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Message-ID: <34A1447B.2BDBEF14@emirates.net.ae>
Date: Wed, 24 Dec 1997 21:20:59 +0400
From: sidahmed <sidahmed@EMIRATES.NET.AE>
Subject: Somali Quest for Peace:A Shaky Accord at Best--fwd--
Comments: To: SUDANESE <sudanese@msu.edu>, Sudan Discussion <SUDAN-L@LISTSERV.CC.EMORY.EDU>
To: Multiple recipients of list AFRICA-L <AFRICA-L@BROWNVM.BROWN.EDU>

Somali Quest for Peace: A Shaky Accord at Best; Bitter Rivalries Threaten Hard-Fought Deal

By Douglas Jehl, New York Times Service, [24 December 1997]

CAIRO—The leaders of rival Somali factions have agreed to try to restore national government for the first time since civil war engulfed the country six years ago, but tensions among the clans make it all but certain that fresh differences and rivalries will emerge.

The accord, the product of more than a month of negotiations, aims to end the conflict and anarchy that have prevailed in Somalia since the toppling of the dictator, Mohammed Siad Barre, in 1991.

It would establish an interim government in which power would be shared among the factions that have divided the country into armed camps. That government and its leaders will not be chosen until hundreds of delegates representing Somalia’s various clans gather to review the plan next month in the Somali city of Baidoa.

But at a signing ceremony Monday night at the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, faction leaders and others who took part in the talks described the accord as a major step and perhaps a watershed in the quest to end the conflict.

This means everything for Somalia, said Hussein Mohammed Aidid, who succeeded his late father, Mohammed Farah Aidid, as leader of one of the country’s most powerful factions. The younger Aidid described the accord as the culmination of years of negotiations and agreements.

Mohammed Shaaban, an Egyptian assistant foreign minister, said of the Somali faction leaders, They are now halfway toward ending their war. In addition to Mr. Aidid, Monday night’s ceremony was attended by most of Somalia’s most important faction leaders, including Ali Mahdi Mohammed, a fierce rival for control of Mogadishu, the country’s long-divided capital.

While the ceremony underscored a broad base of support for the accord among Somali faction leaders, there remain some forces in Somalia who have expressed opposition to the unification plan.

These include Mohammed Ibrahim Egal, president of breakaway Somaliland in the northwest of the country, who has said he will not allow the region to be reintegrated in any unified Somali government.

They also include two faction leaders, Colonel Abdallah Youssef and General Aden Abdallah Nur, who had been aligned with Mr. Ali Mahdi but abandoned the negotiations in Cairo last week in opposition to the accord.

The agreement leaves much to be determined, including the question of who will be president during a three-year transition period before national elections. Mr. Ali Mahdi and Mr. Aidid would both appear likely to compete for the post.

But as participants in the talks described it, the agreement among the faction leaders is notable for the way in which it seeks to balance power among the country’s rival centers.

The right to dispatch the 465 delegates who are to attend the meeting in Baidoa is to be apportioned by tribal basis under a formula that was debated for weeks by the faction leaders and that is intended to reflect the size and strength of the clans.

While the transitional government will include both a president and a prime minister, either could be replaced by a 13-member presidential council whose members will reflect a broad spectrum.

As a prelude to the meeting in Baidoa, the faction leaders said that they would move swiftly to carry out steps intended to rebuild confidence shattered by years of bloodshed.

Among those that are to take effect immediately, they said, are the suspension of military operations around the country and the reopening of Mogadishu’s airport and seaport.

As recently as four years ago, the plight of Somalia had captured the attention of the world, with a UN peacekeeping mission working to protect shipments of food and other goods to tens of thousands of civilians made desperate by a combination of drought and civil war.

U.S. troops who waded ashore in December 1992 were among the first to take up their places in that 21-country mission. But their focus soon became a struggle for control with the elder Aidid, whose forces killed more than two dozen American soldiers in battles that reached their climax in October 1993, and which led six months later to an ignominious American withdrawal.

The last UN troops left Mogadishu in 1995, and most Somalis have continued to live in despair, reliant on faction and clan leaders for security and basic services.

Some analysts have despaired of the prospect that Somalia might ever again function as a state. Under the leadership of the elder Aidid, a coalition of clan-based forces joined in toppling Mr. Siad Barre in 1991, but that alliance quickly fractured.

The leaders of many among Somalia’s armed political factions have met periodically in recent years to try and put together a transitional government. But the accord signed Monday night represents the first time that a broad base of rival groups has been able to agree on a plan for doing so.