Somali rival factions open talks on power-sharing gov’t

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Somali rival factions opened talks Friday on the models of a power-sharing cabinet and parliament expected to be formed in the Horn of African country, with two UN agencies backing the talks.

The Nairobi-based United Nations Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Somalia, the two UN bodies involved in the search for peace in Somalia, said they were offering technical assistance to the talks.

Somali’s interim Federal Government (TFG) and the opposition Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia (ARS) — formed after the deployment of the Ethiopian troops there — have been engaged on protracted talks to seek a political solution to the conflict there.

“We are pleased to be supporting this initiative immediately following a four-day workshop in Djibouti which yielded positive results particularly concerning the formation of a Unity Government and an enlarged and inclusive Parliament,” said UN Special envoy for Somalia Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah.

“This workshop is the next logical step in opening the discussions on models of power-sharing and resources,” he said.

Efforts to set up a central government for Somalia have failed more than 14 times. The TFG offered the best hope for the country, but its influence has been reduced a shell since its opponents, the ARS, stepped up a stiff opposition to its influence on the ground.

“This is the first of many dialogues on a long journey gathering various stakeholders in the complex process of bringing peace and stability to Somalia,” said Bruno Lemarquis, UNDP’s Country Director Somalia.

It is hoped that both parties will leave the talks with clearer views about the orientation of the Constitution to be drafted and a possible programme to that end involving consultations with various stakeholders, Mr. Ould-Abdallah said.

Further consultations with the High-level Committee established in the Djibouti Agreement are expected to follow.

A former Somali Parliamentary Speaker, Sheikh Aden, who was popularly elected by the 275 Somali parliamentarians after painstaking talks in Kenya, leads the ARS.

It was Aden, who led a parliamentary session that elected current President Abdullahi Yusuf but the two disagreed sharply thereafter after the President appointed his Prime Minister Ahmed Hussein Ghedi, who inturn invited the Ethiopian troops to help.

Ghedi was forced to resign after several attempts to force him out through a vote of no confidence in parliament. The current Prime Minister, Hussein Hassan, known as Nur Aden, invited the ARS for talks on the models of a power-sharing government.

The talks in Djibouti concluded earlier this week with an agreement on the setting up of an inclusive government, bringing back the ARS members and appointing them as members of parliament. Somali’s parliament has 275 sitting members.

The MPs, who have been stranded in Kenya since they were airlifted for a special meeting with regional leaders, under the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), have been under constant pressure to lend credence to efforts to restore peace.

Somalia’s cabinet has suffered from a series of mass resignations while a number of senior members of the government and parliamentarians have been killed there.

The Sheikh Aden team has been demanding the exit of the Ethiopian troops from Somalia. The Ethiopian government is on record demanding for an end to the political stand-off in Somalia and warned on Friday that it would withdraw its troops there.

Kenyan authorities have offered to send troops there. In addition, Kenya is also offering to train an army of 10,000 for the Somali government as part of its institutional buildup.

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