SOMALIA: Conference delay will affect reconciliation efforts - analyst

Monday, June 18, 2007

The postponement - for the second time - of Somalia's national reconciliation conference that was due to start on 14 June is a setback for reconciliation efforts in the war-torn country, a regional analyst said.

"Somalia cannot afford to wait; besides, the clock is ticking on the Transitional Federal Government [TFG, whose five-year mandate expires in 2009]," the analyst, who requested anonymity, said on 13 June.

The postponement, by a month, was a reflection of the TFG's "procrastination and the lack of transparency of the agenda and selection of the delegates", he added.

Explaining the postponement, Ali Mahdi Mohamed, chairman of the National Reconciliation Committee, which is organising the conference, said: "We had requests from some clans for more time and we decided to delay it for one month."

He dismissed suggestions that the delay was a setback. "We would rather have a successful conference than a hurried one that will fail," Mohamed said.

The conference, which had been scheduled for April, is expected to bring together at least 1,000 delegates from the country's various clans.

One of the leaders expected to attend the conference cast doubt on the intentions of the government and the viability of Mogadishu as a venue.

Haji Abdi Iman, the chairman of the Hawiye Elders' Council, said it was incorrect to say the Hawiye clan was opposed to the conference. "We want a conference, but it must be transparent and free from manipulation," he said.

The conference, he suggested, should be held in a neutral venue, so people are free to express their views. "There must be an agreed agenda and there must be an effective and neutral mediator," he noted.

Mahdi said those expressing their reservations over Mogadishu as the venue "were people looking for an excuse not to attend the conference", adding that the government would guarantee the safety and security of all the delegates.

The conference has now be proposed for 15 July and "we are making sure that everything is in place before that time", Mahdi said.


Source: IRIN