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Somali Government and Opposition Leaders Call for Access to Humanitarian Aid


In Djibouti, talks continue between the Somali Transitional Federal Government and the Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia. While there’s no word on reaching a political solution to the fighting in Somalia, the two sides today released a joint statement on the humanitarian situation.

The brief statement says they are aware of the deteriorating situation and are determined to help the Somali people through this difficult period. They also call upon their supporters to put aside their differences and allow immediate, unhindered access and delivery of aid to those in need.

For reaction to the statement, VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua spoke with Profess David Shinn of George Washington University and former ambassador to Ethiopia.

“The encouraging part is there is any kind of statement at all. I don’t think there are real high hopes for these talks going on in Djibouti, although it certainly is important that they’re taking place. The statement, if read carefully, is clearly written at the level of the lowest common denominator It’s quite benign. It focuses on the humanitarian situation, which everyone can agree needs to be dealt with. It carefully avoids political issues I think because there is not yet any agreement on the political side. And it also comes on the heels of Hassan Dahir Aweys, who is an extremist connected with the Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia, basically calling for an end to the talks. He remains in Asmara (Eritrea) and is not even taking part, but his faction of the ARS says that they should not be going forward at all,” he says.

Will the statement affect the humanitarian crisis? Shinn says, “No, this statement in and of itself will have no effect whatsoever on the humanitarian crisis. What’s more important with this group in Djibouti is to reach a political settlement. They’re not really in a position to deal with the humanitarian side. That’s essentially up to the international community to deal with that, supported by local Somali groups.”

So why release a statement on the matter al all? “It’s to show the talks are ongoing. There is some agreement on a very basic issue and the talks have just begun. And it takes Somalis a long time to discuss these kinds of issues. So one should never expect anything to happen quickly when you have Somali groups sitting down together,” he says. Shinn says because Somalis have an oral tradition, everyone at the talks will want to have a say. The process could take many months.

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