Peace deal focus of Somalia meeting

Transitional government seeks audit of regional powers that helped set it up.

    Opposition groups want Ethiopian forces to leave Somalia as a pre-condition for compromise [EPA]

    The UN special envoy to Somalia has, however, lent his support to the Nairobi conference.

    Neighbours' audit

    With only nine months left before the mandate of their government expires, Transitional Front Government (TFG) leaders attending the Nairobi conference are expecting to be audited by the very neighbours that helped create it.

    The TFG came out of an earlier Kenya conference.

    It has been in control of Mogadishu since last year, backed by thousands of Ethiopian troops.

    Though there is little progress on the ground, the TFG denies it has failed.

    Mohamed Talha, the deputy speaker of parliament, said: "We recognise ourselves that we have sacrificed and have been victimised.

    "Many members of parliament were killed and injured, we lost many friends, and we want the international community and Somalis to recognise that we are heroes not failures."

    Ongoing battle

    The TFG has been battling fighters loyal to the Islamic Courts' Union, which had previously controlled the capital, and large parts of southern Somalia.

    The Islamic Courts' military wing, al-Shabaab, has split into a separate force.

    Al-Shabaab rejected Sunday's UN deal and has vowed to keep fighting.

    For the past year, the TFG has been opposed by a group called the Alliance For the Re-Liberation of Somalia (ARS), which includes the Islamic Courts' Union.

    But the ARS has also split - one faction signed the ceasefire deal on Sunday, the other opposes it.

    The Nairobi conference – one of nearly 20 peace initiatives held for Somalia in the past 18 years - is welcome news to its people.

    But given the dire situation in Somalia, many question its ability to succeed.

    Stoning death

    Al-Shabaab's control of the southern port of Kismayo was underlined on Monday when its members stoned to death a woman accused of adultery, according to witnesses.

    The woman, who was 23, was executed in the town square in front of hundreds of people. She is the first person to be killed by stoning in Somalia in the last two years.

    She was pulled out of the hold where she had been placed on three occasions to see if she was dead, witnesses said. When a relative and others pushed forward to rescue her, guards opened fire, killing a child.

    "A woman in green veil and black mask was brought in a car as we waited to watch the merciless act of stoning," Abdullahi Aden, a local resident, said.

    "We were told she submitted herself to be punished, yet we could see her screaming as she was forcefully bound, legs and hands. A relative of hers ran towards her, but the Islamists opened fire and killed a child."

    Abdullahi Abdi Mohamed, Somali Concern Group, told Al Jazeera that the incident was not a surprise.

    "It is central to the political theme of al-Shabaab, the group that is controlling that part of southern Somalia.

    "Al-Shabaab is emulating the Taliban and al-Qaeda. It has split from the Islamic Courts Union, which has controlled southern Somalia for the last two years."

    Mohamed said that the killing was extra-judicial and that the woman did not receive a trial.

    "Even in Sharia (Islamic law) the due process [of law] did not take place at all," he said.

    Humanitarian disaster

    Somalia has been without an effective government since 1991.

    Today, Somalia is one of the world’s greatest humanitarian disasters, some say even worse than the western Sudan region of Darfur.

    Nearly a half of the country’s population of seven million people depend on food aid according to UN estimates.

    Many have fled their homes in the capital and live on its outskirts in some of the most desperate conditions.

    Hundreds of others cross their borders daily to live as refugees.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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