In-depth: Somali National Peace Conference

SOMALIA: Introduction

Photo: IRIN
President Abdiqassim Salad Hassan stands next to Djibouti president Ismael Omar Guelleh before walking the red carpet for his inaugauration on 27 August
NAIROBI, 10 July 2000 (IRIN) - After 10 years of civil war, Somali representatives elected a new head of state, Abdiqasim Salad Hasan. Elected by a 245-strong clan-based Transistional National Assembly (TNA), the new Somali president was sworn in 27 August in a ceremony lead by the Djibouti president, and watched by international representatives, including heads of state from Ethiopia, Eritrea, Yemen, and Sudan. Three days later, Abdiqasim Salad made a triumphant visit to Mogadishu, the divided capital, ruined by years of fighting and the absence of government.

The election followed months of peace talks in Arta, some 30 kms south of the Djibouti capital, where the Somali National Peace Conference officially opened 2 May in a huge military tent. The peace talks were initiated by Djibouti President Ismael Omar Guelleh and supported by the regional body Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD).

Arta became a small part of Somalia for the months it took to agree on clan representation, parliamentary delegates, and the method of election. From 20 August, Somali parliamentarians held night-long voting sessions, by secret ballot. Somali and Djibouti television and radio stations broadcast daily to Somalia, and showed presidential elections live to Mogadishu as they stretched into the early hours of 26 August.

The challenge to the new president now is to get national recognition. Two key administrations boycotted the Djibouti-hosted talks, as well as a number of Mogadishu-based faction leaders. The leader of the self-declared state of Somaliland, in the northwest, Muhammad Ibrahim Egal told southern Somalis to "sort themselves out" and elect a leader with whom he would then hold talks. In the northeast, where Puntland declared itself an autonomous region, Colonel Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmad has warned that the election of a new authority and president would spark a new round of civil war.

On his first trip to Mogadishu, President Abdiqasim Salad said Somalis wanted a united country, and while he would open a dialogue with some faction leaders, he would ignore others and deal "with the will of the people".

Profiles & Comments

"I strongly support this dedicated reconciliation effort among Somalis. I support the Djibouti government which prepared this conference. I hope positive issues will come out of this meeting that will help all Somalia, which has suffered a lack of government for almost decade. Somalia knows how to survive without warlords. We do not need anymore warlords, we do not need to shed blood anymore. We have to think of our lost generation, and how to get a better life. Remember, being a refugee is no solution because all our young stars are scattered overseas and lost. They do not have education, religion, culture or respect for their parents. The solution is in the hands of the Arta members."

Aweis Noor,
IRIN Reader

PROFILE: Professor Abdurahman Aden Ibbi
Photo: IRINClick to enlarge image
Professor Abdurahman Aden Ibbi, based in Melbourne, Australia, came to the Djibouti conference in the hope some sort of transitional authority would be elected - so that he can go home. When the Somali state collapsed in 1991, many thousands of Somalis fled abroad.

In many cases, this huge diaspora found they were bringing up a generation of children who had never seen Somalia. Professor Abdurahman is head of the Developing Sector for the Conference, dealing with issues relevant to the "New Somali Government".
Letter from the SNA Chairman, Hussein Mohamed Aideed, to Djibouti President Ismael Omar Gelleh in which he shares the SNA's view on the conference

The letter, which was printed in local newspapers, followed the visit of a high-level Djibouti delegation to Mogadishu. The delegation, led by presidential political advisor Osman Ahmad Yousuf, had come to persuade Aideed to attend the Djibouti-hosted Somali National Peace Conference, due to conclude on 30 July with the election of a government, prime minister and president.

Read the text of the letter

Comments from Zakaria Mohamed Haji-Abdi

Zakaria Mohamed Haji-Abdi, member of the Somali Intellectuals Forum, was involved in organising the Somali Peace Conference in the early stages. He is now on the Technical Committee for the Djibouti Peace process. He talked to IRIN about how representation was organised and where a new government might be based

"The channels are still open to the faction leaders who are boycotting the conference. We realise now that the reason they are not here is 'fear of the unknown'. They know this is a democratic platform, and they have no confidence to come....

"For the first two months in the Djibouti process there was a serious 'bottle neck' on how to select delegates and how to organise representation - the clans won. This is not what the intellectuals envisaged. But then we realised there were major issues around who to bring, and how to bring them, and how to make people part of civil society. So clan overtook the original ideas. But we know it is very difficult to make the traditional clan system the basis for a modern state... We hope to transform the process into a national programme.

Members of the Transitional National Assembly will be elected from pre-Siad Barre (Mohamed Siad Barre, former president of Somalia) administrative areas and districts.

"There is a high probability that the Transitional National Assembly would operate in Mogadishu; it is now under discussion. One of the biggest problems is it is very difficult to contain the military," Zakaria said. "So we can look at other options. Baidoa is a smaller town, and the Rahanwein Resistance Army there is present here at Arta. So maybe the newly elected government should move to Baidoa for six months, and tell Mogadishu to get itself ready. We have to talk about these things..."

Listening In

Photo: IRINClick to enlarge image
Women delegates at Arta present "buranbur" - a special sort of poetic verse sung by women - to draw attention to the suffering of women and children during ten years of civil war. Women have their own delegation of 100 members, as well as being part of the traditional clan delegations. 

Hear the song (526KB)
Mogadishu poet Abdukadir Hirsi "YamYam"

Mogadishu poet Abdukadir Hirsi "YamYam" entertained delegates on 26 June, when the Somali Peace Conference marked the independence of Somaliland, 1960.

"YamYam" said the Somali nation lay in ruins, and claimed he had lost interest in marking national celebrations - other than those of the Islamic calendar.

When it was suggested in Arta the conference celebrate Somalia's independence, he said he remembered that there was a Somali day of celebration in June (when British Somaliland achieved independence) and a day of celebration in July (when Italian ruled southern Somalia achieved independence, and the two territories were united).

"I decided to call up June and July and see how they were doing...", he told the conference. Using a telephone on the podium, he demonstrated the first call to June, who said she was still there, but not entirely. When he tried to call July, she was not there at all...

Hear "YamYam" speak (665KB)
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