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Somalia's New President Faces Challenge of Unifying Factions - 2004-10-15

A prominent Somali factional leader Friday warned that, unless all clans are represented in the new Somali government, the country could return to civil war. At least one group is expected to give the new government a rough time.

The chairman of the Somali United Congress faction, Hussen Aideed, said it is now up to newly elected President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed to bring peace to Somalia.

"He can easily do this by making each and every Somali clan feel well and democratically represented in the government," he said. "But if major clans feel left out, he will have to work very hard to make the Somali people trust his leadership."

Mr. Aideed said a lack of clan representation and a dictatorial leadership style led Somalis to oust former leader Siad Barre from office in 1991, which sparked the country's 13-year civil war.

He said a similar thing could happen this time around if some groups feel excluded.

Mr. Aideed said if Somalia was to plunge into civil war again, the international community would not be willing this time to support another peace process like the one that had taken place in Kenya over the past two years. He called this a do or die situation.

The peace process brought together 23 factional leaders, civil society representatives, traditional elders, and others to write a new charter for the country and pick a new government.

It culminated in the election last Sunday of Mr. Yusuf, a professional soldier and a member of the Darood clan, as president. He was sworn into office Thursday.

In the coming weeks, Mr. Yusuf is expected to put together his cabinet before returning to the capital, Mogadishu.

Mr. Aideed, whose group is based in Mogadishu, says he is concerned about security in the capital and how to build a safe environment for the new government.

"Key Mogadishu leaders should go to Mogadishu and prepare the ground to talk to the people and explain the importance of national unity government, and this government is (for) reconciliation," he said. "It's not a government that will bring foreign forces, it will not be a government that will use force."

Mr. Aideed said a group called the Supreme Council of Islamic Courts, or Sharia Courts, is expected to challenge the new government. He said the radical Islamic group has two-thousand well-trained and heavily fighters.

The group, he said, has been opposed to the peace process right from the start, and aims to make Somalia an Islamic state.