Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Engineer, tribal chief, and cultural rep on the same page in National Reconciliation critique

Al-Hayat reports on Tuesday September 19 substantial dissatisfaction with the way the National Reconciliation process is being handled. Announced on July 25, this was to be launched with four big assemblies, the first of tribal chiefs, then a meeting for representatives of groups in "civil society", then two meetings for representatives of political parties and religious groups respectively. The second of these assemblies took place in Baghdad on the weekend, with around 1700 people attending. There was acrimony and shouting at the final session, and although committees were formed, and everyone apparently signed the pre-ordained "charter" (against violence and extremism and so on), nothing was really accomplished. Al-Hayat quotes three people who attended:

One was a representative of the Association of Engineers, Ahmad Murtadi (sp?). He told the reporter he and his colleagues weren't afforded the opportunity to express their own points of view, instead they were forced to listen to speeches by the "authorities" who were trying to dictate to the assembly the established points of view. He said he and his colleagues found themselves faced with what he called a "pre-ordained scenario supporting the views of the government from A to Z." "We had no feeling of being a part of a national political project at all." One of the problems, he added, was that most of the participants who weren't government-related people, were with groups associated with one or other of the political parties, and they devoted themselves to "trying to block any move to put the government or the political parties on the table as topics of questions or discussion".

Similar views were expressed by Nisan Abdul Radha (sp?), representing a cultural group, who also thought ordinary delegates were robbed of any chance to express their views, in the interest of hewing to the bureaucratic schedule.

Finally, the reporter says the first meeting, held a few weeks ago, that of the tribal chiefs, was no less problematic. Here he quotes Abdulkarim al-Ayshawi, described as one of the tribal sheikhs in the Western region, who put his finger on an interesting point. He said: "There was a failure to put in place any actual mechanisms to implement the declaration of the tribal leaders' meeting, and this failure is one of the main reasons why the whole process is stalling". He explained: "The government and the other parties [at that earlier meeting] agreed on one basic principle, but they ignored or overlooked the issues relating to defining the authority of tribal sheikhs in those difficult areas where armed groups are in control." After stressing what a difficult position they are currently in, being under armed threat all the time, he urged all the "participants in the political process" to pay more attention to the views of the tribal leaders and to be more cooperative with them, in the interest of moving the whole national reconciliation project forward.


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