Sodere-Cairo-Baidoa-?: Following their early January meeting in Addis Ababa, Somali factions under the umbrella National Salvation Council (NSC) said they were considering amendments to the Cairo peace accord to allow wider participation in the proposed National Reconciliation Conference to be held in Baidoa. The proposals - to base the criteria for participation in the conference on tribal rather than political affiliation and for the withdrawal of faction leader Hussein Aideed's militia from Baidoa by 15 January - were almost immediately rejected by Aideed whose spokesman claimed "no one has the legal right to amend unilaterally agreements signed by different groups, but each side can propose new ideas to enrich the Cairo accord without giving preconditions". Aideed himself returned to Somalia on January 28 to oversee preparations for the Baidoa conference, then scheduled for February 15. He flew in from Cairo in an Egyptian military plane and landed at Balidogle airfield, some 90 kilometers west of Moqdishu. Representatives of the Arab League and Egyptian diplomats were among those who arrived at Balidogle with Aideed. The following day, amidst reports that fighting had broken out around Baidoa between Aideed's militia and Rahanweyne forces, Somaliland President, Mohammed Ibrahim Egal, accused Egypt of interfering in the internal affairs of Somalia by hijacking the country's peace process. In a radio broadcast, Egal claimed "Egypt is making the Horn of Africa ungovernable". Egal then offered to host the National Reconciliation Conference in Somaliland, pledging his government as an honest broker in the peace process but stressing nonetheless that his country was no longer part of Somalia since declaring independence in 1991. Finally, and not unexpectedly, on February 14 Aideed and rival faction leader Ali Mahdi told reporters in North Moqdishu that the Baidoa conference had been postponed due to "logistical problems". "No serious political setback delayed the conference," stressed Ali Mahdi, who is a key member of the five-man presidential council of the NSC. The Deputy Secretary General of the Arab League, Ahmed Ben Helle, later went on record to say that the conference would be held "before March 31". (AFP, various dates)
...peace breaks out in Moqdishu?: Soon after arriving back in Somalia, Hussein Aideed met with his rival Moqdishu warlords, Ali Mahdi and Osman Hassan Ali "Atto". The meeting ended with a pledge to reopen the port and airport, closed in March 1995 after the three disagreed on sharing revenue generated by the facilities, and to dismantle the "green line" dividing the war-torn city. Opposing militiamen would be taken to camps and a joint force deployed to ensure security. The meeting was attended by a large Egyptian delegation led by the Ambassador to Somalia as well as Arab League observers. A few days after the peace deal, the three men addressed a large public rally at the biggest stadium in South Moqdishu. In his address, Aideed urged Somalis to fight all bandits who are against peace and promised the port and airport would open soon, but did not specify when. To attend the gathering, supporters of Ali Mahdi had crossed freely to the south of the city, passing the green line which had been abandoned by the militias guarding it. Later a spokesman for Aideed said a joint committee will operate the port and airport with "...the help of friendly countries." The spokesman added that "Not only the armed factions will have a say in the operation of the two institutions, but also all inhabitants of Moqdishu, who will have the chance to get employed there." (AFP, Reuters, The Monitor, various dates)
Egal undertakes foreign tour: The President of self-proclaimed "Somaliland", Mohammed Ibrahim Egal, recently kicked off a diplomatic tour of a number of foreign countries with a visit to Addis Ababa. After Ethiopia, Egal was scheduled to visit Italy before going to France. While in Addis Ababa Egal exchanged views with Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi on the peace process in Somalia. According to the Somaliland Foreign Minister, Mahamud Salah Fagadeh Noor, while in France Egal's delegation met with officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, parliamentarians and business people where issues of peace, security and trade were discussed. Before returning to Hargeisa, Egal and his Foreign Minister will visit Eritrea at the invitation of President Isaias Afeworki. Mahamud Fagadeh is a long-standing friend of Afeworki whom he had received on many occasions in Moqdishu when the Eritrean leader was still heading the EPLF fight against the regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam. (ION No. 797, January 31; The Ethiopian Herald, January 31 and other sources)
Floods subside but need for rehabilitation remains: Though the real death toll from the floods of October/November last year will never be known, the official figure at the end of February stood just at a little over 2,000 with upwards of one million people still at risk from hunger and disease. While the floods have subsided, for people along the Juba and Shebelle rivers the struggle to survive continues. Severe diarrhoea, malaria, and respiratory infections are rife while outbreaks of cholera have occurred in Moqdishu, Merca, Kismayo and Belet Weyne. In Moqdishu alone, around 3,600 cases of cholera had been reported in January, although by the end of the month the number of new admissions appeared to be on the decline. Meanwhile, Rift Valley Fever, a haemorrhagic fever widespread in animals but also affecting humans, has been reported from southern Somalia where data indicates that upwards of 80 people may have died from the disease. However, WHO, while describing the health situation in Southern Somalia as "grave", have emphasised that RVF is certainly not the only cause of disease being observed in this outbreak. Together with other members of a regional health task force, WHO are seeking support for a comprehensive and well-designed study of the situation. The health situation is worsened by the fact that the water and sanitation system has completely collapsed in most areas. An estimated 31,000 tons of stored grain has been lost to the flooding while the upcoming deyr (short rains) harvest will be down by at least 35,000 tons from the initial projections of 95,000 tons. WFP reports that levels of malnutrition are rising particularly in Bay and Bakool regions where the next harvest will not begin until March. Relief operations, which had successfully distributed some 5,000 tons of food to 400,000 people to the end of January, was under threat due to a shortage of funds. In a statement issued 10 February, WFP appealed for an additional US $17 million to maintain deliveries of food and other vital supplies to more than one million flood victims in Somalia and Kenya. The appeal is meant to assist 650,000 Somalis up to July 31. (AFP, WHO, UNCT and other sources: various dates)
UNDP launches three-year project: The United Nations Development Programme has inaugurated a three-year, $1.2 million project in support of demining, re-integration of ex-military and strengthening of law enforcement in Somalia. The project, which is already being implemented in north-east Somalia, is aimed at establishing a secure and stable environment for the country's social and economic recovery. (PANA, January 14)
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Information in this update has been obtained from UN, NGO and media reports; reference is made to sources as appropriate. No claims are made by the UNDP-EUE as to the accuracy of these reports.
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