Somali govt decries "warmongering" from ministers

22.09.2005 - 11:08
By Andrew Cawthorne

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Somali warlords meeting in Mogadishu to discuss possible retaliatory military action after a build-up of troops by the new president are jeopardizing the peace process, the government said on Thursday.

"Such provocations and warmongering attitudes do not help peace-building efforts but instead undermine the reconciliation efforts," said a statement from Prime Minister Mohamed Ali Gedi's office released in neighboring Kenya.

The militia bosses -- most of whom are cabinet ministers in the deeply-divided new Somali government -- have been meeting in Mogadishu this week to discuss their strategy against the massing of troops by President Abdullahi Yusuf.

Sources at the meeting say they are mulling options ranging from an attack to their own troop build-up or reconciliation.

The tensions are holding up the 14th attempt to reinstate central government in the lawless Horn of Africa nation since the 1991 toppling of former dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.

Yusuf's administration was formed under international auspices in Kenya in 2004, but has been split into two factions since it moved to Somalia earlier this year.

On one side, Yusuf and Gedi have made their base in Jowhar, about 90 km (56 miles) north of Mogadishu, arguing that the capital is too unsafe.

But Mogadishu-based warlords, including parliament speaker Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan and National Security Minister Mohammed Qanyare, say the government leaders have reneged on the 2004 deal by failing to make Mogadishu their capital.

They say Yusuf's gathering of troops in Jowhar is an aggressive act, possibly a prelude to an attack on Mogadishu. Yusuf says he is merely building a legitimate security force.

The government statement, signed by Gedi's chief cabinet secretary Abdirahman Yosef Meygag, said the Mogadishu faction's statements were an ominous sign for Somalia's 10 million people.

"The escalation of tensions and provocative statements from Mogadishu are totally unhelpful and unacceptable. We urge the perpetuators to instead work for the good of the Somali people who have lost innocent lives over the years," it said.

"It is unfortunate and very sad for politicians who have demonstrated their inability to pacify Mogadishu, to be now turning to extreme measures for the sake of personal gain."

Francois Fall, the U.N. special representative to Somalia, appealed for restraint on Wednesday and said the world body was keeping a close eye on the tensions in Somalia.

As well as bellicose rhetoric and troop movements, analysts have noted a rise in arms imports, assassinations in Mogadishu, the failure of a disarmament project, and increased activity by militant Islamists aiming to exploit the power vacuum.