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Mediator Warns of Slow Progress in Somalia Peace Talks - 2003-01-14

The official in charge of the Somalia peace talks says progress is being made. But he also warns it will take years to end more than a decade of anarchy and restore order to the country.

The chief mediator in the Somali peace and reconciliation talks, Elijah Mwangale, says do not expect too much from the current round of negotiations. Speaking to reporters in Nairobi, he warned that they alone cannot deliver a lasting peace to Somalia.

"I think we must guard against the impression that we are giving to the world that we will be able to graft a durable, viable, all inclusive government from this conference in Eldoret and transplant it to Mogadishu," he said. "Those are too high expectations."

For the last three months, the former Kenyan minister has been mediating between representatives of more than 20 different Somali factions, ranging from warlords to civil society leaders, in the Kenyan town of Eldoret. He described his job as frustrating, complex and very, very difficult.

It is the 14th time that Somali leaders have sat down to negotiate an end to the chaos that has reigned in the Horn of Africa nation since President Siad Barre was overthrown in 1991.

But the all-inclusive nature of this round of talks, while undoubtedly making Mr. Mwangale's task more complicated, has boosted observers' hopes that they may lead to a lasting peace in Somalia.

The talks began in October, shortly after all sides signed a cease-fire, although this has not put an end to skirmishes in Somalia.

Mr. Mwangale said the delegates are now preparing reports, which should be ready before the end of the month, on key issues including federalism, a new constitution, disarmament, land rights and economic recovery.

They will save the most complex issue, power sharing in a transitional federal government, to last. But even if the delegates in Eldoret reach an agreement on all the issues, Mr. Mwangale acknowledges it will prove difficult getting the various factions inside Somalia to abide by it.

"At the implementation stage, when we move into Somalia, unless the international community will have come up with a clear monitoring and enforcement mechanism to assist in the establishment of whatever government we have agreed upon, that is where, I am saying, there are problems that we have to face," he said.

International interest in bringing an end to civil war in Somalia has increased in the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. The country's porous borders, combined with its anarchy, make it an ideal hideout for terrorists.

The peace talks are being organized by Somalia's neighbors - Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Sudan and Uganda - under the auspices of the regional Inter Governmental Authority on Development.