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Continued Fighting in Somalia Dampens Prospects for Reconcilation Talks - 2002-06-21


Inter-clan fighting in southern Somalia has claimed the lives of more than 20 people this week. The fighting has also dampened prospects for a reconciliation conference of Somalia's warring factions. But at least one faction leader said he is still planning to go to the conference, but he sees little prospect for reconciliation.

The reconciliation talks are due to start in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, next month. One key player in the region is Hassan Mohamed Shatigadud, head of the self-proclaimed state of South Western Somalia.

Established in March, it is the third regional administration to be set up in Somalia since it descended into anarchy in 1991. Its capital is Baidoa, about 250 kilometers west of the Somali capital, Mogadishu.

Mr. Shatigadud blamed Somalia's transitional national government, or TNG, in Mogadishu, for the current unrest.

The TNG was established almost two years ago, but it has failed to extend its rule much beyond the capital. Warlords like Mr. Shatigadud control far larger amounts of territory in Somalia. Mr. Shatigadud said TNG President Abdikassim Salad Hassan should accept that he is just another faction leader.

"We have advised and persuaded Abdikassim not to claim national presidency of Somalia, and he is stubborn. He is controlling nothing. He is waiting only the money that he is receiving from Arab countries. He has nothing to do. He has to come to Nairobi as a faction. I will meet him, but I will challenge [him], and say you are not a president," Mr. Shatigadud said.

The Nairobi conference will mark the first time that Mr. Shatigadud's Rahanweyn Resistance Army has attended peace talks.

The faction leader hopes both armed and unarmed groups will join together to form a federal state. "We will attend it, and we hope that the outcome will be the establishment of a transitional government for Somalia, agreed by all the Somalis, whether they are armed or unarmed. We want [from] bottom up approach, and finally, a federal state. Four, or three parts of south plus north will be the Somali state," he said.

The Nairobi peace conference will be the 15th major conference aimed at restoring peace to Somalia since its government collapsed over a decade ago.

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