|Home | Contact us | Links | Archives|
Roundup: Somalia Sets Date For National Reconciliation Conference
2 March, 2007 - The Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf announced Thursday a national reconciliation conference will be held mid next month in a bid to defuse tension which has been rife in the Horn of African nation.
Yusuf told the transitional parliament the reconciliation conference would start on April 16 and last for two months in the bullet-riddled capital, Mogadishu, according to lawmaker Awad Ashara.
"The president told us the national reconciliation conference would begin on April 16 in Mogadishu and last for two months. About 3,000 participants from both inside and outside the country will attend," Ashara told Xinhua by telephone from Baidoa.
"The president and the international community hope the reconciliation conference will help unite people and also heal Somalis who have suffered after the government drove out Islamists from Mogadishu in January," Ashara added.
However, it was not clear whether the UN-backed government would invite the country's recently ousted Islamic militants who have been accused of carrying out sporadic attacks in the bullet- riddled Mogadishu.
Last month, Somali Prime Minister Ali Mohammed Gedi said the planned national reconciliation conference would be attended by all segments of the Somali people but ruled out Islamists whom he called terrorist groups.
Exiled Islamist leader Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, who is considered a moderate of the once powerful movement that had controlled Mogadishu and much of the south and central Somalia for six months from June last year, is one of the figures western nations see as crucial for reconciliation.
The transitional government has been under intense pressure from Ethiopia, the United States, the European Union and the United Nations to expand its support base by bringing all Somali parties, including moderate Islamists and powerful clans to the negotiating table before the African Union peacekeeping force lands in Mogadishu.
Dozens of people have been killed in a series of attacks in Mogadishu since the Supreme Council of Islamic Courts (SCIC) was ousted from the bullet-riddled city they had controlled for six months.
No group has claimed responsibility but the government blames the remnants of the SCIC forces, saying some 3,500 Islamist fighters are hiding in Mogadishu.
The Africa Union's Peace and Security Council in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, has set up two working groups to oversee military and financial planning for such an operation.
Ugandan and Nigerian soldiers are expected to be the first to be sent to the Somali capital, where sporadic violence has continued since Ethiopian troops drove out the Islamist administration at the end of last year.