Monday, August 07, 2006

Igad warns Ethiopia, Eritrea on meddling in Somalia

Special Correspondent

The Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (Igad) has warned Eritrea and Ethiopia to stop taking unilateral actions that undermine the powerless but internationally-recognised transitional government of Somali.

An extraordinary meeting of Igad foreign affairs ministers in Nairobi last week also directed that chiefs of defence staff from member countries meet and hammer out a planned deployment of African peace forces in Somalia. The ministers were from Djibouti, Kenya Ethiopia, Somalia, Uganda, Eritrea and Sudan.

"The Igad chiefs of defence will work jointly with the African Union to prepare the detailed revised operational mission plan in line with Somalia's National Security and Stabilisation Plan," said Kenya's Foreign Affairs Minister Raphael Tuju in a joint communique.

Igad's main concern is the presence of Ethiopian troops in Baidoa, Somalia, which threatens an eruption of violence given the opposition from the Islamic Courts Union.

Kenya – which hosted the two-year Somalia peace talks – has offered to lead efforts to restart the stalled talks between the besieged Somalia Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and the Islamists.

The takeover of Mogadishu by Islamists on June 5, the ineffectiveness of the TFG since its formation in Kenya in 2004, and the recent resignation of ministers of the TFG, threatens to render the two-year Somali peace process irrelevant.

So far, some 34 ministers and assistant ministers of the TFG have resigned, accusing Prime Minister Ali Mohammed Ghedi – who recently survived a non-confidence motion – of blocking reconciliation between the interim government and the Islamists.

Mr Tuju who chairs the Igad Council of Ministers, is planning to visit Somalia as well as to the countries of the five permanent members of United Nations Security Council.

He will be accompanied by a delegation from Igad member states and is expected to advocate a unified international approach to the crisis in Somalia. A meeting of the Committee of Ambassadors from Igad member states is planned. The announcement came as four more ministers in the TFG resigned last Tuesday from the President Abdullahi Yusuf-led government.

This week, talks are planned for Khartoum for a new power-sharing deal. On June 22, Sudan hosted a second round of talks, but the TFG boycotted it to protest to alleged Islamist violations of a pact against military expansion.

UN Special Representative to Somalia Francois Loseny Fall said the five-member council will also consider easing an arms embargo to enable the government to build up an armed force.
This follows last month's request by AU leaders to the five permanent members of the UN Security Council to consider an exemption to the 1992 arms embargo on Somalia to allow for thepossible deployment of a peace keeping force.

The force is intended to secure the weak, UN-backed transitional government that the Islamists are challenging, and is expected to help disarm an estimated 55,000 militia fighters and train a new national army.

Mr Tuju said Igad had issued a joint statement saying it was willing to consider the request for a force if it feels that deployment of peacekeepers will lead to peace and stability in Somalia.
Additional Reporting by Fred Oluoch.


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