Friday, June 20, 2003

SOMALIA: New government expected by early July - mediator
NAIROBI, 19 JUNE 2003 (IRIN) - Ambassador Bethwel Kiplagat, the chairman of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) technical committee and Kenya’s special envoy to the Somali peace talks, told a press conference on Wednesday that a new Somali government should be formed by early July. Kiplagat had earlier set a target of 18 June.

The IGAD-sponsored talks on Somalia began in October 2002 in the western Kenyan town of Eldoret, but were moved to the capital, Nairobi, in February this year.

Kiplagat said that Somali leaders had made substantial progress on several key issues of contention, and that outstanding matters should be resolved by 30 June.

"We will not be able as of midnight tonight to have a parliament, to have a government, as we had agreed," he said at the press conference. He stressed, however, that this did not mean that the talks were over.

"We are simply stopping the clock tonight so that we can carry on with very intensive consultations to resolve this problem, and proceed with the election of the president and the formation of the government," he said.

Kiplagat asked the participants not to give up. "My appeal will be to all the Somalis who are here, all the leaders who are here, to work, to compromise so that we can resolve the remaining small problems."

He also stressed that the failure to meet the 18 June deadline did not undo the substantial progress made so far.

Some participants in the talks, however, wondered whether an agreement reached in Nairobi would be enough to persuade militias at home to disarm. Mogadishu-based faction leader Muhammad Qanyare Afrah, of the so-called G8 alliance of factions, said that the assistance of the international community was essential. He said that if a peacemaking force was not in place before a new government was installed, everything achieved in Nairobi would crumble in Somalia.

"We need a robust peacemaking force to disarm the various militias, until a Somali force is constituted," he told IRIN.

Despite a ceasefire agreement signed by the Somali groups last October and which was to apply for the duration of the conference, violations have remained flagrant and are perpetrated largely with impunity.

Participants also made a plea for increased international involvement to help Somalia stand on its own and develop economically. "I appeal to the international community not to get tired of us," Faduma Abdullahi Muhammad said. "I hope that the international community will help to establish our government," she added.

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