Neals, you were in the CARE compound in 1992, just before the arrival
of the UN force.
What can you tell us about what you saw?
Sue: For 36 hours
before the UN forces came into Baidoa, we were in the CARE Australia compound,
where we had been staying for a couple of days, and several US State Department
officers or reconnaissance agents landed in Baidoa and made their way
into the CARE Australia compound, with the full agreement apparently of
the leader of the CARE Australia compound, and there they were briefed,
they were accommodated, they were shown around the town in a CARE Australia
vehicle, and then when the actual UN forces came into Baidoa, they actually
carried out their sort of post from the roof of one of the CARE Australia
they actually had a command post on the roof of one of those buildings?
Sue: Well, they weren`t
in command of the operation, but they were obviously the local people
on the ground who were helping the UN forces coming into town with local
directions and advice, and yes, their post with the walkie-talkies and
communications equipment was on the roof of one of the CARE Australia
it was your impression that these men were Americans who were there to
set up the entry of this UN force?
Sue: Well, that`s
right. There was a US-led mission – the UN move into Somalia, and so the
US military was very deeply involved, and these guys came into the compound,
introduced themselves as from the State Department and went about their
business for the next day before the forces came into town.
what was the degree of contact between the head of the mission there,
the CARE head of mission and these four men.
Sue: Well, it was
very open. It seemed to be pre-arranged. They arrived early one morning,
apparently had come in during the night the previous evening, and were
briefed by the head of the mission, Lockton Morrisey, had several meetings
with him, we then went in a van around Baidoa, which at that time was
quite a dangerous town because there were still a lot of rebels in town
and machine-gun fire and the two State Department guys who came in the
vehicle had hand-held military GPSs, and they were taking mapping coordinates
to try and find the best route for the UN forces to come into Baidoa,
with the least amount of conflict, I guess.
CARE Australia refutes your story right down the line. They are saying
that it`s wrong in both substance and detail. Could you have got this
Sue: No. We were there
as journalists..or I was there for the `Sydney Morning Herald` and `The
Age` and my job is to report what I see and what happens, and I mean,
we were there and that`s what happened. It wasn`t like we had stumbled
across something secret.
Sue, have you chosen to write this story now. It is eight years ago.
Sue: Well, obviously
there is a current controversy concerning CARE Australia and the possible
blurring of their lines, where they do sometimes seem to get involved
with military and political issues. At the time, I felt compromised and
was ethically concerned about what CARE was doing, but at the time, I
took the decision..made the judgment that the story that the world needed
to know about at that time was that there were hundreds of thousands of
people around Baidoa starving for lack of food, and that that was the
key issue to write about. And CARE Australia was doing some marvellous
work, of which we went along and saw some of it and helped with some of
it. So, you are very aware as a journalist, that if you write negative
articles about aid agencies, particularly in a crisis like this, it does
affect public donations.
Jana: As I
said, CARE Australia refutes your story comprehensively, but is it possible
that under those circumstances, where people were starving, that CARE
might not have had another option if we accept your story?
Sue: Look, I think
that`s obviously the decision that the head of mission took, that the
aid agency couldn`t do its job at that time because of the situation in
the streets and around the area because of the rebels, and so obviously
they couldn`t operate until the UN came into town. And that`s the situation
I accept fully now and then. The issue is though, should an aid agency
remain independent and neutral and separate from military and Government
involvement and that`s where it thought, in this instance, CARE Australia
probably crossed the line.
Neals, thank you very much for your time.