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Somali Government to Host Reconciliation Congress

Somalia's transitional government has reiterated its plans to hold a congress to unite striving Somali clans, asking the international community to support the process. Plans for the congress are being made as insurgents continue to attack African Union troops and other targets. Cathy Majtenyi reports for VOA from Nairobi.

Somali Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi outlined his government's plans for the National Reconciliation Congress at a meeting with international donors in Kenya's capital.

He says the congress, scheduled to open April 16, is designed to unite Somali clans and sub-clans, and that everyone will be represented at the meeting.

"The stakeholders of this congress is from the society. Traditionally, there are elders, women's organizations, business community, youth and sports. They can be part of it," he said.

A number of Western officials including U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Jendayi Frazer had recently urged Somalia's transitional government to hold reconciliation talks with warring clans, sub-clans, moderate Islamic leaders, and others.

They say such reconciliation talks are necessary to stabilize the country following the ouster of the Islamic Courts Union at the end of last year. The courts had ruled over much of southern Somalia for the second half of last year.

During her January visit to the region, Frazer had also said she does not want to see what she called warlordism in Somalia, where clan and sub-clan-based factional leaders and their militias control different parts of the country, as has been the case since civil war broke out in 1991.

The congress is being held as insurgents wage frequent attacks in the capital against the recently-arrived African Union troops, Ethiopian troops that had backed the Somali government as they fought against the Islamic Courts Union, and others, killing civilians in the process.

The latest attack occurred Tuesday, when a mortar bomb aimed at President Abdullahi Yusuf's residence and ensuing gunfire between insurgents and Ethiopian troops reportedly killed at least eight people. Yusuf had just moved to Villa Somalia from Baidoa.

Gedi told reporters in Nairobi that his government is trying to cope with insecurity in Mogadishu, and that the capital's residents are getting tired of the violence.

"Obviously, there is community policing in Mogadishu in all its 16 districts," he noted. "The insurgents are trying to throw mortars from somewhere in a mobile team. So the residents are now against them, are not accepting them to throw mortars or any other weapons from their areas."

Gedi said he thinks the insurgents are being backed by international terrorists, but did not give details.