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Monday, 24 July, 2000, 10:33 GMT 11:33 UK
Somali peace talks 'sabotaged'
Mothers and children in Baidoa, March 2000
Ordinary Somalis just want peace
As the Somali peace conference in Djibouti approaches a critical point, Egypt has come under mounting accusations of trying to sabotage the talks.

After months of deliberations, the nearly 2,000 delegates have adopted a transitional charter for Somalia and are shortly due to elect a parliament and then interim president.

Hussein Mohammed Aideed
Aideed had reportedly agreed to join the conference
But the talks, attended by traditional leaders and representatives of civil society in Somalia, have been boycotted by the main warlords who regard the peace process as a threat to their power.

A senior Djibouti official accused Egypt of having persuaded one of the main Mogadishu warlords, Hussein Mohammed Aideed, to change his mind after he had reportedly agreed to join the conference.

Demonstrations

The official, Osman Ahmed Yussuf, who travelled to Somalia last week in an attempt to win the co-operation of the warlords, told journalists in Mogadishu that Mr Aideed had changed his mind after talks with the Egyptian ambassador.

Somali gunmen
Civilians are tired of rule by the gun
Mr Aideed himself denied the allegations and stressed Egypt's support for the conference.

But there have been a number of demonstrations in Somalia against the ambasador, Salah Abdurizak Halim.

Some of the biggest protests were in the capital, Mogadishu, and elsewhere Egyptian flags were burned.

The Mogadishu newspaper Qaran pubished a bitter attack on Egypt on its website on Sunday, recalling what it said was Egypt's traditional enmity towards Somalia in an account of bilateral relations going back to the 19th century.

The Djibouti peace conference, which has been backed by the United Nations and the regional governments, is the latest of 13 attempts to reunite Somalia under a central government since the last one collapsed amid civil war in 1991.

The 12 previous conferences tried to restore peace by securing a deal among the warlords - their failure has been blamed on machinations by one or other of Somalia's neighbours who intervened to support a dissident faction.

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See also:

17 Nov 99 | Africa
The boring life of a warlord
06 Apr 99 | Africa
Gunning for the money in Somalia
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