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Regional Ministers Discuss Stabilizing Somalia, Punishing Warlords


In east Africa, members of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) are discussing ways of punishing warlords involved in recent fighting in the Somali capital, Mogadishu.

Kenya Foreign Affairs Minister Raphael Tuju told the IGAD opening session that his country has taken strict measures against warlords causing havoc in neighboring Somalia.

"We, as Kenya, have decided that we are not going to allow anybody to operate from this country and be involved at the same time in the conflict in Mogadishu or the conflict in Somalia," he said. "We will not allow them to use our banks, we will not allow them to use our airports, we will not allow them to bring their kids to school here, we will not allow them to enjoy the facilities in our five-star hotels when they create hell in their own country."

In recent months, Mogadishu has been rocked by fierce fighting between militias loyal to the Islamic courts and a group of warlords, and militias comprising the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counterterrorism.

More than 300 people were killed and more than 1,000 injured during the conflict. Recently, the Islamic courts claimed to have taken control of Mogadishu.

Somali Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi recently fired four ministers - Mohamed Afrah Qanyare, Musa Sudi Yalahow, Issa Botan Alin, and Omar Muhamoud Finnish - for their association with groups involved in the fighting.

The Kenyan government then banned them and other warlords and their associates from entering Kenya, deporting a suspected warlord.

On the sidelines of the IGAD meeting, diplomats told reporters that it is highly likely that the foreign affairs ministers from the seven-nation Inter-Governmental Authority on Development would follow Kenya's lead and ban warlords from traveling around East Africa and freeze their financial assets.

Also high on the foreign affairs ministers' agenda was a call to assist Somalia's transitional government to set up a national army and to deploy a regional peacekeeping mission into Somalia as ways of stabilizing the war-torn country.

EU Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Affairs Louis Michel called for the United Nations to lift its 14-year arms embargo against Somalia so that firearms and military equipment could be delivered into the country for the army and peacekeeping mission.

Michel urged the international community to work with the transitional Somali government and not other factions.

"We need to adequately support the transitional federal institutions politically, to engage with and stabilize Mogadishu and the rest of the country," he said. "We need to provide vital capacity building and security sector support for the institutions to function."

Prime Minister Gedi told the gathering that his government's top priority is to stabilize the capital and other areas.

The Somali parliament is debating whether to allow peacekeepers from the regional body to enter Somalia. The Islamic Courts, which appear to be controlling the capital, says it opposes the use of foreign peacekeepers.

Since civil war broke out in 1991, clan-based factions have controlled different parts of the country, with no central authority to provide law and order and even basic services to the population.

A transitional Somali parliament was formed in Kenya more than a year ago under an international peace process.

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