Accessibility links

European Meeting on Somalia Opens 


A meeting hosted by the European Commission on Somalia's peace process has opened in Brussels. The meeting follows two days of heavy fighting in Mogadishu, which have threatened the efforts of the country's new president to reestablish government control in the capital.

The meeting of the International Contact Group on Somalia, which brings together the major donors and diplomatic players involved in the country, comes at a time of high hopes for Somalia, following the selection of a moderate former Islamist and former insurgent, Sharif Sheik Ahmed, as president at the end of January.

But the meeting, which focuses on the peace process and security in the country, also follows two days of fighting between government forces and hardline insurgents, the worst the country has seen since Ethiopian forces withdrew from the country last month.

The European Commissioner for Development, Louis Michel, said he believes most Somalis support the political process.

"Today we are at the crossroads," Michel said. "Either we go forward with the new government and support its actions or we must be ready to fail once again. I think we have no other reasonable choice but to resolutely take the first option."

President Sharif was selected by Somalia's parliament as the new president after his opposition faction signed an agreement with the government last year, part of U.N.-backed peace negotiations taking place in Djibouti.

President Sharif has reached out to harder-line elements of the opposition, and has succeeded in bringing some of them on board. Many observers are hopeful that with the Ethiopian troops, who were widely seen as occupiers, out of the country, the insurgents have lost a major rallying cry.

But the violence in Mogadishu this week, which has killed dozens and injured hundreds, shows that for now, some factions are determined to carry on with the insurgency.

The U.N. Special Representative for Somalia Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah condemned the latest violence.

"There are no more Ethiopian troops. It is Somalis killing Somalis, and I will not relay that as resistance. It is criminality," he said.

Somali leaders, including clan elders, Islamic scholars, and a growing number of Islamist fighters, have also criticized the recent attacks.

Following President Sharif's return to the country on Monday, other government officials have also arrived, including Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, the son of Somalia's last democratically-elected president. Members of parliament have also begun to return. Lawmakers have been in exile in Djibouti since the Shabab militia captured the former seat of parliament, Baidoa.

On Wednesday, the Shabab also captured the town of Hudur in the northwest, near the border with Ethiopia, after battling government troops.

The meeting in Brussels brings together representatives from the European Union, the United States, the African Union, the United Nations, and the World Bank, among others.

XS
SM
MD
LG