E African leaders discuss Somalia unrest

2011-11-25 19:09

Addis Ababa - East African leaders opened talks Friday in the Ethiopian capital on the long-running unrest in Somalia, where regional states have sent troops to quash a ruthless Islamist militia.

The al-Qaeda-inspired Shabaab rebels who have waged bloody battles against the Somali government are also accused of stoking insecurity in neighbouring countries.

Kenya in mid-October sent tanks and troops into Shabaab-controlled southern Somalia, while Ethiopia is reported to have deployed forces into its war-torn, neighbour, although Addis Ababa has denied its soldiers crossed the border.

"The main focus is Somalia," Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi told reporters before the meeting attended by Kenyan leader Mwai Kibaki, Djibouti President Ismael Omar Guelleh and Somalia's Sharif Sheikh Ahmed.

The leaders gathered for the summit of the six-member Inter-Governmental Authority on Development - a regional peace bloc.

Kibaki's office said he "will update regional leaders on the operation Kenya has undertaken inside Somalia to deal with militants who have sought to destabilise both Kenya and the region."

Kenya last week said it was willing to send troops for the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) which is tasked with protecting the weak Somali government in Mogadishu.

Nairobi did not clarify whether its troops currently in southern Sonalia would be given an AU mandate or if it will send a separate contingent for Amisom.

Ethiopia said that a decision on deploying troops to Somalia will be taken during Friday's summit.

The Shabaab are facing growing pressure as regional armies slowly encircle them, with Kenyan forces in the south, Ugandan and Burundian African Union forces in the capital Mogadishu and Ethiopian troops in the west.