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Somalia's Islamic leaders reach peace deal with govt
The World Today - Wednesday, 6 September , 2006 12:38:00
Reporter: Zoe Daniel
ELEANOR HALL: Islamic leaders in Somalia have agreed to form a joint army and police force with the country's interim government.
The deal has been reached at peace talks between the two parties in Sudan, and although international peacekeepers were rejected by the Islamists, this deal may signify their willingness to work together to create a functioning country.
Islamic courts have taken control of the capital Mogadishu, and much of the south, while the interim government has little power and is virtually hemmed in in the town of Baidoa.
The United States has accused the Islamists of being linked to al-Qaeda, but others say they seem to have brought order to parts of Somalia for the first time in years.
Africa Correspondent Zoe Daniel reports.
ZOE DANIEL: A few days ago the Port of Mogadishu started receiving ships for the first time in 11 years.
There is still unrest, but residents of the war-torn city say they can walk the streets again after years of anarchy and violence. And now a functioning police force and army look like being formed.
The agreement has come out of talks being held in Sudan, which aim to bring peace to arguably the world's most dysfunctional country.
Leader of the Somali government delegation, Parliament speaker Sharif Hassan.
SHARIF HASSAN: We are brothers. We can achieve a lot, and we want to focus entirely on the ways and means to take Somalia out of its current debacles.
ZOE DANIEL: Somalia's interim government is based in the city of Baidoa, but it has little influence elsewhere, and it's certainly not as powerful as the Islamic courts who have taken control of Mogadishu and much of Somalia's south.
The Islamists drove out warlords who'd been ruling Mogadishu since the country's last leader was toppled in 1991.
They've been accused of being a front for al-Qaeda, but the leader of the Islamist delegation, Ibrahim Hassan Adou, says they want peace. Ethiopian troops are believed to be in the country to support the interim government, and he's warned that it's their presence that could reignite civil war.
IBRAHIM HASSAN ADOU: We would like to reaffirm our commitment to peace and good neighbourhood. We are not a threat to any of our neighbours, despite some accusations to the contrary by some of these neighbours trying to find pretext to destabilise Somalia.
ZOE DANIEL: International observers, particularly in America, have reacted negatively to the rise of the Islamists in Somalia, warning that the country could become a haven for terrorists.
The introduction of harsh Sharia courts has also fed fear that a Taliban style hardline Islamic state could be formed.
But Doctor Richard Cornwall from the Institute of Security Studies says that's not the right way to respond.
RICHARD CORNWALL: Somalis are after all not Arabs, they don't speak Arabic. Their form of Islam has generally been a fairly moderate Sufi kind of Islam, and so whether they would actually become a new Taliban, as some American extremists allege, I think is highly doubtful.
ZOE DANIEL: He says the international community risks creating extremism in Somalia by viewing the conflict simplistically as an Arab versus non Arab war, which it isn't.
RICHARD CORNWELL: Well, the problem is that if we start to look at the internal politics of Somalia through the anti-terrorist war lens, then we're going toÂ… we're not going to see what's actually going on.
And in fact we stand a very good chance of ending up with a self-fulfilling prophecy, in that we internationalise a domestic conflict, we come in and support one group of people who are waving the anti-terrorist banner against another group of people who are not necessarily terrorists. Then the nationalist card gets played and we end up radicalising the entire conflict.
ZOE DANIEL: Somalia's interim government and leaders of the Islamic courts will meet again at the end of October to discuss a power sharing agreement. In the meantime, the two groups have agreed to co-exist peacefully, without outside interference.
This is Zoe Daniel reporting for The World Today.