Somali interim gov't to begin peace building initiatives

NAIROBI, Jun 18, 2005 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- The Somali interim government plans to start peace building initiatives to establish administrative institutions in the nation to enable the exiled government to get a foothold there, senior official said here Saturday.

Addressing a news conference in Nairobi, Somali Prime Minister Ali Mohammed Gedi said the program, which is to begin on June 24, will be undertaken by the transitional federal institutions and civil societies.

"We are going to start reconciliation conferences in each districts of Somalia. We also intend to set up administrative structures in all the 93 districts. Each district will be given 48, 000 euros (about 58,000 US dollars) to accomplish the tasks which will take 60 days," Gedi told reporters in Nairobi shortly before his departure to Somalia.

"Each district will comprise 100 representatives to be selected by authorities including area members of parliament," he added.

Somalia's Transitional Federal Government, tasked with ending fighting between rival clan warlords, had remained in Kenya since its formation at peace talks last year due to disputes about where inside the country it should be based.

The prime minister said the relocation process which has been delayed for nine months amid concerns over security in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, and differences over where the government will be based, will officially end on June 22.

"What we expect from the two programs is forgiveness amongst the Somalis after 14 years of civil war," he said.

The premier said after 14 years of anarchy, nearly all government buildings have to be rebuilt -- many are occupied by refugees who have fled fighting around the country, noting that he was very glad to finally return back from exile in neighboring Kenya. "We expect also to appoint district authorities who will put up other social services and I appeal to Somalis to unite and support these peace building initiatives," he urged.

The premier also announced the beginning of the voluntary disarmament where anti-aircraft artillery or machine guns which have been used to cause mayhem in Somalia will be surrendered.

"The Somali people are fed up with war after many years of suffering and we expect the Somalis to surrender these weapons voluntarily," Gedi said.

In March, Somali warlords moved from Kenya to Mogadishu and started preparing for disarmament after a major dispute with President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed and Gedi on how to relocate and whether to deploy a regional peacekeeping force.

In May this year, powerful warlords controlling the capital Mogadishu started surrendering weapons, for the first time in 14 years, in a major disarmament program aimed at restoring stability in the lawless African nation.

Gedi appealed to the international community to continue providing assistance to his fledgling government as it embarks on a reconstruction process following many years of anarchy.

Conflict and famine have killed hundreds of thousands of people in Somalia since the overthrow of military ruler Mohammed Siad Barre in 1991.