THE ong-awaited national reconciliation conference for Somalia has finally started. Over 1,000 clan elders, former warlords and politicians from across the country have been invited.
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
But the main opposition group, the Islamic Courts, who were ousted by Ethiopian and Somali troops and are now mainly in exile in Eritrea, has boycotted the conference.
They say they cannot attend as long as their Ethiopian enemies are 'occupying' their country.
But they are not welcome, either. President Abdulahi Yusuf in his opening speech said he would not talk to those linked to international terrorist groups.
The Somali government, Ethiopia and the U.S. have accused the Islamic Courts of having links with el Qaeda, an allegation which the Courts have denied.
The talks, which resume on Thursday, will concentrate on clan reconciliation, disarmament and sharing the natural resources.
But clan fighting is no longer Somalia's main problem. Rather, the division is between the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and the other stakeholders, including the Islamic Courts, a large group of MPs, civil society and the Somalis in the Diaspora.
The TFG is generally perceived as weak, not functioning, not delivering, and totally dependent on foreign troops for its very survival.
Both the President and the Prime Minister are seen as stooges of Ethiopia, the country's arch-enemy ever since the Ogaden war at the end of the 1970s.
But the Islamic Courts, too, should show more readiness for dialogue. They, too, came to power with the help of foreign countries.
Most to blame for the present stalemate, however, is the African Union. If the other African countries which pledged troops would have deployed by now, Ethiopia would have had no excuse to stay on. And the Islamic Courts would have had no excuse to boycott the conference.
The African leaders recently spent three full days quarrelling about the creation of a United States of Africa. In grandiloquent words, speaker after speaker talked about the need for Africans to unite and solve their own problems.
Yet, all except Uganda have miserably failed to come to the aid of their poorest and most desperate brother. Worse, Somalia was not even on the agenda.
The New Vision