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Kenya to Host Somalia Peace Talks - 2002-09-06

Kenya Friday announced that it will soon be the site of peace talks aimed at ending more than a decade of anarchy in Somalia. The driving force behind the meeting is a regional group made up of six countries in northern Africa.

Kenyan foreign minister Marsden Madoka says the regional Inter Governmental Authority on Development, or IGAD, will host a Somali peace conference in the Kenyan town of Eldoret by 30 September.

There has been a great deal of uncertainty about the conference, which was originally scheduled for April but has been repeatedly postponed.

Mr. Madoka blames the delays on the difficulty of communicating with all of the warring parties in Somalia. An IGAD technical committee has visited Somalia to invite all the country's rival warlords and self-declared presidents to attend the talks.

Mr. Madoka says he believes this meeting will succeed where others have failed because of the effort to include as many groups as possible. "We feel that everybody has now agreed," he said. "They had differences among themselves that we think after this meeting we will be able to resolve the actual participation, which will allow us to move forward. The difference is that everybody has been consulted. In the past, we just tended to invite who we thought was involved but we have gone down to the ground to consult everybody who would be an interested party."

Mr. Madoka says the situation in Somalia - which has been without a central government since President Siad Barre was overthrown in 1991 - is getting worse. Over the past year, fighting has broken out in previously peaceful parts of the country, like the breakaway northern mini-state of Puntland and in Gedo in the southwest of the country. We had hoped that things were moving for the better but there is definitely a deterioration in the present situation which continues to cause great anguish and suffering to the population, our region and in particular the frontline states have continued to bear the brunt of this human catastrophe," said Minister Madoka.

All the member countries of IGAD: Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda have been directly affected by Somalia's years of chaos. Since the early 90s, a steady stream of refugees from Somalia has been pouring into their countries, which is one reason IGAD is so interested in restoring order there.

But Somalia's neighbors are also partly responsible for the failure of previous efforts to bring peace to the country, with countries like Djibouti and Ethiopia each supporting different factions in Somalia.

A transitional national government was set up in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, two years ago, but it still does not even control the whole of the city, let alone the rest of the country.