Progress on Somalia
The 20th extra-ordinary summit of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) of Heads of States and Governments discussed and passed resolution to tackle situations about the civil war in Somalia, the crisis in the two Sudans, IGAD Minimum Integration Plan and Piracy off the coast of Somalia. The summit also condemns Eritrea and asks to further strengthen sanctions.
Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, Chairman of IGAD said in a press briefing right after the summit, “The summit addressed three key points. Firstly, the integration of IGAD both through the acceleration of infrastructure projects linking us and the establishment of free trade area in the IGAD Region. The secretariat has done a spectacular job in terms of preparing the ground work and everyone agreed to implement this plan. And so there was complete agreement on the integration path. Secondly, we discussed Somalia. We have agreed on all matters related to Somalia. Thirdly, we discussed the crisis in the Republic of Sudan and the Republic of Southern Sudan. A lot of progress was made in the negotiations led by a high level panel of the African Union. So it was agreed that the two parties will continue their negotiations throughout the summit. Although we have made a lot of progress, we are not able to come to a final agreement. So, this is where we are as IGAD.”
The summit deliberated most on the crisis in Somalia and its associated problem of piracy. The summit hailed the progress on the strategic concept on future AMISOM operations in Somalia as well as the gains made by the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia (TFG), Kenyan Defense Forces (KDF) and the logistical and military support extended by Ethiopia and the TFG.
The meeting regarding Somalia also called for the implementation of an inclusive political process in the liberated areas to consolidate gains made by the TFG forces with the help of African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), Kenyan and Ethiopian Defense Forces against the Somali militant group Al Shabab.
Recently, Al Shabab lost control of some strongholds in the capital Mogadishu and has been squeezed from other territories in Southern and Central Somalia with the help of the Ethiopian and Kenyan Military Forces.
“The decision has all along been to help the TFG. We will withdraw our troops as soon as possible. We are not going to create a vacuum in the transitional government. We expect AMISOM troops to be able to fill the gap before we withdraw. So, at this stage there is no need for rush to withdraw,” said the Prime Minister Meles.
The summit also appreciated the support by Ethiopian National Defense Force in response to the appeals by the TFG and IGAD while urging all parties on the ground to effectively coordinate their activities.
The other point raised was the dispute between South Sudan and Sudan. Following Sudan’s decision to prevent ships carrying South Sudan’s oil from leaving Port Sudan, tension is mounting. This is on top of the controversy over the oil rich region, Abyei.
“The Proposal by the panel is to have a very brief cover agreement focused on reversal of unilateral decisions and a frame work on long term solution to the problem of oil. Many of these issues in both the frame work and the cover agreement are agreed but there are some sticking points. I can not go in to the details because I am sure you would understand the sensitivities of the matter. So, in general terms I believe there is quite a lot of progress but not enough for us to make a deal now,” said Meles.
“If there is no agreement, then it means there is no agreement. And so, the unilateral decision can only be stopped, if there is an agreement. As I have said while a lot of progress has been made, we don’t yet have a final agreement,” reiterated Meles.
The summit also urged both sides to refrain against unilateral action and to resolve the current crisis and all outstanding issues.
The summit blamed Eritrea for what it called ‘the Red Sea state’s destabilization activities’ specifically mentioning the attacks against tourists in Northern Ethiopia and the foiled January 2011 bomb plot to disrupt the African Union (AU) summit while shying away from specific punitive tasks it could take against Eritrea.
“First of all IGAD is calling for full implementation of the recent sanction by the United Nations Security Council. IGAD naturally condemns all kinds of violence and terrorism in the region including the kidnapping of peaceful tourists,” said Meles.
Recently five tourists were killed and four others were kidnapped in Afar Regional State while visiting Ert’ale on the night of January 24, 2012 by gunmen which Ethiopia blamed on Eritrea’s proxies.
IGAD also called on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to immediately enforce and act without specifically mentioning measures to the recently added sanctions on Eritrea which the communiqué accused it of trying to destabilize the region by supporting extremist groups despite the regional block’s calls to desist from its activities.
(Elias Gebreselassie contributed to this story)