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Analysts Skeptical About Success of Latest Somali Peace Talks - 2002-10-15


Peace talks aimed at ending more than a decade of anarchy in Somalia opened in Kenya Tuesday. But there is already great skepticism that this summit, the 16th Somali reconciliation conference, will achieve anything.

Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi opened the Somali reconciliation conference in the Kenyan town of Eldoret with an appeal to all sides to find a lasting solution to the conflict in the country.

The focus of the conference will be on creating a decentralized, functioning government, something Somalia has not had since the overthrow of Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991. In the years since then, control of Somalia has been divided among armed factions, each wielding power in different parts of the country.

The latest round of peace talks is to take place in several phases, with the first one lasting at least two weeks.

However, Mustapha Hassouna, a Somalia analyst at the University of Nairobi, believes a breakthrough is extremely unlikely. He says the situation in Somalia is too unstable.

"The political dynamics of Somalia are changing so much to the extent that we don't know who is controlling which territory and where, so the 16th session of the Somali peace process, which has, should I say, more chances of breaking off without any particular significant results than ever before," he said.

Part of the reason for the instability is that the credibility of the Transitional National Government, which was elected two years ago at a previous peace conference, continues to dwindle. The transitional government has not managed to assert its control over the whole of the Somali capital, Mogadishu.

The latest round of talks is being sponsored by the Inter Governmental Authority on Development, a regional group made up of countries that border Somalia. The group has gone to great lengths to get all of Somalia's myriad warring parties to attend the conference, but it has not been completely successful.

The breakaway republic of Somaliland and several factions in Somalia have refused to send representatives to Eldoret, though heads of state from Uganda, Ethiopia and Sudan did attend Tuesday's opening ceremony.

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