Monday, October 27, 2008
NAIROBI: Somalia's transitional leaders have made important concessions toward peace, agreeing to accept insurgent troops within their ranks and detailing a plan for a phased pullback of Ethiopian soldiers, currently the most powerful force in the country.
This agreement, reached Sunday, could be an important step for chaotic Somalia, where thousands of civilians have been killed this year in vicious urban combat between, on one side, the Ethiopian troops and militia members loyal to the Somali government and, on the other, a determined Islamist insurgency. The recent fighting has compounded the country's dire humanitarian problems, with millions of people on the brink of starvation.
In a document signed in the neighboring country of Djibouti, Somalia's transitional government agreed to police the country jointly with an insurgent militia. Equally important, the government committed to have Ethiopian troops "relocate," starting Nov. 21, from key urban areas, including strategic sites in Mogadishu, the bullet-pocked capital.
Ethiopian troops are reviled by many Somalis, yet without their firepower, the transitional government would quickly collapse. Until now, the government had been vague about when the Ethiopians would pull back.
In turn, one insurgent group, the Alliance for the Reliberation of Somalia, agreed to respect a cease-fire and stop waging its guerrilla war.
"Some very important principles have now been established," said a statement issued by Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the top UN diplomat for Somalia. "The challenge is to ensure that concrete action is taken."
But several major problems remain. For starters, the most fearsome wing of Somalia's Islamist insurgency, the Shabab, has shunned the peace talks and vowed to fight on.
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