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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Thursday 29 April 2004

SOMALIA: Faction leaders plan separate conference in Jowhar

NAIROBI, 29 Apr 2004 (IRIN) - A group of faction leaders who abandoned the current Somali peace talks in Kenya have said they will hold a separate conference inside Somalia to discuss peace in the war-torn country instead of returning to Nairobi as requested by regional mediators.

However, a source in the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) who is involved in the talks dismissed the planned conference in Somalia. "There is no other conference inside or outside Somalia," he said. The final phase of the peace talks would open "on 6 May as announced by the [Kenyan foreign] minister", he stressed.

The IGAD source said that "if they [the faction leaders] don't return, the process will not stop for them. We cannot allow few individuals frustrated by lack of support from their own clans to hold the Somali people's future to ransom."

He warned that IGAD, which is overseeing the talks, would seek the support of the UN Security Council "and identify those obstructing the process so that appropriate action can be taken against them".

The faction leaders have been meeting in Jowhar, 90 km north of the capital, Mogadishu, Abdullahi Shaykh Isma'il, who is the current chairman of the Somali Reconciliation and Restoration Council, told IRIN on Wednesday.

He said they had decided to hold the "third and final phase" of the peace talks inside Somalia, because the talks in Nairobi had "no Somali ownership". International observers, along with Djibouti and Kenya who are both members of the IGAD, were "trying to scuttle the process" he added.

Abdullahi Shaykh also accused some Somali leaders, "among them Abdiqassim [Salad Hassan, the president of the Transitional National Government]" of working against the interests of Somalis. He said the faction leaders in Somalia had called on all the delegates currently in Nairobi to leave for Jowhar to attend the conference.

"As soon as all the delegates are here, we will hold another consultative conference to fix a date and venue for the final phase of the conference, where a new Somali government will be elected," he added.

The leaders attending the Jowhar meeting include Muhammad Habeb, the self-styled governor of Jowhar; Shaykh Adan Madobe, the leader of a faction of the Rahanweyn Resistance Army (RRA); Gen Muhammad Sa'id Hirsi Morgan; and Abdullahi Shaykh.

The Jowhar meeting was convened by the Somali Reconciliation and Restoration Council (SRRC). However, some SRRC members were absent from the meeting. One of them, Hasan Muhammad Nur Shatigadud, the leader of the RRA faction and a founding member of the SRRC, told IRIN earlier that he supported the Nairobi peace process.

The IGAD-sponsored talks began in October 2002 in the western Kenyan town of Eldoret, but were moved to Nairobi in February 2003. They have been dogged by wrangles over the interim charter, the number of participants and the selection of future parliamentarians, among other things.

In a press release issued on 23 April, Kenyan Foreign Minister Kalonzo Musyoka, who is the chairman of the IGAD ministerial facilitation committee, set out a "time-frame" for the third and final phase of the talks, which is to be launched on 6 May.


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