AU calls for increased commitment to peace process

The Peace and Security Council of the African Union (AU) has called on Somali leaders attending ongoing peace talks in Kenya to show increased commitment to enable the talks to conclude successfully.

In a communiqué adopted after a meeting last week, the AU said: "Africa and the international community at large would not understand that the ongoing efforts to reach an inclusive solution be yet thwarted by the lack of cooperation of some leaders and factions."

The AU Council welcomed a decision on 12 March by ministers from the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD - the regional body under whose auspices the Somali negotiations are being held), declaring phase two of the talks "complete". The ministers had said "the process is now moving into the preliminary stage of phase three", adding that an IGAD ministerial meeting would be held on 6 May for that purpose.

The AU urged all members of the IGAD facilitation committee that has been brokering the Somali talks to "participate in that meeting at the appropriate ministerial level". It advised the IGAD countries "to display the level of cohesion required to facilitate the conclusion of the reconciliation conference".

The continental body also urged all AU member states "to scrupulously adhere to the UN Security Council resolutions on the arms embargo on Somalia" and cooperate fully with the UN Monitoring Group, which has been keeping watch on compliance with the arms ban.

On 27 April, a group calling itself the "Somali Leaders' Committee" (SLC), issued a statement opposing a "road map" for the final phase of the talks which was unveiled on 23 April by Kenyan Foreign Minister Kalonzo Musyoka. Musyoka is the chairman of the IGAD ministerial committee.

The SLC said the proposed road map did "not take into account the substantive issues that plague the continuation of the Somali peace process" before moving to the third and final phase. "The road map is neither conciliatory nor a catalyst in [....] the messy affairs of this conference," the committee added.

A number of the leaders who had earlier abandoned the talks had been meeting in the town of Jowhar, 90 km north of the Somali capital, Mogadishu, to consider convening a parallel conference in Somalia. Others still in Kenya have since expressed reservations about the talks.

The IGAD-sponsored talks opened in October 2002 in the town of Eldoret, western Kenya, but were moved to the capital, Nairobi, in February 2003. They have been dogged by wrangling over issues such as an interim charter, the number of participants and the selection of future parliamentarians.