Final peace now imminent
Whereas each of Somalia's four major clans was allocated 61 seats in the parliament, while an alliance of minority clans was awarded 31, controversy still dogs the nomination of MPs with a faction led by Mohammed Farah Aideed – the chairman of the Somali National Reconciliation and reconstruction Conference – citing interference by IGAD’s international facilitation committee. According to the Transition Charter, of the 275 MPs, 12 per cent shall be women. But only 20 women have been sworn in, representing just over 7 per cent
Still, the inauguration of parliament in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi is a landmark towards the restoration of peace, security and stability in Somalia. It came after its predecessor, the Eldoret Declaration, which the leaders signed on 27 October 2002, providing for the cessation of hostilities throughout the country and the establishment of a Parliament for Somalia.
In September 2003, delegates at a peace conference in Nairobi endorsed a transitional federal charter that lays out how Somalia will be governed when a final peace accord is reached. It was immediately rejected by several key figures, including the head of the transitional government
On 29 January 2004, Somali leaders signed a “Declaration on the Harmonization of Various Issues”, which called for a national census to be undertaken while a new constitution was being drafted, as well as for its approval by an internationally supervised national referendum
The horn of Africa country of 7 million people disintegrated into anarchy after former dictator Mohammed Siad Barre was toppled in 1991, leaving Somalia without a central government, Somalia is now made up of two self-declared enclaves in the north and a patchwork of quarrelling clan fiefdoms in the south.
The conflict in Somalia dates back to 1989, when growing discontent with President Barre’s regime resulted in a general civil war. The regime collapsed in 1991, and the country descended into inter-clan warfare.
But for almost two years now, peace negotiations have been taking place in Kenya under the auspices of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development [IGAD], a regional body, which groups the Eastern and Horn of Africa nations. The peace talks started on 15 October 2002 at Kenya's northwest town of Eldoret, but were later switched to Nairobi.
The crisis in Somalia impelled the UN Security Council to impose an arms embargo on the country and eventually authorize a UN peace enforcement operation from 1993 to 1995. The UN peacekeeping forces were then drawn into a difficult and protracted conflict with the Somali National Alliance (SNA), which sapped the will of the international community for the enforcement operation. When the last UN forces withdrew in March 1995, Somalia remained divided, without a central government.
Still, controversy has dogged the talks since inception. Negotiators say the most troublesome part of the peace process has been the trend where factional leaders sign agreements, only to reject them later. Notably, the talks slipped into the doldrums after the signing of a transitional charter, on 29 January 2004, when a number of Somali leaders threatened to hold parallel talks in Mogadishu.
But as the peace talks head to a homestretch, the disaffection over the selection of MPs and the advancement of troops towards the port of Kismayu by warlord Gen. Mohammed Hersi “Morgan” could delay the talks at a most crucial stage. According to an earlier schedule, the new Somali government ought to have been in place in Mogadishu by 31 July 2004.
Indeed, observers fear that any further delay could send wrong signals to some militia groups who have shown little faith in the talks. As it is, various countries and regions have major stakes in the final peace settlement. Notably, the successful completion will be an achievement for Kenya, which has hosted the talks for almost two years.
Besides, Kenya – which has borne the brunt of 13 years of instability in Somalia in the form of refugees and insecurity engendered by the proliferation of small arms – would like to see a quick and lasting peace to stem the increasing threat of terrorism.
Security concerns are also behind Ethiopia’s keen interest in the talks, given that the country, besides sharing a 2000km border with Somalia, hosts nearly 6million people of Somali descent in Zone 5. Ethiopia would also like to see a peaceful Somalia in order to gain access to the port of Mogadishu, having lost the port of Massawa with the creation of Eritrea.
Also keen to see a lasting peace in Somalia are countries in north Africa and the Middle East, which have relations dating back to 100 years with Somalia, which joined the Arab League in 1974. Still, countries like Egypt, Libya, Qatar and Saudi Arabia have been funding various development projects in Somalia for years and are keen to see the installation of a friendly government.
For the western countries, which have been supporting the peace talks both financially and morally, failure of the talks could mean a free operation zone for terrorist elements believed to be operating from the war torn country, taking advantage of its lawlessness.
Ultimately, with the hope of a new government in place before the end of the year, peace could soon be realized in Somalia.