|Somali Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein said Sunday the council of Hawiye clan elders will be part of the reconciliation process by his government, following the first face-to-face meeting between the two sides.
In a joint press conference after the meeting held in the African Union (AU) peacekeeping mission headquarters in Mogadishu, Hussein and Mohamed Hassan Haad, leader of the opposition Council of Hawiye Clan Unity and Culture, expressed their commitment to work together to pacify the country, particularly the restive capital.
"We have exchanged our views regarding security and reconciliation in our first meeting and we have both agreed that we need to take part in the peace process and persuade others to join," Hussein told reporters at a news conference.
Haad, chairman of the Hawiye clan, the largest in the country, said he and Hussein were optimistic peace could be attained, saying that the Prime Minister, himself a Hawiye, handed them "the document of national reconciliation strategy of the government" and that they will study it closely.
The 160-member council has been vocal in their opposition to the Ethiopian presence in Somalia and Somali government policies. The council has maintained that it is a national reconciliation in a neutral venue attended by all groups which is needed to solve the year-long insurgency in the south-central Somali regions.
The Somali prime minister stated last week members of the Hawiye council are free to express their political views and can move freely in the country. Hussein released prominent members of the council from government detention in January and promised his government would talk with all opposition groups inside or outside the country.
Somalia has been without a central authority since the overthrow of ate ruler Mohamed Siyad Barre in 1991.