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|'Pain In The Neck' Leaders Hamper Somalia Peace Talks|
Nairobi, Kenya, 15 May 2004 (Mail & Guardian) – A third and final round of peace talks for East Africa’s most beleaguered country, Somalia, is scheduled to begin on May 20 amid funding shortfalls and frustration at the antics of faction leaders.
The talks, to be held in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, are taking place under the auspices of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (Igad), a five-member regional organisation.
Somalia is currently the only country in the world without a central government, having been ruled by faction leaders since January 1991 when dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was toppled.
To the anger of some negotiators, Igad has invited only 203 of the previous 366 official delegates to the final round of talks.
“This undermines the role of the official delegates who were the bedrock of this conference from [its] inception,” a group of negotiators from the Somali Leaders Committee told journalists towards the end of April at a press conference in Nairobi. The committee does not claim to represent the views of all delegates.
“The ownership of the process is not in our hands any more but in the hands of Igad, which is [involved] in the plot of sidetracking the formation of a broad-based government in Somalia,” the group added, threatening to convene a separate round of peace talks elsewhere -- perhaps even Somalia. (The committee members declined to answer an IPS query about how they would finance such a move -- or what Igad’s motives might be in allegedly undermining the creation of a “broad-based government” in Somalia.)
The situation has even prompted a number of key delegates to return to Somalia ahead of time -- including Mohammed Omar Dheere, Mohammed Hirsi Morgan and Abdulahi Sheikh Ismail, all of whom are said to control parts of the country.
However, Kenyan Foreign Affairs Minister Kalonzo Musyoka, who is also chairperson of the Igad ministerial facilitation committee, explained that the reduction in delegates was due to budgetary shortfalls.
The extent of these shortfalls was highlighted at an Igad ministerial meeting that took place earlier this month (May 6 to 7) in Nairobi, where it emerged that the deficit was as high as 52% of the costs of the peace process. According to Igad’s special envoy to the talks, Bethuel Kiplagat, this amounted to a shortfall of $10-million.
The talks have been funded by the Igad Partners Forum (IPF), which includes the United States, Sweden, Norway, the United Nations, the European Union and the Arab League. Money for the negotiations ran out at the beginning of this month -- although Igad media coordinator Guled Muhammed said in an interview that the EU and Sweden has since pledged “more money”.
Observers warn that an underfunded peace process could be more destructive than helpful.
“This is not usually a fruitful process. When conclusions are hurriedly reached and people are forced to sign a deal quickly on the basis of cutting down on costs without the necessary step-by-step consultations, the outcome is a fake agreement which will not have teeth to stop the war in Somalia,” said political analyst Khalif Hassan Ahmed.
But, sources within the IPF have also blamed the funding crunch on bickering among Somali delegates, which has slowed negotiations.
“The unending wrangling, especially among faction leaders, has left donors wondering whether they [the leaders] have a heart for peace or not. They have proved to be a pain in the neck of donors and as a result, donors are getting tired of pumping money in a process that is unable to bear fruit,” an IPF representative said in an interview.
Awadh Ashara, a senior official of the Somali Restoration Rehabilitation Council (SRRC), maintains that most delegates are eager to conclude the talks and create a new Somalia. The SRRC comprises 17 leaders.
“The ball now is in the leaders’ courts, and they have committed to speak in one voice, forget their differences and come back for the final phase,” he said, adding: “Most of the leaders have indicated they will be there on time.”
If the May 20 talks go ahead as planned, delegates will elect 275 people to a new Parliament. These legislators will, in their turn, select a Cabinet and president.
Although the size of Parliament was endorsed by negotiators at the beginning of the year, certain delegates have since demanded that more parliamentarians be chosen -- something Ahmed ascribes to personal ambitions.
“Every leader wants his deputies and assistants to also form part of the Parliament. They believe by doing this they will have more clout and control of the areas they will represent.”
The first phase of the Somali talks ended on October 27 2002 with the signing of a cessation of hostilities declaration. The second phase was concluded on January 29 this year when delegates endorsed a transitional national charter that serves as the country’s draft Constitution.
Foreign affairs ministers who met at last week’s Igad meeting also expressed concern about what appears to be an ongoing influx of arms into Somalia. The officials -- from Kenya, Djibouti, Uganda, Ethiopia and Eritrea -- called on the UN to investigate this matter.
“We are urging the UN Monitoring Group on the Arms Embargo in Somalia to investigate reports of the continued flow of arms into Somalia and report accordingly,” the ministers said in a joint communiqué issued at the end of the two-day meeting, which focused on the Somali peace process.
The UN imposed an arms embargo on Somalia in 1992 on the grounds that instability in the country risked arms being exported to other states in the region -- and perhaps even further afield. The monitoring group was formed to check violations of this embargo.
The Igad ministers further called for a final peace deal to be in place for Somalia within the next three months.
“The process should come to a successful conclusion by the end of July 2004. We are deeply concerned that Somalia, an important member of the Igad family, has had no central government for over a decade,” they noted in the communiqué. – IPS