World LOOK BACK: 25 years since the Somalia affair stained...

LOOK BACK: 25 years since the Somalia affair stained Canada’s reputation


There was a time when Canadian soldiers were seen universally as the peacemakers of the world.

But that reputation was very stained 25 years ago when some of the elite soldiers of this country, considered the best of the best, took the law into their own hands while serving to preserve peace as part of a United Nations mission in Somalia devastated by war, in the eastern horn of Africa.

The Somalia affair, possibly the darkest period in Canada’s military history, resulted in the death of two Somali men, the accusation of a handful of soldiers and, finally, the dissolution of the Canadian Airborne Regiment, a rapid reaction force for paratroopers created in 1968 that actually traced its lineage to World War II.

In addition, he left the reputation of this country as a nation of peacemakers in ruins and brought shame to the entire army.


On December 15, 1992, on December 15, 1992, on December 15, 1992, it was sent to Somalia, a hot and dusty nation devastated by famine, civil war and bloodshed, as part of a humanitarian mission from the ONU.

Approximately 1,400 Canadian troops, mostly composed of members of the RCA, were transported by air to Belet Huen to preserve peace while allowing food and other items to reach the native population, many of whom were starving.

Some of the Somali warlords resented the presence of foreign troops, Canada was part of the United States-led Unified Task Force (UNITAF), and frequently attacked aid convoys and reconstruction efforts.

In March 1993, just a few weeks after Lieutenant Colonel. Carol Mathieu gave verbal orders allowing her men to shoot thieves under certain conditions, two Somalis were shot in the back by Canadian soldiers while trying to enter the base, something common at that time. One of the men, Achmed Aruush, died.

A week later, Shidane Arone, 16, broke into the Canadian complex and was captured. They tied him and bandaged his eyes, beat him, beat him with a metal bar and burned him with cigarettes for hours (later it was discovered that he had burns on his penis), crying and pleading with the soldiers to stop. He was dead in the morning, his last words were “Canada, Canada, Canada”.

Soldiers involved in the torture of Arone took “trophies” photos of the abuse, a horrible series of images similar to those that led to the US military scandal in Abu Ghrais in Iraq a decade later.

Master Cpl Clayton Matchee holds a cane in the mouth of 16-year-old Shidane Abukar Arone while he was tied and bleeding inside a bunker on March 16, 1993 inside the base of the Canadian Airborne Regiment (CAR) in Belet Huen, Somalia. Arone then died of his injuries. (Photo of the Somalia Research Commission published)


The story began to come to light a few days after Arone’s death when one of the soldiers involved, Master Cpl. Clayton Matchee tried to hang himself with shoelaces in his cell after being arrested for his part in torture. Matchee suffered brain damage in the failed suicide attempt and was declared unfit for trial.

In May 1993, the first charges were filed against soldiers in the CAR. A total of eight soldiers would eventually face a martial court: Matchee and Pte. Kyle Brown were the only ones accused of murder, but only four were convicted. Brown was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and torture and sentenced to five years; He served only two years before being released.

Lieutenant colonel. Mathieu, the highest accused officer, was acquitted of negligence in the performance of his duties.


On January 23, 1995, then Defense Minister David Collenette announced that he was dissolving the airborne regiment.

But the consequences did not end there.

In fact, it began a couple of months earlier when the ban on publishing Brown’s photos about torture was lifted. The publication of the photos in Canadian newspapers led the government of Jean Chretien to order an investigation.

During the investigation into CAR’s actions in Somalia, a series of videos showing members making racist comments or participating in hazing rituals came to light. That was the straw that filled the glass and, indeed, the death sentence for the CAR.

The $ 25 million investigation was conducted until 1997. He discovered that senior officials altered documents related to the Somalia affair before handing them over to a CBC radio reporter. Days later, the investigation showed that the documents and computer records had been manipulated to eliminate important information about what happened.

Much of the blame for the actions of the CAR was placed at the feet of the high command of the army, with 157 recommendations made.

In the end, the disturbing chapter of Canadian military history ended with the conviction of four soldiers, mostly for minor charges, and a payment of $ 15,000 to Arone’s family.


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