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Last Updated: Sunday, 15 July 2007, 00:47 GMT 01:47 UK
Security raised for Somali forum
By Martin Plaut
BBC News

Somali government troops patrol the capital Mogadishu
The Islamic Courts militia say the venue is not neutral
Security has been stepped up across Mogadishu ahead of a national reconciliation conference on Sunday.

Hundreds of Ethiopian and government troops have been deployed to secure the Somali capital city.

Mogadishu has suffered constant attacks from local militias and remnants of the Islamic Courts, driven out by Ethiopian forces at the end of last year.

More than 1,000 Somali elders, drawn from the country's fragmented clans, will attend the conference.

Ethiopia has reinforced its presence in the city, intensively patrolling the area around the former police transport headquarters where the delegates will meet.

The conference will be held with the blessing of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and the United States.

But many Somalis are sceptical that genuine reconciliation will be achieved.

The Islamic Courts, many of whom are now in exile in Eritrea, argue they could not attend since the meeting was not held on neutral territory but under the guns of their Ethiopian enemies.

Some clan elders claim they were never invited.

And then there is the precedent of past attempts to end the Somali crisis, which has left the country without a functioning government for the last sixteen years.

All failed to bring about a genuine peace.

There is only the slimmest of prospects that this attempt will be any different.


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