Friday, September 07, 2007

Somali Resistance Leader Emerges From Hiding

Somali Islamist leader emerges from hiding

Xan Rice in Nairobi
Friday September 7, 2007
The Guardian

The leader of Somalia's Islamist movement emerged from eight months of hiding yesterday to appear at an opposition meeting in Eritrea that called for an immediate withdrawal of Ethiopian troops.

Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, who is accused by the US of links to al-Qaida, headed the Somali Council of Islamic Courts (SCIC) until it was driven from power in Mogadishu by Ethiopian forces last December. Having fled the capital he was thought to have been living in southern Somalia. Many people saw his hand in an ongoing insurgency against the occupying Ethiopian army and troops loyal to Somalia's interim government.

Mr Aweys's surprise appearance at the conference in Asmara, the Eritrean capital , which drew more than 300 delegates including observers from the UN and EU as well as disaffected members of the Somali government, confirmed recent reports that the leadership structure of the disbanded SCIC was still largely intact. The 72-year-old cleric sat alongside Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, regarded as the SCIC's second-in-command, who said the aim of the 10-day meeting was to create "a political organisation that liberates the country ...".

The meeting came a week after the closure of a government-sponsored reconciliation conference in the capital. The separate talks are indicative of the gulf between the two groups, whose differences are being played out on the streets of Mogadishu, where several people are being killed in fighting every day.

They also illustrate how Somalia has become a theatre for the proxy conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea, whose relations have never recovered since they fought a war in the late 90s.

U.N. urged to resolve Somali's Transitional Federal Government security crisis

Written By:John Muoki/KNA,
Posted: Thu, Sep 06, 2007

Mogadishu: US-backed Ethiopian and Ugandan troops are overwhelmed by insurgency activities

Kenya is lobbying the United Nations (U.N) Security Council, ahead of its annual summit at the end of this month to take the current Somalia crisis as part of its agenda, Foreign Affairs assistant minister, Kembi Gitura has said.

Mr. Gitura said the gains made during the recently concluded Somali national reconciliation conference, should not be left to fade, but should be strengthened by the U.N member countries, by taking the Somalia security matters seriously.

Gitura has already briefed the French government on the progress made during the one and a half month peace talks amongst the warring clans that ended last Friday.

Briefing journalists on Wednesday night at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport upon his arrival from France, Mr. Gitura said the Somali Transitional Federal Government was compiling resolutions reached during the reconciliation conference that would enable it chart the way forward for a peaceful Somalia.

This year's United Nations' Security Council meets in New York on September 25 this year, and part of its agenda will be insecurity at the Horn of Africa. French is a member of the Security Council.

"Some of the key issues that the forthcoming U.N Security Council should look into is the posting of the International Peace Keeping force in Somalia and to augment the current Ethiopian and Ugandan soldiers, who are already over-whelmed by insurgency's security'', said Mr. Gitura.

The reconciliation conference had been postponed three times amid threats of violence, and even when it got under-way on July 15 this year, it was marred by boycotts by some key parties.

The Hawiye clan, the dominant group in Mogadishu, and the union of Islamic Courts (UIC) were left out of the process.

Last week, the government reopened its embassy in Mogadishu, as a gesture to overtures of peace within the region.

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