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New committee to arbitrate on representation at peace conference

An arbitration committee to comprise representatives of Somali clans is being set up to resolve ongoing disputes over seats for delegates to the Somali peace conference, the Kenyan mediator, Bethwel Kiplagat, told a press conference in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, on Monday. Kiplagat also said that an international monitoring commission on the shaky Somali ceasefire may start sending fact-finding missions to Somalia shortly. The peace conference opened last October in Eldoret, western Kenya, under the auspices of the regional Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD). It was recently moved to Mbagathi, near Nairobi, for financial reasons. The IGAD technical committee organisers had also hoped to resolve the issue of excess delegates there, but now say there are still many disputes, particularly over the representation of subclans. "I have been sitting from morning to evening listening to all these cases, and trying to arbitrate," Kiplagat told the press conference. "Some I have managed to resolve, but there are many I have not been able to. We therefore made a decision that we will use the traditional Somali way of arbitration, and we have asked each of the clans to choose three delegates, elders, leaders, who will form a committee of 15 to deal with the problem of representation." Kiplagat said any complaints about representation should now be referred to that committee, which is due to hold its first meeting Monday. "A clan which has got a difficulty internally will present their case, they will leave the room, and the other four clans will arbitrate," he said. CEASEFIRE AND SANCTIONS COMMITTEE Kiplagat said an international commission to monitor Somalia's shaky ceasefire had now held several meetings and was due to meet again Tuesday to discuss its work plan. "The committee is thinking of getting a team together which will be able to fly into Somalia as a fact-finding team," Kiplagat told the press conference. "And we may dispatch a team next week to [the Somali capital,] Mogadishu, where there is a bit of a problem." "You cannot take action unless you know where is violation [of the ceasefire] taking place, who are the people that are violating, who took up the offensive and so forth," Kiplagat noted. Faction leaders attending the conference signed a ceasefire declaration on 27 October, but this has not been respected. The international sanctions and monitoring commission comprises delegates from the UN, the US, the African Union, the EU, the Arab League and IGAD. Kiplagat said the conference organisers were recommending the recruitment of a "major-general" to be secretary of the committee. Last Saturday, the peace conference technical committee on conflict resolution (comprising members from Somali clans and civil society) expressed "deep concern" about renewed violence in parts of Somalia, especially Mogadishu and Buaale (Middle Juba). The committee members called on IGAD and the international community to take "very stern action, including the imposition of appropriate sanctions". ABSENT POLITICAL GROUPS Asked about factions that have left the conference, Kiplagat said, "We'll send delegations, we'll send a message: please come back; and if we have to send even a team to go and talk to them, we will do it, because the peace will not come if anybody is [left] out. We want an inclusive process." Notably absent from the conference are leaders of the Juba Valley Alliance (JVA) and faction leader Muse Sudi Yalahow. The Mogadishu-based Transitional National Government (TNG) has also been refusing to come to the new conference site in Mbagathi, describing it as "unsuitable". The TNG delegates are currently staying in a central Nairobi hotel. They have also put forward a number of other complaints, including accusations that Ethiopia is interfering in the peace process. Kiplagat said he had held meetings with the TNG delegates over the weekend. "They have not told me that they are leaving," he said. "They have got some complaints. They have got things that we need to put right, and I am addressing their concerns."
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