
the youngsters and initiate a justice clean-up in the Canadian
Defense Department?" said one of the prominent elders in the
region. He questioned the wisdom of disbanding a whole regiment
because of a few "bad apples." The consensus was that it was
a straightforward torture and murder cases and that the culprits
should have been brought to justice and compensate the relatives
of the victims, according to Somali Xeer instead of vacillating
and flip-flopping. Period.
of the men and officers of the Canadian Airborne Regiment
played an important role in rebuilding schools, hospitals,
roads, purified the water, repaired the city's main bridge
(Liiq-liiqato) and had cultivated a good working relations
with the city elders. They even rejuvenated the defunct police
force and put them back on the streets of the town, the town's
residents told a group of visiting journalists, including
and torture of Somali teenagers in Belet-weyne overshadowed
these noble deeds and violated Canada's strongest image of
itself," wrote Andrew Phillips in the Maclean's weekly magazine.
AND BELGIAN SOLDIERS
advantage of the prevailing anarchy and lawlessness, Somalia
became an open season for people with guns to murder innocent
people in cold blood. Admittedly, homegrown Mooryaan carried
out a large-scale slaughter, but people who were supposed
to keep peace (The Blue Helmets) joined into the fracas; Canadians,
Pakistanis, Italians, Belgians, and the Foreign Legionnaires
(based in Djibouti) used their high velocity bullets against
defenseless, non-combatant civilians. Then the Somalis were
left to fend for themselves against armed predators. Those
predators are still very much alive and kicking to this day.
The international media aptly dubs Somalia as "The bandit-ridden
country." Renewed inter-clan fighting brought an orgy of ethnic
killings, gangland style. The late General Aideed and Ali
Mahdi vowed to eliminate each other, Mafia-godfather-style.
And Somalia was completely written off by the international
of Somalis told an Italian Inquiry Commission that they were
either witnesses or victims of abuse by Italian soldiers on
a UN mission in Somalia during the ill-fated "Operation Restore
Hope." The five-person Commission said they would present
their findings to the Italian government and the judiciary
that appointed them. But nothing has been heard from the Italian
Government. Like every commission of inquiry report in the
past, I presume this one too have been gathering dusty on
a shelf in the Italian bureaucratic bottleneck in Rome.
of abuse came to light when a former soldier accused fellow
soldiers of killing, torturing and raping civilians in Somalia.
The allegation caused deep shock and indignation in Italy.
In a front-page banner, "CORRIERA DELLA SERA" described
the scandal as SHAME ON ITALY. Two Generals who commanded
the Italian contingent in Somalia resigned.
Belgium a military court acquitted two Belgian paratroopers,
saying there was insufficient evidence that they maltreated
a child in the southern port town of Kismayo by swinging
him over fire, despite the fact that the photograph of
the barbeque was splashed on the front pages of Belgian
and international newspapers.
news agency reported from Brussels that one of the Belgian
soldiers Sgt. Dirk Nassel received only a three month suspended
sentence for having offered a friend an under-aged Somali
girl for his birthday and for tying a second child to a moving
military court acquitted him on a third charge of force-feeding
a boy pork with salt water and making eat his vomit. A second
soldier, Dirk van Landeghem was cleared of charges of sexual
misconduct with under-age Somali girls.
of 15 members of the battalion were investigated in 1995 for
acts of violence and racism against the Somali civilians during
the U.N. mission "Operation Restore Hope."
my frontline reporting in one of the most dangerous places
on earth, the terror of being surrounded by trigger happy
Foreign Legionnaires, Belgian and Italian contingents of UNITAF,
screaming racist slurs and obscenities at the starving population
and shooting over the heads of journalists covering the "Big
Profile" threw me into darker depression. Luckily many of
us survived to tell the tales! But my colleagues, Hoss Maina,
Anthony Macharia, Dan Eldon of Reuters news agency and Hansi
Krauss of the American news agency Associated Press (AP) were
not lucky enough to survive the carnage.
the American Marines were the most disciplined force in Somalia
until they were provoked by forces loyal to the late General,
who initially welcomed them with pomp and circumstances, but
changed his mind when the UN and American bigwigs in Mogadishu
refused to recognize him as the "legitimate president" of
Somalia. In their obsession with Western-style democracy of
one-man-one-vote they questioned the legitimacy of his claim
to the office of the presidency of a country that was in tatters.
The rest is history.
M. Afrah © 2002
Are you tired of reading distorted stories about Somalia by
armchair authors? Order the "SOMALI
TRAGEDY," by M. M. Afrah 204 pages with photos
and glossary of Somali history.
It is an eyewitness account of the clan warfare and the US/UN
military involvement in the Somalia debacle. $US20/ including
H&S by airmail.
Mode of payment: International Money Order or through
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Mr. Afrah is an outspoken Author/Journalist and a member of
the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) and the
New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). He
contributes hard-hitting articles to Canadian and international
newspapers and magazines on the Somalia situation "through
the eyes of a man who covered the country for more than two
of us remember his critical articles in his weekly English
language HEEGAN newspaper, despite a mandatory self-censorship
introduced by Guddiga Baarista Hisbiga Xisbiga Hantiwadaagga
Somaaliyeed in 1984 and the dreaded NSS. I am very proud to
know that Mr. Afrah openly defied the draconian censorship
laws and went ahead to write what he thought was wrong in
the country. He received several death threats from the warlords
and was briefly held hostage by gunmen in 1993. But he remained
defiant and continued to send his stories of carnage and destruction
to Reuters news agency. He still is!