The Renegade Speaker
Renegade Somali lawmaker agrees to explore ways of sharing power with Islamic militants
By MOHAMED OLAD HASSAN
November 25, 2006
MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) - A lawmaker who bypassed the government and launched his own talks with a powerful Islamic militia signed an agreement with the Muslim leaders Saturday to explore ways of sharing power.
Somalia's government promptly denounced the freelance initiative by Parliament Speaker Sharif Hassan Sheik Aden and said he was not acting on behalf of the official administration.
"The speaker is functioning outside his authority and has no legal basis for what he is doing," Information Minister Ali Ahmed Jama Jengeli told The Associated Press.
Aden said he is trying to break a stalemate between the government, which has Western and U.N. recognition but little authority on the ground, and the Council of Islamic Courts, which controls most of southern Somalia.
Several peace initiatives in the country have failed, with both the government and Islamic movement trading accusations over who is to blame for the deadlock. Fears are mounting about a war in Somalia that could engulf the region.
On Saturday, Aden released a joint statement with the leader of the Islamic movement, Sheik Hassan Dahir Aweys, calling for the formation of two committees "to study ways of power sharing between the Islamic courts and the transitional federal government," as the administration is known.
The statement also reiterated several key points that Aden reached earlier with the group, including calling for a resumption of peace talks between the Islamists and the government and a pledge not to allow foreign interference.
Ethiopia's support for Somalia's government is a major sore point for the Islamic council. Ethiopia, a largely Christian nation, fears a neighboring Islamic state and has acknowledged sending military advisers here to help the government. But Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has repeatedly denied sending a fighting force.
On Saturday, Meles said he expects legislators to back a resolution giving him authority to use military force against Somali extremists if they attack his country.
"In the event that we fail our peaceful quest, naturally we reserve the right to defend ourselves in the face of flagrant violation of our sovereignty and national security," he said.
Somalia has been without an effective central government since warlords toppled dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991 and then turned on each other, carving much of the country into armed camps ruled by violence and clan law.
The government was established two years ago with the support of the United Nations to serve as a transitional body to help Somalia emerge from anarchy. But the leadership, which includes some warlords linked to the violence of the past, wields no real power outside the western city of Baidoa.
The Islamic council, meanwhile, has been steadily gaining ground since seizing the capital, Mogadishu, in June. The United States has accused the group of sheltering suspects in the 1998 al-Qaida bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, which it denies.
Associated Press writers Mohamed Sheikh Nor in Mogadishu and Les Neuhaus in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, contributed to this report.
© 2006. The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.
Somalia's government asks head of parliament to reconsider his plans to negotiate alone with Islamists
By SALAD DUHUL
November 04, 2006
MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) - Somalia's government asked the country's most powerful lawmaker Saturday to reconsider his plans to hold his own talks with Islamic militants who have taken over much of the country.
Sharif Hassan Sheik Aden, the parliament speaker, is planning to leave Sunday for Mogadishu, which has been under the control of the Council of Islamic Courts since June.
He announced the plan, without consulting the president or prime minister, just days after peace talks with the Islamists collapsed in Khartoum, Sudan.
"The transitional government urges the speaker not to go to Mogadishu before he consults with the government delegation to the Khartoum talks," said the written statement by Somalia's Council of Ministers. "The government will come to the peace talks and all we want is to form a unified position."
Aden is considered the most sympathetic leader in Somalia's government to the Islamic courts, which the United States accuses of having ties to al-Qaida. His decision to hold talks without the cooperation of the prime minister and president is a direct challenge to their authority and could lead to the government's collapse.
If Aden strikes his own deal, a majority of the parliament could abandon the president and prime minister.
Islamic courts spokesman Sheik Abdirahim Ali Mudey welcomed Aden's plans. "We will welcome the speaker to Mogadishu because he is one of the MPs who care about the Somali people," he said Friday.
Somalia has not had an effective government since 1991, when warlords overthrew a dictator and then turned on one another. But the Islamic courts have been expanding their territory since June and now control much of the country. The government controls just one town.
Experts warn that Somalia could become a proxy battleground for neighboring Eritrea and Ethiopia. Eritrea, which broke away from Ethiopia in a 1961-91 civil war and fought a 1998-2000 border war with its rival, supports the Islamic militia. Ethiopia backs the interim government.
A confidential U.N. report obtained by the AP last week said 6,000 to 8,000 Ethiopian troops were in Somalia or along the border. It also said 2,000 soldiers from Eritrea were inside Somalia. Eritrea denies having any troops there, while Ethiopia insists it has sent only a few hundred advisers.
The United States warns that Somali extremists are threatening suicide attacks in Kenya and Ethiopia. The U.S. government has charged that some in the Somali militant group have ties to al-Qaida.
Sheik Abdirahim Ali Mudey, a spokesman for the Islamic courts, said the allegations were baseless.
© 2006. The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.
Somali govt risks chaos with new force-speaker
By Guled Mohammed
24 August 2005
NAIROBI Aug 24 (Reuters) - The government could push Somalia into deeper chaos by recruiting an armed force when it should be mediating a restoration of order in lawless Mogadishu, a prominent political opponent of President Abdullahi Yusuf said.
In a Reuters interview, speaker of parliament Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan urged Yusuf's fledgling administration to become involved in discussions on how to stabilise the militia-infested capital, adding that this could not be done by force.
The government has been recruiting fighters across the country in recent weeks in what looks to some Somalis like the prelude to an attack on bases held by some cabinet ministers critical of Yusuf, many of whom are based in Mogadishu.
Yusuf, an Ethiopian-backed former army officer chosen as president at peace talks last year, has declined to disclose the force's size but said there was nothing sinister about it. He vowed to disarm the country's many militias using peaceful means.
"We hear that there are some forces in Mustahil and that the president visited them," Hassan said late on Tuesday, referring to an area on the border with neighbouring Ethiopia.
"But I don't think Somalis need the use of force at this time, unless they want to create more chaos. What we need is dialogue and mediation by neutral bodies like the U.N. to solve the differences that exist within the government," he said.
"They (the government) were meant to plead with the people and convince them to put down their guns, but if they just sit and say they will only move to the capital when it is peaceful, when will it be peaceful and who is supposed to bring the peace?
"It's the work of the government to restore peace and security in the capital and other parts of our country."
Sharif Hassan and several heavily armed cabinet ministers want Yusuf to come and govern from Mogadishu but Yusuf, whose political base is north-central Somalia, is working temporarily from provincial towns as he feels the capital is too risky.
Critics say the attempt by Yusuf, 70, to build up a force is consistent with his past as a provincial military strongman who has never shown much flair for the diplomatic deal-making skills needed to build alliances among Somalia's fractious clans.
Allies say Yusuf will not get the respect of Mogadishu's warlords -- some of whom serve in his cabinet -- unless he first amasses enough force to make them appreciate the need to talk.
Somalia has been without a central government since warlords ousted former dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991 plunging the Horn of Africa nation into anarchy. Most of Somalia has since been carved into territories held by rival militias.
Hassan, in Nairobi seeking a U.S. visa to attend an international parliamentarians' conference in Washington, said Yusuf's government was avoiding what he called its duty to restore security to the country of up to 10 million.
Hassan failed to attend a U.N.-planned reconciliation meeting in Nairobi on Friday with Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi, a Yusuf ally, because Gedi had said Hassan must first abandon his opposition to the government's policies.
"When he said I must join his camp first before talking I decided to abstain," Hassan said. "But I believe we can agree on the differences existing. I acknowledge our president and prime minister, it is only that we have different opinions."
Hassan added in answer to questions he had no plans to call for a vote of no confidence in the government when he attempts to reconvene the 275-member assembly in Mogadishu on Aug 27.
© 2005 Reuters Limited
Somali speaker fails to turn up at UN-mediated unity talks in Kenya
August 19, 2005
NAIROBI, Aug. 19 (Xinhua) -- Somalia's parliamentary speaker on Friday snubbed a meeting convened by the United Nations to help resolve the current dispute over the location of the fledgling government in the Horn of Africa nation.
The meeting which was to be attended by Speaker Hassan Sheikh Adan and Prime Minister Ali Mohammed Gedi, who are both in Nairobi on separate missions, was also aimed at ending a rift over the deployment of foreign peacekeepers that stalled the latest attempt to re-establish a central authority in the war-shattered nation.
"The speaker failed to show up and even as I was ready for the negotiations to end our differences," Gedi told reporters in Nairobi.
Special Representative of the UN Secretary General to Somalia Francois Lonseny Fall and Kenyan Regional Cooperation Minister John Koech, who attended the meeting, insisted Adan's absence was not a blow to their efforts to bring the warring sides together to resolve the increasingly hostile rift over the base of Somalia's transitional government.
"The speaker did not show up but said the doors for negotiations are open. The prime minister also assured that he is ready for negotiations," Koech said.
"The Somali leaders are ready to resolve their differences," said Fall.
Early this month, Fall held private talks in the town of Jowhar with senior Somali officials who pledged to work with the UN to heal the rift among the feuding lawmakers.
The UN envoy had presented a plan to help the fledgling Somali interim government solve four main problems -- reconciliation, relocation to a single place, the creation of a security force and the presence of foreign peacekeepers.
The UN wants the problems of relocation, reconciliation and security solved before it will consider lifting the embargo which it imposed in 1992.
During the visit, Fall also urged the parties to resolve their differences over the inclusion of troops from the so-called " Frontline States" -- Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya -- in a future African Union/Inter-governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) peace support mission requested by President Yusuf.
The arms embargo, though completely ineffective in stopping the flood of arms into Somali, prevents foreign troops from bringing heavy weapons into the war shattered African nation.
Fall also visited Mogadishu and held talks with the speaker, and other cabinet officials and civil society groups there who have viciously opposed President Yusuf's move to install administration in Jowhar.
The move to Jowhar, along with the proposed deployment of peacekeepers, particularly from Somalia's neighbors, has deeply divided the new government.
President Yusuf and his Prime Minister Gedi maintain that Mogadishu must be secured before they can relocate there.
But a section of the government, including prominent faction leaders, strongly disagreed with the decision to install the administration in Jowhar.
About 100 members of the 275-strong interim parliament led by the speaker are currently in Mogadishu attempting to restore stability to the war-scarred city.
Yusuf and Adan met in Yemen in June but failed to resolve their differences over the government's location and the deployment of foreign peacekeepers.
The Somali transitional government was formed last year in Nairobi. It is the 14th attempt to restore effective administration to Somalia since it collapsed into chaos after the overthrow of military ruler Mohammed Siad Barre in 1991.
© Copyright 2005 Xinhua News Agency
Somali Pres, Speaker Fail To Resolve Differences At Talks
June 24, 2005
MODAGISHU, Somalia (AP)--Somalia's president and parliamentary speaker have ended talks in Yemen without resolving differences that have split the transitional government as it struggles to set up operations after returning home from exile, an official said Friday.
Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed and parliament Speaker Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden failed to agree on where the government should be based, Deputy Prime Minister Mohamud Abdullahi Jama said.
The president wants government to set up in the southern Somali town of Jowhar, about 97 kilometers northwest of the capital, saying Mogadishu is unsafe. The speaker, however, insists they should be in the capital as provided in the transitional constitution, Jama said.
The leaders also failed to agree on the presence of troops from neighboring countries, including Ethiopia, in a regional force that would be sent to secure the government and key installations, help disarm thousands of militia fighters and train security forces, Jama said.
"There are other issues, including the violation of the charter and a pattern of appointment and decision-making that are unilateral, that is on the part of the president and prime minister, that are not consistent with the spirit of reconciliation," Jama said.
Somalia has not had an effective central government since clan-based warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991. Warlords then turned on each other, plunging the country into chaos.
The transitional government has been based in the Kenyan capital Nairobi since it was set up last year because Mogadishu is too insecure.
Somalia's Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi, lawmakers and members of his Cabinet returned home Saturday, setting up operations in Jowhar. The president, though, has yet to return home. [ 24-06-05 1305GMT ]
© 2005 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.