Clan leaders from across Somalia trying to end nine years
of anarchy are warning the nation's warlords that they will
simply be left out unless they join the bid to make peace
and form a government soon.
of isolating the warlords would have been absurd only two
years ago but, with most Somalis eager for an end to nine
years of chaos and civil war, the militia leaders are now
being challenged within their own clans.
peace conference under way in neighbouring Djibouti has brought
together almost 1,000 delegates from almost all of Somalia's
move towards a peace deal for the bitterly divided country,
delegates said they would offer the warlords no privileges
or guarantees that they will lead a new government. Organisers
hope delegates will agree on an interim government and national
assembly in the next 10 days.
conference in Arta opened on May 2. Delegates are currently
discussing a new constitution for a three-year interim period,
giving substantial powers to regional, clan-based administrations
and finally ending nearly a decade of anarchy and militia
has been without central government since the ouster of former
dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991 and the power vacuum has
been filled by militia leaders fighting to expand their personal
fiefdoms. U.S.-led international peacekeeping troops were
deployed to Somalia in 1992 to try to restore order, but they
left after suffering heavy casualties in fighting with militia
the most prominent warlords have so far boycotted the peace
talks, raising fears that their militias will block any new
government from taking office or push the country into a new
round of civil war.
have repeatedly asked the armed factions to join the meeting
in Arta, a mountain resort near Djibouti's Red Sea coast,
but insist they will no longer be dictated to by the men of
see any danger from them. Those who are not present here no
longer have the support of their own people," said conference
chairman Hassan Abshire Farah, a former mayor of the Somali
years ago, the warlords were leading the people because the
country was divided between clans and everyone was fighting.
But now the people are tired of war, and they want a government."
WEAKER THAN EVER
were attending the conference, most notably Ali Mahdi Mohamed,
whose forces have controlled north Mogadishu for most of the
period since 1991. Ali Mahdi says the militia leaders -- including
himself -- are weaker than ever and may no longer be able
to call on their people to launch new attacks against other
will not be able to confront the new government," he said.
Their guns and "technicals" -- battle wagons mounted with
machineguns -- belong to the clans rather than the warlords.
support for fighting disappears, Ali Mahdi said, so do the
guns. "Militarily, they will lose and politically they will
be isolated," he told Reuters.
the conference were leaders of two northern regions -- Mohamed
Ibrahim Egal, president of the self-declared state of Somaliland,
and Colonel Abdullahi Yusuf of the regional administration
fear that delegates here will try to install a government
that will dominate Somaliland and Puntland, the only two regions
that have managed to restore peace and an effective administration
in recent years.
a former British protectorate, has not been recognised internationally
as an independent state but many diplomats believe that Egal
is key to a lasting peace deal.
clan leaders from both Somaliland and Puntland have attended
the conference. They have called on their leaders to join
the process, saying a new central government would give extensive
local powers to both regions.