In an interview with IRIN, chairman of the Somali National
Peace Conference, Hassan Abshire Farah, said the forum was
a unique opportunity for Somalis to elect a government after
a decade of civil war.
mayor of Mogadishu, Hassan Abshire was appointed Minister
of Interior in 1998 for the newly autonomous Puntland region,
north-eastern Somalia - but resigned this April when leader
Abdullahi Yusuf refused to allow participation in the Djibouti
15th, he was elected chairman of the conference, along with
co-chairman Abdalla Deerow (of the Rahanwein Resistance Army).
The conference is being held in Arta, 30 km from the Djibouti
has come to the Djibouti peace process?
is the thirteenth peace conference. There have been thirteen
attempts at reconciliation, hosted in different countries,
including Ethiopia and Egypt. But this type of conference
is a first. This is different. Before, only warlords were
invited. Here we have elders, sultans, kings and religious
leaders from all the Somalis. We have intellectuals, former
politicians, businessmen and women. There are also many representatives
from the Somali diaspora. So we have all sections of civil
it is a clan-based process?
It is clan-based, of course, but that is just how it is organised.
In Somalia, people belong to clans; civil society belongs
to clans. So we have NGOs, intellectuals and women, but it
is organised on a clan basis.
all Somali clans represented here?
all clans are represented from every corner of Somalia. It
is an inclusive process. Even the Issak from Somaliland are
represented here (the clan of Mohamed Ibrahim Egal, leader
of Somaliland, who has rejected the process). They are part
of the delegation and they have told us they are, as the Issak,
full representatives of Somaliland.
it a problem that some faction leaders have rejected the conference
and remain in Somalia?
need all Somalis to come here, because we don't want opposition
when we finish the process. So yes, we want the faction leaders
to come. We appealed several times for them to come to Djibouti,
especially Kanyare, Abdullahi Yusuf, Hussein Aideed, and Egal.
We need all the warlords to come and to sit with us here and
try to solve our differences in a peaceful way. We want to
establish that dialogue.
you think they will come?
have signals now that those in Mogadishu will join us next
week (from July 1). Hussein Aideed, Musa Sude, Osman Ato and
Kanyare have indicated that they will come to the conference.
Yusuf in Puntland has been the most aggressive in his rejection
of the conference, and looks unlikely to change his mind.
there are some people close to Abdullahi Yusuf who are trying
to persuade him to change his stance. But I know him very
well and I don't think he will come. Anyway, the point is
he has lost the confidence of our people. Ethiopia sent a
general to Puntland to talk to him. Ethiopia managed to take
General Morgan to Addis Ababa and talk to him; even if General
Morgan does not come to the conference I think he would accept
the result. But generally, I think the people we have here
are close enough to these warlords, and the Djibouti government
has made the invitation clear. By having people here very
close to the remaining warlords we can continue to try and
persuade them and stay in contact with them. The majority
have been contacted and that is what is important.
when the faction leaders arrive, do they get a place in the
is not our job. Every clan has its own way of dealing with
that, and will sort it out among their own people. The delegations
are not being expanded.
the political leaders needed?
all politicians remain in Somalia, some are here already.
We have Ali Mahdi Mohamed, and Mohamed Abshire, Hussein Bod
and Shatgudud. Any leader or politician who comes here won't
get special consideration or treatment. He's like us, like
me; we are all equal. If Somali people decide to elect them
and support them it is up to the people, but there is no automatic
status for faction leaders, no special consideration for warlords.
When they request to talk they get three minutes like everyone
else, then they have to sit down. If they think they are entitled
to an hour because they are a warlord, they are wrong.
the next big step electing the Transitional National Assembly?
first we have to draw up and debate the Charter and the Constitution
and we have to talk about the form of government. We have
to talk about how to represent people equally. We have nominated
committees who are now discussing the Charter, disarmament,
development and social services, and the status of Mogadishu.
These committees have to prepare their reports and present
the options to the conference. The proposals are being typed
up, they will be distributed and discussed. It all takes
the Djibouti government is under great financial pressure
to conclude this process.
the Djibouti government would have liked to finish the conference
on July 1, which is Somalia independence day. But we have
been to see President Ismael Omar Guelleh and requested him
not to hurry the process. It was agreed that we should aim
to finish around July 14-15. They have accepted we need time.
rumoured that there is already a list of 38 presidential candidates.
No, no! Up to now, actually, the Hawiye have been putting
names down as presidential candidates. There is a list of
maybe 15- 16. But otherwise the process is in the making,
and clans are beginning to select among themselves who should
the president be a ceremonial head, or a political head?
conference will debate that. We need to decide whether the
president is elected by parliament, or by the conference itself.
Those are two options to look at. It will then be the job
of the prime minister and president to appoint members of
government and develop policies. I personally hope the conference
will agree to elect members of parliament before a prime minister
and president is elected.
will the government go back to Somalia?
is up to the elected government to decide. That is their task.
Maybe they will need time to prepare for the transfer; but
it is not going to be a government in exile.
you worried about how the new government will be received?
are not worried because we know we have the support of the
people and the international community. The international
community must know that this conference is the best - that
there never was anything better for Somalia and that all
Somalis are represented.