Somalia peace conference may be delayed

Report
from Voice of America
Published on 22 Jan 1998
BYLINE=SONYA LAURENCE GREEN

INTRO: KENYA'S FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS A SOMALI PEACE CONFERENCE SCHEDULED TO BEGIN IN MID-FEBRUARY MAY BE DELAYED BY POLITICAL AND ORGANIZATIONAL PROBLEMS. AS SONYA LAURENCE GREEN REPORTS, THE SOMALI PEACE CONFERENCE IS AIMED AT SETTING UP A NEW NATIONAL GOVERNMENT IN THE WAR-TORN COUNTRY.

TEXT: KENYA'S FOREIGN MINISTER, BONAYA GODANA, SAYS POLITICAL AND ORGANIZATIONAL PROBLEMS MAY PUSH BACK THE START OF THE SOMALI PEACE CONFERENCE, WHICH WAS SCHEDULED TO GET UNDERWAY FEBRUARY 15TH.

MR. GODANA SPOKE TO REPORTERS AFTER RETURNING FROM ROME, WHERE HE CO-CHAIRED A MEETING OF THE INTER-GOVERNMENTAL AUTHORITY ON DEVELOPMENT -- KNOWN AS IGAD -- A REGIONAL ORGANIZATION HELPING TO END TO THE CRISIS IN SOMALIA.

ALMOST 30 SOMALI FACTION LEADERS MET IN CAIRO LAST DECEMBER, TO HAMMER OUT AN ACCEPTABLE PLAN FOR NATIONAL RECONCILIATION. THEY AGREED TO HOLD A CONFERENCE IN SOMALIA IN MID-FEBRUARY, TO CHOOSE AN INTERIM FEDERAL GOVERNMENT AND A PRESIDENTIAL COUNCIL.

BUT TWO FACTIONS NOW OBJECT TO THE LOCATION OF THE TALKS. INSTEAD OF MEETING IN THE SOUTHWESTERN TOWN OF BAIDOA, THEY WANT THE CONFERENCE MOVED TO THE NORTHEASTERN PORT TOWN OF BOSSASO.

MR. GODANA DISMISSED THE DISPUTE AS MERE JOGGING FOR POSITION. AND HE SAID THAT DESPITE THE LAST-MINUTE WRANGLING, HE THINKS PROSPECTS FOR TALKS AMONG THE FACTIONS HAVE NEVER BEEN BETTER. SOMALIA HAS BEEN MIRED IN SEVEN YEARS OF BITTER CIVIL WAR, DURING WHICH THE COUNTRY WAS CARVED UP INTO CLAN TERRITORIES RULED BY MILITIAMEN. THERE HAS BEEN NO CENTRAL GOVERNMENT SINCE FORMER PRESIDENT MUHAMMAD SIAD BARRE WAS OUSTED IN JANUARY 1991.

THERE HAVE BEEN SEVERAL OTHER ATTEMPTS TO GET THE SOMALI FACTION LEADERS TO SOLVE THEIR DIFFERENCES. BUT SO FAR, THEY HAVE ALL COLLAPSED AND SOMALIA REMAINS WITHOUT A GOVERNMENT. (SIGNED)

NEB/SLG/JWH

22-Jan-98 10:33 AM EST (1533 UTC)
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Source: Voice of America