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SOMALIA: Tension rising in disputed northern regions

NAIROBI, 26 Nov 2002- Tension is rising in Sool and Sanaag regions of Somalia, to which both of the self-declared republic of Somaliland and the self-declared autonomous region of Puntland have laid claim, a local journalist told IRIN on Monday.

Tension has been rising in the area since Somaliland elders came to the Sool regional capital, Las Anood, he said. The elders were in Las Anood to reconcile two feuding clans in the area.

The two regions fall geographically within the borders of pre-independence British Somaliland, but most of the main clans inhabiting them are associated with Puntland. These are the Warsangeli and the Dhulbahante, which, along with Majerteen - the main clan in Puntland - form the Harti clan of the Darood.

At extraordinary cabinet meeting on 23 November, called by Puntland leader Colonel Abdullahi Yusuf, it was decided to send a high level delegation to the two regions, Abdishakuur Mire Adan, the Puntland deputy information minister, told IRIN, on Monday. Yusuf, who was attending the Somali reconciliation conference currently underway in Eldoret, Kenya, left for Puntland on 21 November.

Abdishakuur said it was normal for a Puntland government delegation to visit the area "since both regions are part and parcel of Puntland. I don't see any reason why Puntland officials visiting Sool and Sanag should cause any tension with anybody. The people in these regions consider themselves as part of Puntland."

Other sources in Puntland, however, told IRIN that the authorities in Puntland were sending the delegation "in order to counter a perceived shift by some area elders to the Somaliland side". "There are fears that some prominent elders, particularly in Sool, are trying to shift the balance in favour of Somaliland," they said.

Abdishakur denied any mobilisation of troops by the Puntland authorities in the area. "There is no reason for any mobilisation on our part," he said.

Abdishakur also told IRIN that the Puntland cabinet, which is currently based in the Bosaso, the region's commercial capital, would relocate to Garowe, the administrative capital. The Puntland administration of Col Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmad has been operating from Bosaso ever since he captured the town from his rival, Jama Ali Jama, in May.


SOMALIA: Pressure for progress at peace talks

ELDORET, 26 Nov 2002 - Organisers and sponsors of the peace conference for Somalia in Eldoret, Kenya, have stepped up pressure on participants to make concrete progress this week.

The talks, which started on 15 October, are deadlocked over the distribution of seats to the conference plenary session, and on setting up six technical committees.

The regional body, Intergovernmental Authority on Drought (IGAD), which is organising the conference, told a meeting of the Somali leaders' committee on Friday that they should immediately propose participants for the crucial committee stage of the talks. It said discussions on the selection of 400 overall participants would take place at the same time as meetings of the committees.

Six technical committees are to produce recommendations on core issues identified by the conference, including federalism, disarmament, and land rights. However, the committee phase has been held up by wrangling over the allocation of the plenary seats. On Tuesday, IGAD proposed a new formula based on clans, to try to break the deadlock.

Also on Friday, a high level European Union envoy told participants in the peace conference that they must make progress to ensure continuing donor support.

Jacobus Richelle, EU Director-General for Development, said he told the leaders' committee they must reach conclusions in the next week on setting up technical committees and on the controversial issue of overall numbers to the conference.

“Unfortunately they have been running around in circles for some weeks,” Richelle told journalists in Eldoret. “So we came here with a clear message: please proceed, it’s time for compromise and please do it in the next week.”

Richelle was attending the opening of a resource centre in Eldoret, to support civil society involvement in the peace conference. He told members of civil society that their involvement was crucial. “I hope that activities from NGOs will contribute to pushing the leaders forward,” he said. “Leaders are supposed to lead, but sometimes they need a push. “



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