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Nairobi, 15 Oct 2002, 17:44 (UTC) - Peace talks aimed
at ending more than a decade of anarchy in Somalia opened in Kenya
Tuesday. But there is already great skepticism that this summit, the 16th
Somali reconciliation conference, will achieve anything.
Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi opened the Somali reconciliation
conference in the Kenyan town of Eldoret with an appeal to all sides to
find a lasting solution to the conflict in the country.
The focus of the conference will be on creating a decentralized,
functioning government, something Somalia has not had since the overthrow
of Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991. In the years since then, control of Somalia
has been divided among armed factions, each wielding power in different
parts of the country.
The latest round of peace talks is to take place in several phases, with
the first one lasting at least two weeks.
However, Mustapha Hassouna, a Somalia analyst at the University of
Nairobi, believes a breakthrough is extremely unlikely. He says the
situation in Somalia is too unstable.
"The political dynamics of Somalia are changing so much to the extent
that we don't know who is controlling which territory and where, so the
16th session of the Somali peace process, which has, should I say, more
chances of breaking off without any particular significant results than
ever before," he said.
Part of the reason for the instability is that the credibility of the
Transitional National Government, which was elected two years ago at a
previous peace conference, continues to dwindle. The transitional
government has not managed to assert its control over the whole of the
Somali capital, Mogadishu.
The latest round of talks is being sponsored by the Inter Governmental
Authority on Development, a regional group made up of countries that
border Somalia. The group has gone to great lengths to get all of
Somalia's myriad warring parties to attend the conference, but it has not
been completely successful.
Somaliland and several factions in Somalia have refused to send
representatives to Eldoret, though heads of state from Uganda, Ethiopia
and Sudan did attend Tuesday's opening ceremony.