Somalia

IGAD sets benchmarks for Somalia peace talks

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Nairobi, Kenya (PANA) - Amid threats by several Somali faction leaders to withdraw from peace negotiations, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) has outlined specific benchmarks for the parley meant to restore law and order in the Horn of Africa country.
Kenya's special envoy to the IGAD peace process for Somalia, Bethwell Kiplagat, told a news conference here Monday that various committees on various issues -- including the monitoring the cease-fire reached in Djibouti last month -- are expected to present their work to the plenary session within three weeks.

However, the Somali Transitional National Government (TNG) has not confirmed its participation in the forthcoming talks. TNG officials are opposed to the involvement of Ethiopia, which it accuses of undermining its authority in Mogadishu, the capital.

The TNG has also complained about the lack of accommodation for its delegates, a matter Kiplagat said would be sorted out soon. The talks, which moved from Eldoret town, western Kenya, a week ago to Mbagathi College in Nairobi to cut costs, are expected to resume after the registration of delegates is completed. "There is a very strong current to find a solution to the Somali problem. Currently they are only bogged down by representation," Kiplagat told journalists.

He advised Somali leaders complaining about the number of representatives to forward their grievances to the arbitration committee, adding that his committee would like an all-inclusive and binding peace process for Somalia.

He said the delegates were reduced from 800 in Eldoret to 361 in Mbagathi, and that so far 310 have registered for the conference. Each participant is estimated to cost about US$35 per day, down from US$100 in Eldoret. The secretariat of the conference has already raised US$1.8 million out of the US$5 million pledged by donors.

Kiplagat urged faction leaders whose groups have been violating the cease-fire agreement to respect the peace process. A team will soon be sent to Mogadishu next week to assess the situation. He warned that action would be taken against those flouting the cease-fire agreement, whether they were part of it or not. "We must never give up. The least we can do is to pray for Somalia," said Kiplagat, who expressed optimism that all the Somalia factions, including authorities in the north-west (Somaliland), will attend the talks.

Pan African News Agency
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