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Analyst Says Hardliners Must be Included in Somali Reconciliation Talks


As the insurgency continues in Somalia against the Ethiopian-backed Transitional Federal Government, the TFG, an analyst says it would be a mistake not to include hardliners in reconciliation talks. VOA’s Joe De Capua reports.

Timothy Othiengo says even though the Ethiopian military toppled the Union of Islamic Courts in Somalia, they are still a major force to be reckoned with.

“The Islamic Courts and the TFG need to meet in sort of a dialogue reconciliation process that will put an end to the current fighting that is going on in Mogadishu, which will most likely spill over to other areas of Somalia,” he says.

The analyst, with the Institute for Global Dialogue in Johannesburg, says this must happen soon.

“We are aware that the TFG has said that they’re going to hold a national reconciliation conference sometime this month. Again, they’ve also put some caveats and preconditions to say they’ll only accept those moderate Islamic Courts officials and members. And at the same time anyone who is supposed to attend those reconciliation talks have to recognize the transitional federal constitution. Now this is a problem. You cannot place preconditions if you are in a reconciliation process. You have to try and meet the other protagonist half way,” he says.

Othiengo disagrees with those who say talks should only be held with moderates.

“Ultimately, it is the radicals who hold the power in the Islamic Courts movement. And by leaving them out of this reconciliation process they’re not actually solving anything,” the analyst says.

He says the Transitional Federal Government must consider the “societal and clan aspects of Somalia.”

“The TFG as we see it today is made up of a couple of warlords and members who are allied to President Abdullahi Yusef. There is need for them to negotiate for the very reason that, yes, the Hawiye control Mogadishu and they’re the dominant clan in Somalia and they’re the dominant clan in the Mogadishu area. But having said that, there has to be an equitable distribution of power. And what I mean is that the TFG, and specifically President Abdullahi Yusef, needs to incorporate the interests of the Hawiye clan and other clans for that matter in a sort of proportional representation,” he says.

What’s more he says, clan elders must be included. He says this was done for Somaliland when, in 1993, clan elders met for three months in Burao and used traditional Somali methods to resolve conflict.

The analyst also cites the example of Mauritania’s recent transition to democracy.

“Whereby there was a military junta who came in two years ago and said, look, this is our plan of action. We’re going to have local elections. We’re going to have a parliament and within two years we’re going to have presidential elections and then we’re going to relinquish power. That is it. We’ve seen that happening in the last month whereby the presidential elections have been held in Mauritania. The junta has given up its power. They’ve given it to a democratically elected government. That is what I should have expected from the TFG,” he says.

Othiengo also calls on the United States to encourage dialogue with all elements of the Union of Islamic Courts, despite reported links to terrorists.

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