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African Union to Mediate Somalia Peace Talks


The African Union (AU) will be chairing a meeting between Somalia's transitional government and opposition political parties Friday in Djibouti. The negotiators will try to achieve a full implementation of this year's Djibouti agreement to help find a lasting solution to the widespread instability reported in the country. The AU adds that it is encouraged by the enthusiasm exhibited by both the transitional government and the opposition towards working together, bringing peace and security and working to ensure the safety of ordinary Somalis. The Djibouti agreement, which was signed in early June by the transitional government and the main faction of the opposition coalition of the Alliance for the Reliberation of Somalia (ARS), aims to bring hope and usher in a new era of stability in Somalia's future.

The Djibouti agreement also stipulates that a ceasefire should take effect throughout Somalia 30 days after its signing. Under the pact, Ethiopian troops in Somalia, who crossed into the country in late 2006 to help Somali government forces oust an Islamist administration in south and central Somalia, would withdraw within 120 days after deployment of a" sufficient number" of UN stabilization forces.

Nicolah Bwakira is the Africa Union's special representative to Somalia. He tells reporter Peter Clottey that the working relationship between the government and the opposition to bring about peace is commendable.

"It is important to keep in mind that the AU is pursuing a policy of stabilization of Somalia. And to achieve that objective, we are bringing together the transitional federal government and the opposition. I must say that the current Prime Minister of Somalia Nur Hassan Hussein has been very focused on talking to the opposition, essentially, the Alliance for the Reliberation of Somalia (ARS). And the alliance has also been very positive. So we have jointly with the United Nations facilitated the dialogue towards reconciliation between the TFG (Transitional Federal Government) and the ARS, and this has led to the Djibouti agreement," Bwakira pointed out.

He described as encouraging the camaraderie between the Somali Transitional government and the opposition in working towards finding a lasting solution to the country's instability.

"I think the two parties to the Djibouti agreement are fully committed. There is a high level political meeting and the security committee is meeting at a very high level in Djibouti this weekend. So there is a commitment and I would lead the AU delegation. So once we have launched this committee, we hope that both the government and the ARS will go in Somalia and to galvanize the Somali population. I can tell you that when I was in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu I met with the civil society, elders, members of the cabinet and they are all for the total implementation of the Djibouti agreement, and I don't have any doubt that we are going to move forward," he said.

Bwakira denied speculation of internal rifts in Somalia's transitional government, which are blamed partly for obstructing progress toward peace.

"There is no rift as such, there is only the difference in the interpretation on how the provisions of the constitution should be implemented. I don't think there was a disagreement on the dismissal of the mayor of Mogadishu. What was the disagreement was how the process was conducted," Bwakira noted.

He said the leadership of Somalia's transitional government is working together amiably to move the country forward.

"I've had the opportunity of talking to both the president and the prime minister and the two together I think are having communication and discussion in a very cordial manner," he said.