Somalis gather for fresh peace bid

MOGADISHU - Somalia’s National Reconciliation Congress is set to gather in the capital Mogadishu on Sunday for peace talks aimed at winning over rival factions locked in a bloody power struggle for the last 16 years.

By (AFP)

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Published: Sun 15 Jul 2007, 9:32 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 3:09 AM

The thrice-postponed meeting, held under a cloud of violence, is expected to draw some 1,325 delegates from across the war-shattered nation.

The virtually homeless government, which has failed to bring the restive country under control in its three years of existence, is staging the conference at a former police warehouse in northern Mogadishu.

Ethiopia-backed government troops have sealed off the venue, frisking pedestrians and searching vehicles while others took up positions around major hotels where delegates will stay.

Leaders of a defeated Islamist movement are boycotting the conference, demanding that talks be held outside Somalia and only after Ethiopia withdraws its troops.

And a radical Islamist faction, which has vowed to disrupt the meeting, on Saturday distributed leaflets in Mogadishu warning delegates against attending.

“They promised to kill any person attending the conference,” Mogadishu Mayor Mohamed Omar Habeb told AFP, citing the leaflets.

“The leaflets also dismissed the conference organisers as ’non-believers’ who shall be killed. But I am not sure if anyone will buy this anti-peace message.”

Unrelenting mortar attacks, grenade explosions and gun battles as well as lack of funds have previously forced organisers to put off the talks.

Although organisers have not released a formal agenda, analysts said the meeting would involve political deals, truce talks and discussions about dividing power among four main clans and a smaller minority.

It is also expected to pit influential and respected clan elders against government officials and newly-minted power brokers who have taken charge in decision-making in the Somali political landscape, they said.

Somalia, a nation of 10 million, has lacked an effective central government since the 1991 ouster of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre touched off a bloody power struggle that has defied numerous attempts to restore a functional authority.

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