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Somali Hardliners Reject Peace Pact

By Alisha Ryu
10 June 2008

Hardline Somali opposition leaders, who refused to take part in U.N.-led peace talks in Djibouti, have rejected a cease-fire deal signed Monday between Somalia's interim government and another group of more moderate opposition figures. The Eritrea-based hardliners say Somalia's year-and-a-half-old insurgency will not end as long as Ethiopian troops remain in the country. VOA Correspondent Alisha Ryu has details from our East Africa Bureau in Nairobi.

The acting chairman of the hardline faction of the opposition Alliance for the Reliberation of Somalia tells VOA that his faction does not recognize the authority of Somalia's transitional federal government or the ARS members, who agreed Monday to end hostilities within 30 days and called for the rapid deployment of U.N. peacekeepers in Somalia.

Calling the peace pact nothing more than a Western-backed ploy to protect Ethiopian troops in Somalia, Zacharia Mohamed Haji Abdi says the war against the transitional federal government and its Ethiopian backers will continue.

"The TFG [transitional federal government] is an entity that is a puppet of the Ethiopians, a leadership that has committed crimes against the Somalia people," he said. "Now, they might succeed in getting two or three or four people from the ARS [Alliance for the Reliberation of Somalia], but that does not mean the Somali people will cease the armed struggle to liberate their country from the Ethiopian occupation."

In the Djibouti talks, the opposition alliance was represented by Islamist leader Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed, who has served as chairman of the Alliance for the Reliberation of Somalia since the group was established last September in Asmara, Eritrea.

The alliance has led a violent insurgency in Somalia, largely targeting Ethiopian and government troops who helped oust Somali Islamists from power in late 2006.

The alliance has long demanded the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops as a precondition to any talks with the Somalia's U.N.-recognized, but weak interim government. Last month, Ahmed angered hardliners in his group when he sent a delegation to Djibouti to participate in the U.N.-sponsored talks to end the insurgency.

The former speaker of parliament and key Ahmed supporter, Sharif Hassan Sheik Adan, tells VOA that his group is proud to have signed an agreement that could end the suffering of more than one million Somalis displaced by the conflict and millions more facing a humanitarian catastrophe.

Adan says he believes the accord has the potential to save the country, if it is implemented and adhered to by all sides. He says agreeing to the deployment of a robust international stabilization force was the right thing to do because it will enable the Ethiopians to withdraw. The agreement plans for an Ethiopian troop witdrawal within 120 days if sufficient U.N. troops are in place.

The split in the opposition ARS Alliance for the Reliberation of Somalia group has effectively left senior cleric Sheik Hassan Dahir Aweys in charge of the hardline faction in Asmara.

Few Somalis believe the peace deal can be implemented without the support of Aweys. He is believed to have close ties to the leadership of the Shabab, a militant al-Qaida-linked Somali insurgent group that has been gaining territory and new recruits in many parts of southern and central Somalia.

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