reconciliation conference aimed at restoring peace to Somalia
has begun in Djibouti.
hundred delegates representing Somali clans, political and
armed groups are discussing a peace plan put forward by President
Ismael Omar Guelleh of Djibouti, which envisages a transitional
government to run Somalia for two years.
is backed by the international community, but has already
been rejected by the main Somali faction leaders, only one
of whom - Ali Mahdi Mohammed - is attending.
self-declared Republic of Somaliland is also not attending
the conference, but a surprise arrival was the administration
from the neighbouring region of Puntland.
Somali peace conference opened with a reading from the Koran,
and then heavy rain showered the tent under which the hundreds
of delegates and officials had gathered.
President Guelleh of Djibouti made the opening speech at what
is, in effect, an open-ended conference.
and United Nations officials were present to underline the
heavy international backing.
difference from previous Somali peace gatherings is that this
time there is involvement from grassroots Somalis - clan elders
from different regions and a host of community groups.
one reason why most faction - or militia - leaders, like Hossein
Aideed and Osman Ali Ato, have stayed away.
is the best chance for peace Somalia has had. If delegates
can agree on establishing an administration, it will be the
first government the country has had for nine years - since
President Mohammed Siad Barre was overthrown, and the country
descended into warring regions.