Interview with DAVID STEPHEN, Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Somalia

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Source: UNDP Somalia
Dated: Friday 24 March 2000

Latest on Djibouti peace initiative

On Tuesday, a diverse group of Somalis kicked off a five-day meeting at the Sheraton hotel in Djibouti's capital to talk about the upcoming Somali National Peace Conference. They are exploring ideas, issues, and agenda priorities for the peace conference - hosted by Djibouti - which will begin in April. David Stephen is currently in Djibouti, and spoke to the UN in Somalia newspage on Thursday about what's happening.

Q. How is the meeting going?

A. About 50 Somalis from all parts of the country who have relevant experience have come together to offer advice to Djibouti before the peace conference. No one is specially mandated and no one is representing anyone else. Everyone comes in their own capacity. They've started addressing the key questions of property, disarmament, how delegates should be appointed to the Somali National Peace Conference. It's non-binding advice, but they're making recommendations to the Djibouti government, which is listening.

Q. Mogadishu faction leader Hussein Aideed is the latest in a string of Somali leaders (including the self-declared presidents of Puntland and Somaliland) who say they are pulling out of the Djibouti peace initiative.

What do you make of this?

A. They haven't actually said they won't participate. They've made hostile noises, but since it's not clear yet what the peace talks will involve, they can't really say they won't participate. No invitations have gone out, no agenda has been set. In the case of those leaders with established structuers, they are afraid that those might be threatened. They are agitating to be sure their case is not forgotten, as I see it. But you can't really say certain leaders have pulled out of the talks since there's nothing to pull out of yet.

Q. There has been some talk of an alternate peace plan, brokered by Libya. What do you know about Libya's role in this matter?

A. This comes solely from Hussein Aideed, and it received great publicity recently through the media. As far as I know, the Libyan government has not said anything in public. So I can't comment on what Hussein Aideed says the Libyans are planning - we'll need to hear from the Libyans themselves.

Q. Realistically, if the Somali peace conference does go forward, what's the most we can hope for in terms of results?

A. What a lot of people don't understand is that this is not another power sharing agreement for faction leaders. These talks bring together the whole society, to come up with a framework for governance. Now, that is extremely ambitious. There have been 12 failed agreements between faction leaders so far, so this is an attempt to get something more lasting by mobilizing elements of society other than faction leaders. Whether to include faction leaders is a matter for Djibouti to decide. Originally, the president said faction leaders who are willing to exhibit democratic means would be welcome to take part. Is building a new government realistic? There really can be no other goal. If it's not realistic, then Somalia is doomed to its current situation forever.


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