Tuesday, June 03, 2003

SOMALIA: Fact-finding mission ends tour
NAIROBI, 3 JUNE 2003 (IRIN) - A fact-finding mission from the African Union (AU) and the regional Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), sent to look into the security situation in the country, has arrived back in neighbouring Kenya.

The 21-member mission, led by Maj-Gen Joseph Musomba of Kenya, which has been in Somalia for the last 12 days, also included observers from the EU and the Arab League, and Somali delegates, according to a statement by the organisers of the Somali peace talks in Kenya.

Musomba told IRIN that the aim of the mission had been to prepare the ground "for the future deployment of African Union military observers". The mission would help plan for the deployment of peacekeeping troops "if the conference [peace conference] approves such a step".

Musomba said the team had encouraged those it met "to abide by the ceasefire agreement". He said most of the Somalis his delegation had met wanted peace. "The ordinary people we met are crying for peace. It is the leaders who are letting their people down," he asserted.

He said it would be a shame if the talks in Nairobi did not produce "positive results". "The Somali people we saw have so much expectation and hope for the eventual outcome of the conference."

Musomba called on the international community, IGAD, the AU and the Arab League "to put pressure on the leaders to make peace and agree on an all-inclusive government", at the conference.

He added that he was surprised to learn that fighting had erupted in Middle Shabelle while the mission was still in Somalia. However, he said, he would reserve comment until he had all the information about the situation.

Over 20 people have been killed in the course of an outbreak of heavy fighting in the Middle Shabelle Region, south-central Somalia, according to sources in the Somali capital, Mogadishu.

The fighting in the village of Raghe-Eil, 95 km northeast of Mogadishu, pits militias loyal to faction leader Muhammad Dhere against those of the Abgal sub-clan of Muhammad Muse. The clashes, which broke out on Thursday, were still continuing sporadically, a local journalist told IRIN.

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