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|ISSUE 52 January 18, 2003||
"Peace In Somalia Will Take Years" - Mediator
Katy Salmon, IPS
NAIROBI, 1/16/2003 (The Black World Today) - The chief mediator in peace talks aimed at ending more than a decade of anarchy in Somalia says progress is being made, but warns that it will take years to restore order to the country.
Elijah Mwangale, a former Kenyan minister, emphasized on Tuesday that the current round of negotiations will not deliver a lasting peace to Somalia.
"I think we must guard against the impression that we are giving to the world that we will be able to graft a durable, viable, all inclusive government from this conference in Eldoret (Kenya) and transplant it to Mogadishu (the capital of Somalia). Those are too high expectations," he told reporters in Nairobi, adding that the process would take "many years."
For the last three months, Mwangale has been mediating between more than 20 factions of Somali warlords and civil society leaders in the Kenyan town of Eldoret. He describes his job as "very, very difficult, complex and frustrating."
It is the fourteenth time that Somali leaders have sat down to negotiate an end to the chaos, which has reigned in the Horn of Africa nation since President Siad Barre was overthrown in 1991.
Mwangale's cautious view of the talks is echoed by the Somali warlords themselves. "It will not be the expectation of the international community. We want to lay down a foundation, we are not building the whole building," Hussein Aideed, a key militia leader, was quoted as saying by Reuters.
The all-inclusive nature of the talks this time around has boosted observers' hopes that they will find a lasting solution. "Just by looking at the list of who is who among the Somali leaders in Eldoret, there is no doubt that unlike similar past conferences, this is the full-house of all military and faction leaders," says Mwangale.
The talks got off to a good start in October, when all sides signed a cease-fire, although this has not put an end to skirmishes back in Somalia. The delegates are now preparing reports on key issues, like federalism, a new constitution, disarmament, land rights and economic recovery, which should be ready before the end of the month.
Finally, they will move on to discuss the most complex issue - power sharing in a transitional federal government.
But the all-inclusive nature of the talks has also proved to be its biggest handicap. The strength of clan interests among the deeply divided leaders continues to outweigh their sense of national purpose.
The conference has become bogged down in a row over the number of delegates and procedure. In October, more than 800 people arrived, hoping to take part, instead of the 400 who were invited. Some delegates refused to take part unless the quota for their group was increased.
"Their demand was partly out of the fear of leaving behind certain key leadership in their respective enclaves who could destabilize them in their absence," Mwangale explains.
Mwangale ordered the police to remove the unwanted delegates after they refused to leave.
Other delegates have left voluntarily, frustrated by the lack of progress in Eldoret.
Prominent Mogadishu-based faction leader Muse Sudi Yalahow returned to the Somali capital Monday, apparently to discuss law and order issues with other Mogadishu leaders, according to a report by the UN news agency, IRIN.
Another Mogadishu-based faction leader Muhammad Qanyare Afrah and Colonel Barre Hiiraale, the leader of Juba Valley Alliance, also recently walked out.
If Mwangale is worried about this, he is not admitting it. "These leaders have been going in and out of Somalia. This second phase of the process, the most important section of it is the reconciliation committees. Their members are participating in those committees," he defends.
Mwangale argues that there is no need for the leaders to "camp in Eldoret without moving as a demonstration of their commitment to the process."
Even if the delegates do manage to reach agreement on a final government structure, it will prove tricky translating it on to the ground in Somalia.
"At the implementation stage, when we move into Somalia, unless the international community will have come up with a clear monitoring and enforcement mechanism to assist in the establishment of whatever government we have agreed upon, that is where there are problems that we have to face,' ' Mwangale warns.
International interest in seeing an end to civil war in Somalia has increased in the wake of Sep 11 terrorist attacks. The United States believes Somali's lawlessness and porous borders make it an ideal hideout for terrorists.
Such suspicions gained in credibility when a hotel on the Kenyan coast was attacked by al-Qaeda in late November. The bomb could easily have been transported into Kenya via its northern neighbour Somalia.
The peace talks are being organised by Somalia's frontline states - Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Sudan and Uganda - under the auspices of the regional Inter Governmental Authority on Development.
But observers warn that the international community, which is giving significant financial backing to the Eldoret talks, is looking for quick results and could soon be disillusioned by the lack of tangible progress.