of delegates have begun talks aimed at bringing peace to Somalia
have opened in the town of Eldoret, in western Kenya, according
to the French news agency, AFP.
organised by a regional grouping of east African countries,
the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (Igad) brings
together the heads of Somali factions, politicians and other
say they will not attend but one of the key groups, the Somali
Reconciliation and Restoration Council, has said it will send
has had 11 years of anarchy
of one group, Osman Ali Atto, told the BBC he would be staying
away because his faction had been allowed fewer delegates
than a rival group.
In his opening
address, Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi urged delegates
to "heed the cry of their people" for peace, AFP reports.
This is Somalia's
16th attempt to hold peace talks.
have collapsed and Tuesday's conference has already been postponed
The prime minister
of the Transitional National Government (TNG), Hassan Abshir
Farah, was one of the first to arrive in Eldoret, reports
But the Associated
Press (AP) agency reports that he initially refused to attend
the opening ceremony because the Somali flag of a white star
on a pale blue background was not flying.
hope the talks will agree to a permanent, decentralised state.
that the United States has helped finance the talks and has
become more interested in Somali affairs after reports that
al-Qaeda operatives might flee there from Afghanistan.
year, TNG President Abdulkassim Salat Hassan warned the United
Nations that his country risked becoming a haven for terrorists
if the international community did not help it establish a
But he promised
to support US President George Bush's war on terror.
The talks are
expected to last several months, with the first stage lasting
about three weeks, reports AP.
The TNG was
set up in 2000 after months of talks in neighbouring Djibouti
but it only controls parts of the capital, Mogadishu, and
other patches of territory around the country.
recognised government - of dictator Siad Barre - was overthrown
the country has descended into anarchy, with rival warlords
fighting each other.
The TNG accuses
Ethiopia of backing some of the warlords and trying to overthrow
turn accuses the TNG of being allied to radical Islamist groups.
say that Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi will attend
Peace Conference to Open in Kenya
ELDORET, Kenya (Reuters) - Somali factions begin
a peace conference in Kenya on Tuesday aiming to overcome
years of failed reconciliation efforts and end a decade of
anarchy in the broken Horn of Africa country.
Some 300 delegates comprised of faction leaders,
government officials and civic groups were due to gather in
the Kenyan town of Eldoret for the first phase of a series
of talks expected to run for months.
Previous attempts to reconcile Somalia, which
descended into chaos more than a decade ago, have been hindered
by the failure of key warlords to attend, but organizers are
optimistic many of Somalia's main players will participate.
Diplomats say the latest round of talks represent
one of the most serious attempts yet to reconcile Somalia,
carved into fiefdoms by warlords competing in the power vacuum
left by the overthrow of military ruler Siad Barre in 1991.
The United States has taken a greater interest
in Somalia since the September 11 attacks, viewing its anarchic
regions as a potential haven for clandestine networks of extremists.
But given Somalia's long history of failed peace
initiatives -- more than 10 in the past decade -- few observers
hold out hope of a rapid breakthrough to end the fighting
in the country of seven million.
The first phase of the talks are due to last
several weeks and serve as a stepping stone to further rounds
of negotiations to design a new, decentralized system of government
for a united Somalia.
A Transitional National Government aiming to
unite Somalia was established after a conference of clan elders
in Djibouti in 2000, but the administration still only controls
parts of the capital Mogadishu and other patches of territory