TNG accuses peace mediators of vested interests

The president of the Transitional National Government (TNG), Dr Abdiqassim Salat Hassan, on Friday accused Kenya and Ethiopia of derailing the Somali peace process.

"The Transitional National Government of Somalia would like to share with your excellencies the disappointing news that the Somali reconciliation conference going on for the past one year in Kenya has totally collapsed," Abdiqassim told delegates at the 10th summit of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in the Ugandan capital, Kampala.

He blamed the IGAD technical committee - which has been responsible for facilitating the peace talks between the warring Somali factions - for the collapse, asserting that IGAD had displayed "neglectful behaviour" in allowing Ethiopia to have too strong a hand in setting the agenda for the talks.

Having lobbied unsuccessfully for Ethiopia's exclusion from the talks, Abdiqassim said: "The rules of the conference were violated to the extent that the TNG’s official delegates became a minority and were overshadowed by more than a dozen factions created and supported by Ethiopia."

He accused Kenya of failing to honour its commitment to prepare an "all-inclusive" meeting that would "bring on board those factions who chose not to attend previous talks".

He added that both Ethiopia and Kenya were trying to divide the country, "for fear that a strong, united Somalia might resurrect territorial claims against them".

At the heart of Abdiqassim's complaint is the fact that IGAD leaders honoured the requests of separatists in Somalia’s northern region of Somaliland to exclude it from the Somali peace process.

A communiqué delivered at the end of the IGAD conference by Ugandan Foreign Minister James Wapakhabulo called for an urgent meeting of IGAD leaders on Tuesday in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, to discuss ways of resuscitating the peace process. It also said the Somali reconciliation conference needed to be expanded to include the Djibouti, Eritrean, Ethiopian and Ugandan heads of state and the chairman of the African Union.

Somalia has been without a functioning government since the fall of Muhammad Siyad Barre's regime in 1991.

The TNG was supposed to be inclusive of all Somalia's various clans but is opposed by a number of warlords, some of whom are allegedly supported by Ethiopia. Somalia and Ethiopia have been involved in hostilities relating to a border dispute that has existed since 1964.

Ethiopia accuses the TNG of harbouring Islamist terrorists, such as members of Al-Ittihad al-Islami, hostile to the largely Coptic Christian country, and believed to have been responsible for a bomb attack in Addis Ababa in 1996. In turn, Somalia accuses Ethiopia of backing warlords opposed to the current Somali peace process and of offering support to separatist factions in Somaliland and Puntland which are trying to break away from Mogadishu.