Kenya + 1 more

Somalia: Peace talks set to begin on Thursday

NAIROBI, 19 December (IRIN) - Talks aimed at bringing about reconciliation between Somalia's Transitional National Government (TNG) and factions opposed to it, due to have opened in Nairobi last week, are now scheduled to begin on Thursday, a Kenyan government source told IRIN on Wednesday. The talks were delayed because of the absence of some key faction leaders.
The talks, which were convened by Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi, were thrown into doubt by the refusal of some faction leaders to participate. The Somali Reconciliation and Restoration Council (SRRC), a grouping of southern factions opposed to the TNG, said in a statement on 11 December that the SRRC would not take part in the talks, "because the TNG is claiming to be the legitimate government".

A high-level TNG delegation, led by the newly-appointed prime minister Hasan Abshir Farah, has been in Kenya for the talks since last Friday. According to sources in the delegation, the prime minister has met senior Kenyan government officials, and on Tuesday also held discussions on the reconciliation process with President Moi. In addition, Hasan Abshir had informal meetings with some of the factions present in Nairobi, the sources said.

Although many senior SRRC members have refused to attend the talks, delegations representing some prominent factions have arrived in Nairobi, a Kenyan source involved in the talks told IRIN. The delegations include senior members of Mogadishu faction leader Husayn Aydid's Somali National Alliance, and Umar Finish, the deputy of another prominent Mogadishu faction leader, Muse Sudi Yalahow.

Despite the presence of these representatives along with faction leader Usman Ato, it remains unclear if the meeting will be able to achieve any breakthrough. Regional experts in Nairobi told IRIN that in the absence of big-name SRRC personalities like Hasan Muhammad Nur Shatigadud of the Rahanweyn Resistance Army "it is unlikely there will be a major breakthrough in the reconciliation process at this time".

Meanwhile, Glenn Warren, a political officer for Somali affairs at the US embassy in Nairobi, arrived in Mogadishu on Wednesday. He is the first American diplomat to visit the Somali capital since the UN withdrawal of 1995.

[ENDS]

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