IGAD technical committee to meet again

An Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) technical committee to prepare for Somali reconciliation talks is to meet in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, soon, a Kenyan official confirmed to IRIN on Friday.

"We are hopeful that the committee will meet today," said the official. All the members of the technical committee were currently in Nairobi, he added.

The technical committee, comprising the neighbouring states - Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya - was established by the IGAD foreign ministers' committee, which met in Nairobi in February. It is to prepare for a reconciliation conference, which was to have been held in April. Its mandate includes drawing up the terms of reference for the conference, determining the criteria for participation, deciding on the number of participants and monitoring the Somali peace process.

The committee held its first meeting from 3 to 5 April, when it established the terms of reference for the conference. However, at the time of its first fact-finding mission to Somalia last month, Djibouti declined to join the mission, stating there had been insufficient preparation.

A Djibouti statement, made available to IRIN in Nairobi at the time, expressed regret over the "haste" with which the mission had been put together. "The preparatory phase constitutes a crucial stage in which details cannot be overlooked and which must be managed with the utmost rigour," the statement said.

However, the Kenyan official told IRIN on Friday that Djibouti was now on board and would work with the committee. A Djibouti foreign ministry official told IRIN that the Djibouti members of the committee had travelled to Nairobi, after Kenyan Foreign Minister Marsden Madoka on a trip to Djibouti last week gave assurances that the "consultations will be continuous and that everything will be discussed before any decisions are made".

According to the Kenyan official, now that Djibouti is back, the committee will "hopefully go to Somalia within three days" on a fact finding mission. "The duration of the trip and itinerary will be decided by them" , he said.

The talks, which were to bring together the Transitional National Government and other Somali parties, were expected to take place no later than the end of June or early July, he told IRIN.