From: Biniam Haile \(SWE\) (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Fri May 01 2009 - 15:43:07 EDT
Somali government sees peace role for opposition's Aweys
Fri May 1, 2009 8:04am GMT
By Abdiaziz Hassan
NAIROBI (Reuters) - Somalia's hardline opposition leader Sheikh Hassan
Dahir Aweys has an important role to play in restoring security to the
country after 18 years of ruinous civil war, a government minister said.
Aweys, who is on the U.S. terrorism list for alleged links to al Qaeda,
returned to the Horn of Africa nation last week in his first known trip
home in more than two years.
He is an influential figure for many of the Islamist rebels fighting the
new government of President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed -- who was Aweys' former
partner in the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) that ruled the capital and
much of the south in 2006.
Despite Aweys' calls for African Union (AU) forces to leave, some
analysts say exile may have mellowed him, and that he could still prove
to be an important mediator with insurgents.
Aweys moved to Eritrea after Ethiopian forces chased his sharia courts
group out of Mogadishu at the start of 2007. In a Reuters interview late
on Thursday, Somali Foreign Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Omaar said a lot
had changed since then.
"He has been away some time and major developments have taken place in
the country. He left because of an issue that has been resolved.
Ethiopian troops have withdrawn," Omaar said.
"Aweys is an elder and a historical figure in Somalia. I believe he has
a responsibility for the wellbeing and progress of the Somali people,
especially the women and children who are most affected by the war."
After leading the ICU until Addis Ababa's offensive, Aweys and Ahmed
later split, with Aweys taking over the Asmara-based Alliance for the
Re-Liberation of Somalia from Ahmed, who was elected president early
this year at U.N.-led talks in Djibouti.
Last week, donors agreed to give at least $213 million to help Somalia
strengthen its security forces and also fund the small AU mission AMISOM
over the next year.
Omaar said the amount pledged was a clear sign of broad global support,
and that all of it would be spent transparently. Ahmed's administration
is the 15th attempt since 1991 to set up a functioning central
government for Somalia
"This time, the international community sees that we're serious and
reliable ... I believe we have crossed that bridge," the foreign
minister said during a visit to neighbouring Kenya.
"We will establish joint committees of donors and the government to
deliver, supervise and manage the money. Systems that satisfy everybody
will be established."
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