African leaders warned Somalia’s hostile factions Monday that international patience is wearing thin and that relief organizations might pull out unless the fighting stops.
“The world cannot wait indefinitely while (you) procrastinate on peace. The world’s patience, charity and magnanimity is not inexhaustible,” said Salim Ahmed Salim, secretary general of the Organization of African Unity.
Salim’s remarks at the opening of a three-day conference on humanitarian aid to Somalia echoed recent statements by U.N. officials and international relief workers.
In the Somali capital, faction leader Mohammed Farah Aidid demanded Monday that the United Nations turn over peacemaking in Somalia to a neutral body of African countries.
He said he appreciated the work of the relief organizations. “They are the only ones that did any good,” Aidid said in Mogadishu.
Aidid boycotted the international conference in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital. Somali faction leaders were expected to meet today and Wednesday on the sidelines of the conference.
Aidid has said he stayed away to press for the release of eight of his aides being held by U.N. forces in Mogadishu. His delegation similarly boycotted Monday’s opening session but apparently intended to participate thereafter.
Aidid’s chief rival in Mogadishu, Ali Mahdi Mohamed, also refused to attend the conference. But a delegation represented him.
Aidid also proposed Monday that all political factions meet for talks in the Somali capital in early January, the first explicit program he has presented for national reconciliation. There was no immediate reaction from other factions.
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Christine Shelly expressed disappointment that neither Aidid nor Ali Mahdi attended the conference in Ethiopia. She said the Clinton Administration was encouraged, however, that both leaders sent representatives in their place.