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Analyst Says Somali Reconciliation Conference Must Include Hardliners

AU Chairman John Kufuor is downplaying his statement of Monday that the African Union would be sending an additional 8-thousand peacekeepers to Somalia. He made the comment Monday at the opening of the Pan African Parliament in Midrand, part of Johannesburg, South Africa.

Tuesday, the Ghanaian president is quoted as saying that he never stated they would be sent immediately – and that the AU is having problems finding the extra peacekeepers. President Kufuor was also quoted as saying dialogue is the only answer to Somalia’s political problems.

Timothy Othieno is a senior researcher at the Institute for Global Dialogue. From Midrand, he spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the situation in Somalia.

“I think President John Kufuor is quite right when he says internal dialogue has to be a priority and not peacekeeping. As we’ve seen peacekeeping, not only today but over the past decade or so, hasn’t been successful for the very reason that peacekeepers have not been acceptable to any faction or any warlord within Somali territory. Given that situation, it is quite tense. And you do not want to exacerbate the already volatile situation on the ground. There has to be a dialogue, a national reconciliation dialogue,” he says.

A national reconciliation conference is scheduled for June, but it’s been postponed twice already. Othieno questions whether there’ll be adequate representation of all the warring or interested parties.

“I’m a bit pessimistic on that part for the very reason that a couple of months ago… the prime minister of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) stated clearly that only certain people are going to be involved in that reconciliation conference. And for example (the TFG) did not want the hardliners in the Islamic Courts to attend,” he says.

The Union of Islamic Courts was ousted from power when the TFG, backed by Ethiopian forces, began an offensive against the courts late last year.

Othieno says, “The purpose of a reconciliation conference or congress is to bring the protagonists together. You cannot dictate who’s going to come to a national reconciliation conference. Makes you wonder who’s actually going to attend…are they people who get along?”