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|Factions Accuse Talks Organizers of Mismanagement|
Nairobi, February 25, 2004 (IRIN) – Some Somali factions participating in the Somali peace talks in Kenya have accused the conference organizers of mismanaging the proceedings and disregarding the conference rules during the latest plenary session, said a press statement issued on Tuesday.
On Monday night, the plenary endorsed "by a large majority" an agreement concluded in January, according to a source at the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), under whose auspices the talks are being held. The leaders of the Somali groups meeting in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, on 29 January signed what has been described as "a landmark breakthrough" agreement on a number of contentious issues that had earlier been plaguing the peace talks.
Awad Ashara, the spokesman for the self-declared region of Puntland in northeastern Somalia, told IRIN that the way the plenary had been conducted was wrong, because the organizers had "violated the rules of procedure".
Ashara said his group wanted the plenary reopened. It had been declared closed by Kenyan Foreign Minister Kalonzo Musyoka, who is also the chairman of IGAD's ministerial facilitation committee for the Somali peace talks. "We need clarifications on a number of issues, which, once dealt with, will need the endorsement of the plenary," Ashara said.
In its statement the group also demands that all IGAD member states be represented before phase three of the talks open. Salad Ali Jelle, a deputy to faction leader Muhammad Habeb, whose group also was a signatory to the statement, told IRIN that representatives of "all IGAD member states must be present for us to be back". Ethiopia, one of the so-called frontline states, has had no representation in the talks for several months.
Salad said the mediators also needed to clarify who would participate in the selection of members of parliament. "Who will be involved in the selection must be made very clear. As it stands now, it is very vague and confusing," he said.
According to the current agreement, members will be selected "by recognized political leaders comprising the Transitional National Government, the National Salvation Council, regional administrations, the Somali Reconciliation and Restoration Council (SRRC), the G8 and the civil society organizations, and to be endorsed by genuine traditional leaders".
Salad said the question of "who is a recognized leader and a genuine elder should be clearly defined". "There should a number and name attached to those who will do the selection to make it transparent," he added.
Ashara said his group was not pulling out of the talks, but "ownership [of directing the conference] must be returned to the Somalis, and the issues raised addressed properly".
However, another IGAD source involved in the talks told IRIN that all IGAD member states were represented in the talks. "If for some reason a country is not represented on a given day, it does not mean they are not there," he said. "I suspect this is a smokescreen for something else, but we will continue to talk to them [the dissenting group] and clarify issues that need clarification," he added. "We have had many hurdles in this process and we have managed to overcome them. I am hopeful that we will overcome this one too," he noted.
Those who issued the statement include, among others, the Puntland administration, the SRRC, and a section of the civil society organizations.
The IGAD-sponsored talks, which opened in Kenya over a year ago, have been dogged by wrangles over issues such as an interim charter, the number of conferees and the selection of future parliamentarians.