|Africa News Digest
Somali Reconciliation Conference Ends; Violence Continues
Aug. 31 (EIRNS)The Somalia National Reconciliation Conference ended yesterday, with no visible effect on the increasing violence in the country. Held at a heavily guarded former police compound in northern Mogadishu (Somalia's capital), the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) tightened security even further at the end of the conference, sending hundreds of heavily armed troops into the main streets of Mogadishu, as violence flared the night before the conference ended, according to a SomaliNet release. An AP wire also noted the deterioration of security, reporting that, "The killings in Mogadishu, Somalia's bloodstained capital, are not going away. Nearly every day, the city endures street battles, roadside bombs, showers of bullets."
After the Ethiopian military had intervened, with U.S. support and participation, at the end of December 2006 to prop up the TFGdone in the guise of the War on TerrorPresident Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed had acquiesced to calls for a reconciliation conference, in an effort to give the invasion some legitimacy. Prior to the Ethiopian and U.S. intervention, the isolated TFG had been holed up in one town, Baidoa, with no influence in the rest of the country.
After three postponements, the conference, representing the main Somali clans, began July 15, but the TFG prevented its opponentswhether armed or unarmedfrom participating, and instead used the conference to attempt to build a power base in the country. After the Ethiopian military intervention, the TFG sacked one its own cabinet members who was in favor of pursuing negotiations with the Islamist UIC grouping, which had been predominant in a large part of the country before the Ethiopian military intervention.
President Yusuf hailed the conference as a success, and said he couldn't understand why some Somalis still opposed the TFG. But, an IRIN release quoted Salim Lone, columnist for the Kenyan Daily Nation, who said the conference "achieved very little since none of the key issues essential to restoring security, as well as a broader peace, was discussed." The release also quoted Timothy Othieno, a Horn of Africa analyst in Johannesburg, who characterized the conference as "a total failure" because of the way the participants were chosen and the arbitrary approach of the TFG: "The TFG determined who was going to attend and who wasn't. You cannot place conditions on participants if you are trying to reconcile a nation."
Defense Minister: U.S. Troops Not Welcome in Southern Africa
Aug. 30 (EIRNS)South African Defense Minister Mosiuoa Lekota yesterday said that more U.S. soldiers are not welcome in Africa, according to the South African daily Business Day today.
In a press briefing to the media, Lekota said the 14-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC) defense ministers, at their summit in Lusaka this month, decided that no member-states would host Africom and more U.S. soldiers.
"Africa has to avoid the presence of foreign forces on its soil, particularly if any influx of soldiers might affect relations between sister African countries," Lekota said. The idea of a renewed U.S. focus on Africa was not new, he added.
"Nevertheless, the SADC has adopted the position that it would be better if the U.S. did it from a distance," and did not cause instability in Africa.
He said this was also the "continental position" of the African Union, and indicated that any country that allowed itself to be a base for the U.S. Strategic Command in Africa (Africom) would have to live with the consequences. Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has reportedly already offered her country as a base for Africom.