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UN-Represented at Djibouti Talks Are Somaliland and Al-Shabab, Piracy Projections

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press in Africa: News Analysis

UN SPECIAL PLANE, June 2 -- "Anytime you eliminate an Al-Qaeda target it's a positive contribution," said Alejandro Wolff, the U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN told the press while flying to the Somalia talks in Djibouti. He had been asked if the U.S. airstrikes in Somalia were a positive contribution to reconciation. He was asked for the U.S. position on meeting with individuals on terrorism watchlists. "Let me know if there are" any, he said. He said that "if all goes well," the Security Council's resolution on piracy in Somalia's coastal water will be enacted Monday at the UN, at 3 p.m. New York time. Inner City Press asked Amb. Wolff, if the resolution allows the Transitional Federal Government could authorize anti-piracy entry into the waters of Puntland and Somaliland. "We believe in the territorial integrity of Somalia," Amb. Wolff said.

  But Somaliland, according to the UK's Ambassador to the UN John Sawers, has "different ambitions" than the rest of the country, and is not represented in the Somali peace talks in Djibouti. Puntland, according to Amb. Sawers, wants to remain a part of the country. On the UN Special Plane headed to the talks from Nairobi, Inner City Press asked Amb. Sawers about the presence on the list of civil society groups the Security Council will meet with of representatives from Puntland -- Mohamed Ali Shirwa, Hawa Li Jama and Dahir Mahamed Farah -- but none from Somaliland. It's important to note, he said, that things are more peaceful in the northern part of the country. In Mogadishu, by contrast, President Yusuf's plane was shot at as he left for Djibouti.

  South African Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo was asked why the Council, or at least some of its members, were not going to Somalia itself. The reason is security, he said. Amb. Sawers spoke of Islamist groups which are not and should not, he said, be part of the political process. Asked about the al-Shabab group, which is actively fighting both the Transitional Federal Government and the Ethiopian troops which brought them to the capital, Amb. Sawers said drily that he did not think they have a coherent political platform. 

  Perhaps not, but al-Shabab has the guns. Those of academic bent thought to ask about British Somalialand, or even the Anglo-Egyptian Condominium. This Council trip has historical echoes, which we will attempt periodically to channel.

Amb. Sawers in New York, piracy issues not shown

  For now, some notes from the road.

     The delegates whisked through Nairobi's airport with scarcely a security check. Metal detectors beeped by nobody cared. The group walked across the tarmac taking photographs. In the distance military cargo planes loomed. Inner City Press asked South African Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo, who is co-leading the Djibouti leg of the Council's trip, if anyone is speaking with al-Shabab. "We'll have to see," Amb. Kumalo answered. In New York he had said that all of the important parties are involved in the Djibouti talks.

  While a more realistic sense of these talks will have to wait until Monday afternoon, at earlier, the Council's pre-dawn breakfast at the Nairobi Inter-Continental included, alongside very British hot tomatoes and sausage, comparison of various Ambassador's travel costs to Kenya. The Ambassador mostly closely affiliated with British Airways appeared well-rested from First Class. U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative Alejandro Wolff, it was noted, flew "World Economy." When Inner City Press asked, he joked, "It had nothing to do with frugality, I assure you." More seriously, he said he had worked hard to get the Somalia piracy resolution ready for adoption Monday at 3 p.m. New York time. His Chinese counterpart Ambassador Liu marveled at the pace of real estate development in Nairobi. The representative of Panama wore, what else, a Panama hat.

  In separate mini-busses escorted by Kenyan security in four-by-fours with enormous antennae, the Ambassadors followed by the press corps drove at dawn to the airport. The shoulders of the road were filled with small boulders, and the road was periodically thinned down by spiked metal strips. "Vote No" was spray-painted on cinderblock walls.

  Voting, even with Kenya's problems, it was remarked, would be a major step forward for Somalia.

 Footnote: Amb. Sawers announced in his briefing on the plane that he expected the Somalia piracy resolution to be adopted Monday at the UN in New York. Late last week, the Ambassador of Indonesia, among others, expressed reservations about the draft of the resolution at that time. Inner City Press asked what provisions, if any, were being included to ensure that foreign fishing ships don't trawl in Somalia's exclusive economic zone.  One Council diplomat questioned, "What was that French yacht doing off Somalia? Or the South Korean trawlers?" We'll see -- watch this site.

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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