After several days' hard horsetrading in Garowe
between a Djibouti delegation led by deputy Speaker Idris Harbi Farah and Puntland
officials, agreement was reached on the terms on which the latter agreed to participate in
the Somalia reconciliation conference planned for the beginning of May (ION 900). The sole
concession the Puntland government made was to accept the principle of its attendance at
the conference, something it had previously refused all along the line.
But the conditions it laid down were tough: the Puntland delegation will travel to
Djibouti only if the reconciliation conference recognizes that the government in Garowe is
legitimate and that only the Somali people can decide on a central government and a
national capital, with no interference from foreigners. Puntland's government and its
House of elders alone will be empowered to pick the composition of its delegation in
Djibouti, and as Puntland officials say they represent an elected body, they indicated
right from the start that once they get to the conference, they will negotiate only with
other elected regional bodies. So, they point out, before the regions of southern Somalia
try to go to Djibouti, they better get themselves an elected regional body.
I.O.N. - Djibouti's deputy Speaker certainly had more luck in Garowe than in
Somaliland, where the authorities in Hargeisa refused even to receive him. But his
diplomatic success — snatching hesitant agreement from the Puntland government —
is wafer-thin. Very few of the conditions mentioned above are likely to be fully met by
May 2, the official opening date in Djibouti of the Somali conference.