19 May 2007 04:18


  • Title: [SW Country] (THE INDIAN OCEAN NEWSLETTER #907) SOMALIA : Delegates boxed in at Djibouti
  • From:[]
  • Date :[10 Jun 2000]

SOMALIA : Delegates boxed in at Djibouti

The Puntland authorities, in north-eastern Somalia, have the feeling that Djibouti head of state Ismail Omar Gelleh forced their hand to send a delegation to the national reconciliation conference on Somalia which has been going on in Arta (Djibouti) for several weeks. For with Gelleh's approval, Djibouti's deputy speaker Idris Harbi Farah signed an agreement in Garowe in April accepting the conditions laid down by the Puntland leaders for their participation in the conference (ION 901).

Although the conditions had seemed completely unrealistic beforehand, Puntland nevertheless sent a delegation to Djibouti led by vice president Mohamed Abdi Ashi and including twenty-two tribal leaders and a secretariat of three persons. Rows rapidly broke out with the conference organizers, notably over the election of a spokesperson for the Darod leaders. The deputy speaker complained that he was being put up in accommodated used by street children and inhabited by musicians.

In the end, Puntland president Abdullahi Yussuf Ahmed wrote to president Gelleh and several international organizations on June 7 to ask the Djibouti authorities to "make the necessary arrangements for the immediate return home of its delegation". He also demanded freedom of speech for all members of the Puntland delegation attending the Arta conference, and informed the international community that his autonomous regional authority would not recognize any decisions which might be taken by the conference because the Djibouti authorities had "violated every item in the understanding reached earlier with the Puntland state leadership" with Idris Harbi Farah.


SOMALIA : Puntland dictates its terms

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.


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