IGAD warns Somali leaders as talks enter final phase

The member countries of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) have warned Somali leaders not to frustrate the final phase of the war-torn country's peace talks which opened in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, on Saturday.

A statement issued on Saturday by the IGAD ministerial facilitation committee on the Somali peace process in Nairobi said: "They [the IGAD Ministers] warned that punitive measures would be taken on those who would be found obstructing and frustrating the finalisation of the remaining part of the peace process."

The talks, which have lasted more than a year, have entered their third and final phase without some key Somali leaders, including representatives of the ruling Transitional National Government (TNG). Sources close to IGAD, said the TNG representatives were expected to arrive later this week.

Sources at the meeting told IRIN on Monday that the various clan members who had already arrived in Nairobi had decided to wait until the end of the week for the leaders who were absent. Meanwhile they had started the selection of a chairman for the final phase.

The two-day IGAD ministerial meeting which ended on Saturday, was attended by the foreign ministers of Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya while Eritrea, Sudan and Uganda were represented by ambassadors. A number of IGAD partners also attended.

Urging Somali leaders to "take responsibility for bringing their country back to normalcy", the IGAD ministerial meeting said it was ready to mobilise regional and international support for a new government in Mogadishu.

An IGAD source told IRIN the ministerial meeting had insisted that a functional government had to be installed in Somalia by July 2004. Somalia, which has had no effective central government since the overthrow in 1991 of Muhammad Siyad Barre, is nominally an IGAD member.

The peace talks have been in the doldrums since 29 January when Somali leaders signed an agreement on contentious issues that had plagued the talks. Some later expressed reservations and called for the postponement of the third phase of the talks until further "contentious issues" had been resolved.

One of issues was a disagreement over article 30 of the Transitional Federal Charter of Somalia, which deals with the selection of members of parliament. Some leaders wanted the MPs to be selected by the 24 leaders who signed the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement of October 2002, plus the TNG president. But the facillitators argued that members would be selected "at the subclan levels by recognised political leaders comprising the TNG, the National Salvation Council, regional administrations, the Somali Reconciliation and Restoration Council, the G8 and civil society organisations, and be endorsed by genuine traditional leaders".