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Somalia: Alliance Divided Over Djibouti Peace Plan

Somalia: "Alliance" divided over Djibouti peace accord

Nairobi, 10 June 2008 (IRIN) - Somalia's Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and a faction of an Eritrea-based opposition alliance who have been holding talks in Djibouti, have signed an agreement on the cessation of hostilities, with all sides expressing optimism about the outcome.

"This is a very crucial first step toward lasting peace and reconciliation in our country," Ahmed Abdisalam, the deputy prime minister and leader of the government delegation, told IRIN.

The agreement, he added, marked the beginning of the end to Somalia's long suffering. "Last night we initialled an agreement that we can build on," he said.

Abdirahman Abdishakuur, the leader of the delegation for the opposition Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia, better known as "The Alliance", said the success of the agreement would depend "on the commitment, not only of the parties but also of the support and commitment of the international community".

He called for the deployment of international forces. "If the international community puts pressure on Ethiopians [soldiers deployed in Somalia] to leave and deploy an acceptable international force then we will have a successful agreement," Abdishakuur said.

There is already, in Mogadishu, a small contingent of AU peacekeeping forces, comprising Ugandan and Burundian troops.

The Alliance is split between the wing currently in Djibouti, who favour talks despite the presence in Somalia of Ethiopian forces, and those in Asmara who insist the Ethiopians must leave before any dialogue takes place.

The latter group rejected the Djibouti agreement as a conspiracy orchestrated by the enemies of the Somali people. In a statement issued in Asamara on 10 June, the Asamara faction said: "The Djibouti exercise has no validity and shall not be binding on the ARS and the Somali people." It called on the Somali people "to redouble their heroic struggle against the occupation."

Welcoming the accord, the African Union Commission said it marks a "significant step" in efforts to promote an all-inclusive political process and bring about lasting peace and stability in Somalia.

"The AU Commission hails the sense of responsibility and the spirit of compromise demonstrated by the two parties, and strongly urges all other relevant Somali actors to join this process and commit themselves to the peaceful and negotiated settlement of the conflict in their country," it said in a statement.

The accord, among other things, calls for the cessation and termination of all armed confrontation by the two sides within 30 days.

The parties also agreed to a request from the UN for the deployment of international stabilisation within 120 days.

The Djibouti meeting was the second between the sides, but 9 June was the first time they held direct talks. The Alliance has repeatedly refused to open dialogue with the TFG until Ethiopian troops leave Somalia.

However, according to analysts, the Djibouti accord, although a positive step, could be insufficient to restore peace to Somalia.

"The accord has three main weaknesses: it does not include an unequivocal commitment to the withdrawal of Ethiopian forces; the signatories do not control the main belligerent forces on the ground; and its implementation hinges on the highly unlikely prospect of the timely deployment of a UN force," said a Nairobi-based Horn of Africa analyst, who requested anonymity.

The success of the accord would depend on whether other parties, including some of the Asmara wing of the Alliance, and clan and political leaders on the ground, "can be persuaded that it has a real chance of achieving both an Ethiopian withdrawal and a broadly acceptable political and security 'road map' for completion of the transition".

Representatives of Somalia's civil society at the meeting said they were encouraged by the agreement.

"This is not the end. It is just a beginning and allows for the continuation of dialogue. Our aim has always been to make sure that the route of negotiations should remain open," Abdullahi Shirwa of the Civil Society Forum told IRIN.

In the Somali capital, Mogadishu, reaction to the announcement was mixed, with most radio stations devoting most of their airtime to the accord.

Mohamed Hassan Haad, the chairman of the Hawiye [which is a dominant clan in Mogadishu] elders' council said that the signing would not change much in Mogadishu. "It will not improve the situation. It can only widen the split in the Alliance and that is not good."

ah/jm

Copyright © IRIN 2007

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