HOME About Blog Contact Hotel Links Donations Registration
NEWS & COMMENTARY 2008 SPEAKERS 2007 2006 2005

Friday, November 03, 2006

Somali rivals prepare for war after talks collapse

Nov 3, 2006 - 4:13:53 AM

KHARTOUM: The Horn of Africa slipped closer to war on Thursday after intense efforts failed to revive peace talks between Somalia's powerful Islamists and the interim government.

"The international community needs to act fast and clearly to avoid a disastrous war that could turn the region into an Iraq-style situation," a Western diplomat said.

"We should look for the tiniest shred of hope to avoid this prospect."

The government on Thursday rebuffed efforts to reorganise peace talks on November 15 after they failed this week in Khartoum.

"The government delegation has refused to set a date and a place," delegation member Ahmed Omar Gagale told Reuters after diplomats said mediators were trying to persuade the two sides to return to the table in the middle of the month.

The Islamists said they were ready for talks.

"We are always ready and prepared to go into negotiations," the head of the Islamist delegation Ibrahim Hassan Addow told reporters in Khartoum.

On the ground, Islamist sources said the movement was sending more fighters to the flashpoint town of Buur Hakaba.

It lies between the government's headquarters in Baidoa and the Islamist base in the capital Mogadishu. Both sides have tested guns in recent days.

"Given the situation on the ground, the proximity of the forces and the artillery duels of the last few days, an escalation is likely," regional analyst Matt Bryden said.

"It could be hours, it could be days, it could be weeks."

Both sides are blaming each other for the failure of a third round of Arab League-sponsored negotiations seen as the best way to avert a conflict which could quickly widen into a regional proxy war drawing in Ethiopia and Eritrea.


The Islamists, who took Mogadishu and a swathe of the south in June, say they cannot talk while Ethiopian troops are on Somali soil to help President Abdullahi Yusuf's government and have called for an international fact-finding mission.

The government says the Islamists want to take Somalia by force and perhaps invade other ethnically Somali regions of neighbouring countries.

Ethiopia said the Islamists were never serious in the Khartoum talks. "They are using the talks to buy time and making conflict inevitable," said Solomon Abebe, the director for information in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

But some analysts felt war talk might be a bluff despite the military build-up.

"How real is the wish of the two parties to go into war?" the Western diplomat said. "The fact the talks didn't completely collapse but were sort of re-scheduled points to the fact that we are still in a heavy posturing position."

The government delegation head, deputy premier Abdullahi Sheikh Ismail, said talks would have "no meaning" unless Islamists withdrew from areas seized since the last discussions.

He urged the international community to investigate violations of previous Khartoum agreements, notably military expansion, and called for travel sanctions to be imposed on the Islamists and aid cut to the religious movement.

War would be a nightmare for inhabitants of the Horn of Africa, already among the world's poorest people and buffeted by successive conflicts in recent decades.

Somalia has been mired in anarchy since the 1991 ouster of a dictator by warlords. Eritrea, accused of arming the Islamists, and Ethiopia, which openly backs the Yusuf government, fought a war in 1998-2000 and remain bitter foes.

War in Somalia may draw in foreign Muslim radicals on the Islamists' side, analysts say, and would divert resources urgently needed for humanitarian aid and social services.
Web IntelligenceSummit.org
Webmasters: Intelligence, Homeland Security & Counter-Terrorism WebRing
Copyright © IHEC 2008. All rights reserved.       E-mail info@IntelligenceSummit.org