Peace talks aimed at bringing about reconciliation between the Transitional National Government (TNG) and factions opposed to it, due to open in Nairobi last week, failed to start because of the absence of some key faction leaders. However, efforts were now under way to get the talks started "by today or tomorrow", a Kenyan government source told IRIN on Tuesday.
The talks, which were convened by Kenyan President Daniel Arap Moi, were thrown into doubt by the refusal of some key faction leaders to participate. The Somali Reconciliation and Restoration Council (SRRC), a grouping of southern factions opposed to the TNG, said in a statement on 11 December that they would not take part in the talks. The SRRC said it was refusing to take part "because the TNG was claiming to be the legitimate government".
A high-ranking TNG delegation led by the newly appointed prime minister, Hasan Abshir Farah, arrived on Friday for the talks. "We are here to participate in these talks and take advantage of the offer by Kenyan government to complete the reconciliation process in our country," a member of the TNG delegation told IRIN. The fact that the TNG delegation was being led by the prime minister was indicative of "how serious the government is about President Moi's peace initiative", he added
With senior SRRC members refusing to attend, it remains unclear what the meeting will be able to achieve. Regional experts in Nairobi told IRIN that in the absence of big-name SRRC personalities like Hasan Muhammad Nur Shatigadud, "it is unlikely there will be a major breakthrough".
"The problem seems to be that there are too many competing and contradictory Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) peace initiatives on Somalia, with Sudan, Ethiopia and Kenya each calling for a reconciliation conference," one regional analyst said. "I would suggest that IGAD itself needs reconciliation before it can begin to sort out Somalia's problem."
"I think that Somali reconciliation should be removed from IGAD altogether, and placed under some other organisation or country far removed from the region," the analyst told IRIN. He said either Nigeria, South Africa or a member of the European Union would be ideal "since they don't have any vested interest in Somalia".