Somali Islamist opposition leader Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed says his
group signed a U.N.-mediated peace agreement with Somalia's interim
government last week because the accord provides a specific timetable
for an Ethiopian troop withdrawal from Somalia. As VOA Correspondent
Alisha Ryu reports from our East Africa Bureau in Nairobi, the pressure
is now on the international community to rapidly deploy a stabilization
force to make the military withdrawal possible.
Sheik Ahmed, who led the opposition Alliance for the Reliberation of
Somalia delegation, says the peace agreement was signed last week in
Djibouti because it included a timetable for the Ethiopian military to
The opposition leader says the agreement
clearly states that Ethiopian troops must leave Somalia and be replaced
by troops friendly to Somalia within 120 days. Ahmed says obtaining a
specific timetable for withdrawal was the main purpose of entering into
talks with the government.
In late 2006, neighboring Ethiopia
led a U.S.-supported military campaign to oust Somali Islamists from
power and to install the U.N.-backed secular transitional federal
government. The move sparked an Islamist-led anti-Ethiopian,
anti-government insurgency, which has created what the United Nations
calls the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.
in Ahmed's opposition group, led by Islamist leader Sheik Hassan Dahir
Aweys in Asmara, Eritrea, boycotted the talks in Djibouti. They say
the accord aimed at protecting the Ethiopian occupation in Somalia.
observers note the timetable for an Ethiopian withdrawal depends on the
deployment of a U.N. stabilization force and creation of a force that
is sufficient to secure the country. What would constitute a
sufficient force is not spelled out in the agreement.
of Aweys and leaders of an al-Qaida-linked Somali group called the
Shabab have vowed to continue fighting against Ethiopia and the Somali
government. The number of insurgent attacks in the Somali capital
Mogadishu and elsewhere have surged in the past week.
Sharif Sheik Ahmed says he is in talks with opponents in Asmara to find
a way to implement a three-month cease-fire, but he says the
international community needs to play its role, too, in the peace
Speaking to VOA on the sidelines of a three-day meeting
of the Organization of the Islamic Conference in Kampala, Somali
Foreign Minister Ali Jama Ahmed says his government is vigorously
lobbying nations to support the accord and to offer peacekeeping troops.
are lobbying among the OIC and all other members of the United Nations,
especially the members of the Security Council, so that the Security
Council authorizes the stabilization force as soon as possible because
time is not on our side," he said.
Deploying a U.N. force in
Somalia within the next four months may pose the biggest challenge to
the international community, which is struggling to fulfill commitments
made to a U.N.-African Union peacekeeping mission in the Darfur region
of western Sudan.
Six months after the mission was launched,
only a fraction of the 26,000 peacekeepers promised have been deployed
and much-needed equipment and supplies have not yet arrived.