Abdinasir Mohamed Guled
UN-backed talks have opened will open in Djibouti on Saturday in a bid to end the civil conflict that has raged in Somalia for nearly two decades.
The talks on Saturday which will open at 10:00pm local time are aimed at bringing Somali government officials and exiled opposition leaders into direct dialogue in a push for peace.
The Islamic Courts’ Union, and the Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia, their allies, demand the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops but the two sides have agreed in the ealy talks the Ethiopians to pull out within 120 days.
The first rounds of discussions, the two sides jointly agreed different articles including the withdrawal of the Ethiopian troops from Somalia within 120 days, but the move was seen as a breakthrough in efforts to end a conflict which has seen at least 6,000 civilians die in fighting over the past year, according to international rights groups and aid agencies.
It also urged Somali factions that have so far shunned the process to participate in the negotiations.
While some Islamist leaders and influential clan leaders have joined the discussions, other Islamist opposition leaders claim the mediation was biased and continued to demand an Ethiopian withdrawal before talks can start.
The talks are taking place despite continued violence in Somalia, on Friday two soldiers and three Islamists killed in Bardale town of Bay region when fighting erupted.
Somalia has not had functioning government since 1991 after dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was ousted from power by tribal militias.