Somali president Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed agreed late last month to a national reconciliation conference in a bid to end 16 years of anarchy in that Horn of Africa nation. The European Union and the United States have made reconciliation a condition for financial and logistical support and for the deployment of an African Union peacekeeping mission. But what does the Somali Diaspora think about the idea of a reconciliation conference?
Ali Fatah is a member of the Northern Somalis for Peace and Unity. He said the reconciliation conference, if and when it is held, should involve all Somalis.
?My Feeling is that it?s a good idea for the president to go that direction because peace unity can be achieved best by reconciling with all the different political groups in Somalia. I think it is much better to bring everybody into the tent within the Somali political framework that can serve all the communities in Somalia, he said.
In announcing his consent to hold a reconciliation conference, Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed said he was willing to reconcile with those who were willing to reconcile. Atah said any reconciliation should include all Somalis.
?From the outset, it?s good to understand that there is the national government which is an internationally recognized government that has been put in place by all the Somali political groups and factions. Then you have the Islamist Courts, which came about basically for the purpose of cleaning up Mogadishu, the capital city and trying to have some kind of a peace in that area. That group consists of different factions within the Islamist Courts. Some of them want peace; others may be more radical in their political orientation. So I agree that the group that wants to reconcile, that wants peace and national unity, that?s the group that the national government should be negotiating with,? he said.
The United States has said that some members of the now defeated Islamist Courts included Al-Qaida terrorists. But Atah said those Islamists willing to reconcile should be included in the coming reconciliation conference.
?I don?t think there has been any evidence brought to bear as to who may or may not be associated with radical groups of that nation. But as I said, the Islamist Courts consists of people of different political leanings. A lot of them are very moderate people. They had been doing good things in Mogadishu. So I think it?s a mistake to put them all in one basket and call them radicals or just call them names. If there are radicals who are not interested in reconciliation, I think they probably will go their own way. But it is better for the government to negotiate and to bring them into the tent, those who are interested in reconciliation,? Fatah said.
In a recent article, Somali Abdishakur Ali Jowhar, ridiculed the idea of a Somalia reconciliation conference. He said this round of reconciliation might not succeed because another reconciliation conference in 1991 unleashed clan cleansing and led to the birth warlords.
But Fatah said Ali Jowhar cannot be trusted because he lacks objectivity regarding Somalia.
?I think Abdishakur is a bright guy; he writes very well; he?s a medical doctor, and he?s one of the good intellectuals. But you have to take what he says in the proper contest, and the contest is, he is supporter of the secessionist group in northwestern Somalia. So he?s not someone who comes with a clean objective regarding the Somali nation,? Fatah said.