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Somali Opposition Alliance Worries Some Analysts

13 September 2007

Somali opposition leaders meeting in Eritrea's capital, Asmara, have united to form an alliance against the Ethiopian forces now in Somalia. An opposition spokesman said Wednesday that the group is calling itself the Alliance for the Liberation of Somalia. The group called on Ethiopian forces to immediately withdraw from Somalia.

Hany Besada is senior researcher on weak and fragile states at the Center for International Governance Innovations. From Waterloo, Canada, he told VOA that the outcome of the Somali opposition meeting is a worrying sign of things to come.

“This meeting in Eritrea really presents a dilemma for Somalis as they see that the conflict will potentially turn out for the worst. Opposition groups and Islamists have only one agenda in mind, to push out the Federal Transitional Government in Mogadishu. They don’t have an agenda in place in terms of how to form a government of national unity. Their only aim is to really dislocate the federal government. So I find that more things are to come in terms of instability and civil unrest,” he said.

Besada said he is concerned that the Somali opposition doesn’t seem to have a plan of action in terms of what to do once Ethiopian troops leave Somalia. He said the opposition needs to engage with the Somali transitional government.

“I think engaged talks with the transitional federal government would really help Somalia in the long term. Engage the federal government on how to build a government of national unity would only be the only solution for Somalia,” Besada said.

He said it was unlikely there can be a genuine Somali government without the Islamists who were ousted by the Ethiopians.

“I think the Islamists form the core of the opposition groups. They are an integral part of the opposition groups. I don’t think you can just dislocate the Islamists from the general opposition factions in Somalia. You have to integrate the Islamists. Seeking out the moderate forces and pushing out the more extreme factions is one thing that can really help opposition groups and in fact bring together a government of national unity,” Besada said.

Besada said it is not fair to group all Somali Islamists as terrorists. He said it is possible to include the moderate ones in the opposition.

“There are factions within the Islamist that are hardliners. They don’t want peace and they are engaged in terrorist activities allegedly. But there are also moderate voices. So I don’t believe that you can group the Islamists groups and label them as terrorist hardliners. This is very incorrect, and this is not helpful in terms of building peace in Somalia,” Besada said.

He said he doubts there can peace between Somalia and neighbor Eritrea because of the two countries current rocky relationship as a result their long running border dispute.

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