SOMALIA: Green light for reconciliation conference

Friday, July 13, 2007

After three postponements and many threats of non-attendance, Somalia's national reconciliation conference, due to start on 15 July, will proceed as planned, a senior official told IRIN.

"We are moving as planned and the conference is on schedule and will begin on 15 July," Abdulkadir Walayo, the media adviser for the National Governance and Reconciliation Commission (NGRC), which is organising the conference, said on 11 July.

He said most clans had put forward the names of their delegates. "We have 85 percent of the names and we expect the rest within the next two days."

The conference will be staged in Mogadishu, the capital, despite security concerns raised by some Hawiye elders.

Walayo said the venue, a former police transport compound, was almost ready. "We are putting the final touches to the site and it should be ready by Sunday [15 July]."

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

However, one of the leaders expected to attend cast doubt on the intentions of the government and the viability of the conference. Ahmed Diriye, a member of the Hawiye elders' council, said the Hawiye supported a reconciliation conference but said the conditions were not right.

He said the Hawiye had concerns about four main areas, in particular, security. "Mogadishu is a war zone and occupied by a foreign force," he said, adding: "It is neither neutral nor secure."

He also questioned the independence and impartiality of the conference management, the NGRC, as well as the lack of political reconciliation and the process for selecting delegates.

Diriye said if these issues were not adequately addressed, the conference was simply for "the government to make peace with its own friends and mislead the international community".

However, Walayo said security would be provided by Somali security forces supported by an African Union peacekeeping force. "The site will be secure and there should be no security worries."

A regional analyst told IRIN that if the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) intended to make peace with its friends and allies while marginalising the opposition, as the Hawiye claimed, "that is a recipe for failure".

He said getting all groups to the table was the best, and possibly last, chance to salvage the transition. "If the NRC fails, it's not only the TFG that suffers. Hawiye opposition leaders will be accused of behaving as spoilers, and handing the initiative to militants and extremists."

Source: IRIN
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