Country Report Djibouti November 2006

The political scene: Djibouti seeks to mediate in Somalia conflict

Djibouti has criticised calls for international peacekeepers to be sent into Somalia and has offered to mediate in the conflict between the beleaguered Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and the fundamentalist Union of Islamic Courts (UIC). Government ministers have been in negotiations with the two parties and with neighbouring countries, especially Eritrea and Ethiopia, who each back different sides and who themselves fought a bitter border war in 1998-2000, which has still not been resolved. Djibouti argues that moves by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the African Union (AU) to send in peacekeepers will exacerbate the conflict. The TFG, which is recognised by IGAD, the AU and the UN, but which controls only a relatively small part of the country around the town of Baidoa, has little grass-roots support, whereas the UIC controls the capital, Mogadishu, and much of the southern part of the country.

Mr Guelleh considers himself widely respected in Somalia because of his role in establishing the former transitional national government, led by Abdikassim Salat Hassan, in 2000. Djibouti has also been strengthening its relations with Eritrea (August 2006, The political scene), which the UN accuses of supplying the UIC with troops and arms. Djibouti's minister of defence, Ougoureh Kifleh Ahmed, met Eritrea's president, Isaias Afewerki, on September 2nd and urged Eritrea to accept the need for a military truce. On September 15th Mr Guelleh met a delegation from the UIC in Djibouti and urged it to strengthen the troubled Khartoum peace talks between the two sides. He also used his visit to Iran in September to try to persuade the Iranian government to support this position. On October 9th Djibouti's minister of foreign affairs, Mahamoud Ali Youssouf, met Ethiopia's prime minister, Meles Zenawi, and conveyed Mr Guelleh's offer to invite the key parties to Djibouti to seek an agreed solution. Mr Meles has been a staunch supporter of the TFG and has repeatedly urged the international community to reinforce it against the UIC to prevent the spread of fundamentalism and long-term political instability into the region as a whole. Mr Guelleh also won the support of the German minister of defence, Franz Josef Jung, who joined him in calling for dialogue between the UIC and the TFG during his visit to Djibouti on September 25th.

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