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Somali Insurgents Reject Government’s Olive Branch


Somalia's hard-line Islamic insurgents have rejected peace overtures after President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed called on them to stop the violence and begin peace negotiations.

This comes less than a week after President Sheikh Sharif held talks with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Kenya's capital, Nairobi.

The insurgents including, al-Shabab denounced President Sheikh Sharif's invitation calling him an agent of the west who wants to control the country's resources.

At a press conference Monday, President Sheikh Sharif accused al-Shabab of being under the command of al-Qaida, which aims to turn Somalia into a safe haven for international terrorism.

Political analyst Ali Abdullahi told VOA that Mogadishu is too weakened to negotiate with the hard-line insurgents.

"I wonder who he (President Sheikh Sharif) will try to negotiate with. Also, the government thinks it can sort of appeal to the not so much of the hard-liners. But it seems on both sides not only the issue of negotiations but there is also the possibility of escalation of violence," Abdullahi said.

He said there are indications that the insurgents seem to have the upper hand.

"Al-Shabab wings are saying that whatever arms given to the government, they will take it from them as happened with the AK 47s that were given to them recently. So what you find is that whatever weapons are given to the government will ultimately end up in the hands of al-Shabab because the government does not have anyone to fight for them," he said.

Abdullahi said the government faces a daunting task of defeating insurgents who are highly motivated.

"Al-Shabab has a lot of spirit and they have a well disciplined group of militants and the government is not well prepared to challenge them on the battlefront. So the best way they (government) they could think of is maybe to have a negotiation on the table. But I wonder whether the government will be ready to negotiate from a point of weakness rather than a point of strength," Abdullahi said.

He said President Sheik Sharif Sheikh Ahmed's administration is too fragile to govern.

"The government seems to be at its weakest point; financially and militarily, they are very weak. And there are also other factions which apparently are deserting the government in the form of the military," he said.

Abdullahi said a cross-section of Somalis is refusing to recognize the government.

"There is also organized peaceful party which is being arranged to sort of appeal to the international community as an alternative government because most of the Somali elite don't see this government as representative of them," Abdullahi said.

The hard-line insurgent groups have so far refused to recognize the government, vowing to overthrow the administration and implement the strictest form of Sharia law.

The insurgent groups control most of the country including some areas in the capital, Mogadishu.

Somalia has been without an effective government after former longtime ruler Mohammed Siad Barre was overthrown in 1991.

Siad Barre's overthrow reportedly led warlords to escalate the conflict, which plunged the country into deeper crisis.

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