United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has urged Somali delegates attending a reconciliation conference in Kenya to rise above their differences and create an all-inclusive government in their troubled country.
"I appeal to you to rise above your differences, and do all you can to bring your people an era of security, peace and hope," Annan told the delegates when he addressed them in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, on Thursday.
Annan deplored the occasional outbreaks of violence in Somalia, and urged faction leaders to respect the cessation of hostilities agreement signed between various rival groups in the Kenyan town of Eldoret in 2002.
"Occasional upsurges of violence continue to claim lives and violate the Declaration of the Cessation of Hostilities, signed at Eldoret in October 2002. Nonetheless, I am heartened by the progress you have made at this conference, especially in recent weeks," said Annan. "This time, all of us must get it right," he added.
On 23 June, the delegates formed an arbitration committee to resolve any disputes that might arise during the nomination of the 275 members of Somalia's proposed Transitional Federal Parliament (TFP). Various clan representatives at the reconciliation conference are currently in the process of nominating TFP members.
"The African Union, the League of Arab States, the European Union and the UN are all supporting your efforts," Annan told the delegates. "But ultimately, it is up to the people of Somalia, and in particular its leaders, who must exhibit a profound sense of responsibility and statesmanship," he said.
"It is you who must make the compromises that will lead to a government with credibility throughout Somalia. The burden of finding a peaceful solution to this needlessly prolonged conflict falls primarily on Somali shoulders," the secretary-general added.
He thanked the various governments and organisations that have supported the Somalia peace process either financially or diplomatically with "generosity and unwavering resolve", and singled out the Kenyan government and President Mwai Kibaki and his predecessor, Daniel arap Moi, for having "played a vital role in starting and sustaining this arduous process", under the auspices of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD).
Mediators in the Somali peace process have urged the delegates to honour the 31 July 2004 deadline set by IGAD as the end of Phase III, the last stage of the peace talks.
"I urge you to do everything in your power to achieve the goal set by IGAD ministers for this conference: to establish an inclusive governance structure by 31 July," said Annan. "At this important juncture, I also call on the international community to provide prompt support so that Somalia's new governmental structure will receive the crucial support it needs in its early days. Somalia cannot afford another false start," he added.
"As you work for a political agreement, I urge you to keep in mind that progress in the political arena must be accompanied by serious efforts to improve the security situation on the ground. This would be conducive to the implementation of a political agreement. It would also bring credibility to the political agreement itself, which would be critical for it to receive the full support of the Somali people and the international community," said the secretary-general.
Somalia has been without a functioning government since the toppling in 1991 of the regime of Muhammad Siyad Barre. The IGAD-sponsored talks began in October 2002 in Eldoret and were moved to Nairobi in February 2003.
IGAD groups together Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Sudan and Uganda. Somalia is also a member, but is currently not fully represented in the organisation because it lacks a functioning government.