An Italian official says Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf will allow members of the ousted Islamic Courts Union to take part in next month’s reconciliation conference. But deputy foreign affairs minister Patrizia Sentinelli says the ICU members would have renounce violence and be chosen by their clans.
Timothy Othieno is a senior researcher at the Institute for Global Dialogue in Midrand, South Africa. He spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the change in position by the Transitional Federal Government (TFG).
“That is a good sign…this is what we’ve been trying to state. That the TFG needs to have an inclusive reconciliation process going on, whether it’s a conference or bilateral talks. But whatever meeting takes place has to be inclusive for the very reason that you cannot exclude certain elements of the Somali society. You cannot dictate who is going to partake in that national reconciliation conference should it in actual fact take place… I think the TFG has actually realized excluding the Islamist Court officials…especially the hardliners…is actually a futile process,” he says.
However, Othieno disagrees with the reported preconditions of renouncing violence and being chosen by clans. “This is a problem. You’re putting in preconditions to negotiations. This cannot happen…. We know the clan systems are very porous, very fragile and are very fluid kind of institutions within Somali society. I think the TFG needs to bite the bullet and state, look, you come in and let’s negotiate whoever you are. Hardliners, moderates, allies, whatever they are, they have to come in and sit down at one table and negotiate,” he says.
He says that if all sides are able to air their issues it will be clear to the Somali and international community where the stumbling blocks to peace are and who is standing in the way of peace.