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Somalia: Djibouti delegates secure two more weeks for debate

Somali delegates attending peace talks in Djibouti won more time in which to agree on steps towards the selection of a new provisional government.

The move came on Sunday at a meeting between the steering committee elected by the conference delegates and the host of the Djibouti peace initiative on Somalia, President Ismail Omar Guelleh.

It had been anticipated that the conference would move towards establishing such a structure this week. A tight two-week schedule was agreed upon, with the election of a Transitional National Assembly (TNA) anticipated by 10 July.

It is then hoped to have a president and prime minister elected by 13 July. The schedule is being seen as a compromise between the Djibouti government - under considerable financial pressure to reach a conclusion to the two-month talks - and Somali participants' desire for sufficient time to reach consensus.

The elected conference committee, which has taken over the organising and liaising role initially played by the Djibouti Government, comprises: the chairman, Hassan Abshire Farah - previous 'Minister of the Interior' in the self-declared republic of Puntland; Abdullah Dherow, part of the Rahanwein grouping from the Baidoa area; Abdulaziz Mukhtar Ma'alim, from the minority Jarer clan; Asha Haji Melmi, a women's representative, from Mogadishu; and Abdulrahman Douale Ali, from the Dir clan.

The weight of different Somali delegations, which will address key issues at committee level, has been decided as follows: Darod - 175; Hawiye - 175; Digil-Mirifle - 175; and Dir - in the region of 200. This number of Dir is to include 100 Issac, 40 Gadabursi, 30 Issa and 35 southern Dir, according to the Djibouti government. In addition, an alliance of minorities - including but not exclusively comprising the Jareer, Midgaan and Yibir - will have a delegation of 90, and a special women's delegation of 100 women will take part in the committees.

Among the issues to be considered are the special status of the Somali capital Mogadishu; disarmament and arms control; and the question of Somaliland.

On Monday, a scheduled plenary session was suspended while the conference hall in Arta filled with participants and representatives celebrating the 26 June independence day of the self-declared independent republic of Somaliland. Speakers and poets talked about the separation of Somaliland from Somalia, with Mogadishu poet David ('YamYam') Abdulkadir Hirsi saying the two parts were "not listening or understanding each other."

Participants were asked to forgive and "correct" the past, and to participate in the Djibouti peace process with "a keen heart" Other plenary sessions are expected to be suspended for Djibouti independence celebrations on Tuesday 27 June and Somalia independence day on 1 July.



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