Somalis’ suffering: until when? [Archives:2004/761/Opinion]

August 5 2004

By Eng. Mukhtar Harun Osman
[email protected]

Does the Somali two years peace conference in Kenya put an end to the sufferings of the Somali people?
The catastrophic situation in Somalia for more than a decade has engulfed the lives of thousands of Somalis and caused more than a hundred thousand Somalis to become refugees in neighboring countries.
Since 1991, Somalia has had no national administration with practical authority, no internationally recognized polity, and during this time its entire infrastructure has been destroyed by civil war.
In order to heel the wounds and halt the deepening crisis in Somalia, there were international and regional attempts to resolve this dreadful situation.
More than fifteen conferences have been held, starting from the first Djibouti conference to the third Djibouti conference in Arta.
But most of these efforts were fruitless, apart from the third Djibouti conference which was a really well organized conference, attended by more than two thousand Somali delegates, including civil society organizations and foreign delegates like OAU, IGADD, the Arab league and representatives of some other friendly countries.
Undoubtedly, the president of Djibouti Ismail Omar Ghelle wished to see an end to the Somali civil war and chaos.
After very difficult obstacles faced during that conference, at the end, the Somali representatives signed an agreement, elected members of parliament, then a transitional national government was formed, led by Mr. AbdiQasem Salad.
After this, the government was faced with some obstacles inside and outside of the country.
To complete the outcome of Arta conference, IGADD offered to mediate and bring the different groups and parties of Somalis to the negotiating table.
Kenya was elected to host this conference. The conference was opened at 15 -10-2002 in Eldored Kenya.
In fact that there was no option for any of the Somali parties other than to participate in the reconciliation conference in Nairobi to establish a broad based government.
Now the Nairobi conference has entered its phase three, and the peace process in Somalia is at a critical point. Talks that began two years ago are in danger of collapse unless the mediators, the international community and the Somali factions themselves provide stronger compromises.
The Somali leaders and Somali civil society are required to show improvements in the negotiating process to tackle and overcome all difficult outstanding issues.
On the other hand the international community has remained reluctant to throw its full weight behind the peace talks, to take a tough line with those who are undermining, it or generally to express a unified position on preferred outcomes.
This in turn has exacerbated the many deep divisions within both the warring Somali factions and Somali civil society.
I will like to say to both the faction leaders and civil society representatives at the talks, that the most important matter is not who deserves to sit at the table, but rather who possesses authority and legitimacy in sufficient measure to implement an agreement and deliver a lasting peace. Unless this is resolved, there is a real risk that the current negotiations will produce another government in exile, which is unable to provide a working administration inside the country.
Finally, I will remind all the Somalis that we have suffered more than a decade of war and lawlessness, which has destroyed our infrastructure and hurt our dignity and sovereignty. To go back again the straight path, I think its time that we worked closely together as one strong team, to draw our country's vision and future direction and to continuously face challenges and act intelligently in that way we can succeed, and grow along the way.