Sudan, Somalia summit begins

2010-11-23 12:23

Addis Ababa - East African leaders gathered on Tuesday in the Ethiopian capital to discuss beefing up the African peacekeeping force in Somalia and tensions in Sudan ahead of January's referendum on autonomy for the south.

The six-member Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad) summit will take place behind closed doors, officials said.

Presidents Mwai Kibaki of Kenya, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Omar al-Bashir of Sudan are attending the meeting accompanied by the host prime minister Meles Zenawi, Djiboutian President Ismail Omar Guelleh and south Sudan leader Salva Kiir. Somali President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed is not expected to attend.

Ethiopian Foreign Minister Hailemariam Desalegn told journalists that despite progress on the implementation of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement in Sudan, there were still pending issues.

"The issues which are pending are Abyei, which is under negotiation ... the demarcation process and again citizenship," the minister said on Monday following a meeting of regional foreign ministers.

He said the regional powers have divided the issues into two categories: those to be solved prior to the referendum and those that can wait until later.

Igad, a regional development bloc, was instrumental in brokering the 2005 peace accord that ended the war between north and south Sudan.

Political fears

The Ethiopian minister described the situation in Somalia, where an African Union force of some 7 500 Ugandan and Burundian troops is propping up the transitional government, as "still worrisome".

He confirmed that the addition of an extra Burundian battalion to the AU force within the next few days would bring the total number of AU troops to 8 000.

Desalegn noted the AU troops in Mogadishu are now fully paid by the European Union and said this had eased funding pressure. But he said the United Nations has not given enough support.

"The UN has not been quick enough to intervene to solve problems in Somalia," he said, adding that the AU and the Igad countries had expected the UN to support a series of recommendations they made last October, including a no-fly zone, sanctions on spoilers and a sea and air blockade.

Ramtane Lamamra, AU Commissioner for Peace and Security called on the UN Security Council to immediately authorise the increase of AU troop numbers in Mogadishu to 12 000.

"This is an urgent matter because it's a precondition for that force to be deployed," he said, adding the extra troops would come mainly from Uganda.

Desalegn also cited political fears on Somalia, saying that while lawmakers have approved the new prime minister they have not yet endorsed his government.