Somalia

Somalia: Factions face sanctions for ceasefire violations

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ADDIS ABABA/NAIROBI, 4 February (IRIN) - Somali factions attending peace talks underway in Eldoret, Kenya, face expulsion or other sanctions if they continue to violate the ceasefire agreement, Kenyan Foreign Minister Kalonzo Musyoka warned on Monday.
Speaking on behalf of the regional Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) technical committee, which is steering the talks, he expressed concern that since the deal was signed on 27 October, factions and warring parties had continually violated the agreement. He was speaking at the African Union summit in Addis Ababa. The technical committee is made up of the so-called frontline states - Kenya, Djibouti and Ethiopia.

Under the terms of the agreement, the Somali groups meeting in Eldoret agreed to suspend all hostilities for the duration of the conference.

However, since then, there have been continued violations, with fighting in the capital, Mogadishu, the towns of Las Anod in the northeast and Baidoa in the southwest, and in the Bari, Bay, Bakol, Gedo and Lower Shabelle regions. At least six schoolchildren were killed in an attack on a school bus in Mogadishu in December.

Musyoka said the frontline states had agreed to set up a committee to monitor implementation of the ceasefire which would be empowered to take action. IGAD has played a key role in bringing Somali faction leaders and the Transitional National Government (TNG), headed by President Abdiqassim Salad Hassan, to the negotiating table.

"These violations are causing great suffering and loss of life to the people of Somalia as well as jeopardising the peace process and undermining humanitarian assistance," Musyoka told reporters in the Ethiopian capital.

"We are looking at everything, including perhaps making sure that the violators are not allowed to travel to various parts of the world," he added. "We have been able to identify, almost with certainty, that the violators are linked to the delegates who are now meeting in Eldoret."

Musyoka also called on the international community to apply pressure on faction leaders and not to bankroll groups still involved in fighting and breaching October's ceasefire. "What we are telling the international community is not to give comfort to any of the possible factions who come knocking at their doors in an effort to try and derail the peace process currently under way," he stressed.

Somali delegates on Tuesday welcomed the formation of a monitoring mechanism. "It is long overdue. This should have been in place from the beginning," prominent civil society member Prof Muhammad Abdi 'Gandhi' told IRIN.

He said IGAD should impose a strict sanctions regime against "any group or individual" who violates the agreement. "They [faction leaders] must know that there will be a price to pay for any violations. It is the only language they understand," he said.

Meanwhile, Musyoka announced that the peace talks would move from Eldoret to Mbagathi in Nairobi within two weeks, as part of a cost saving initiative.

But some delegates expressed reservations over the move. "There are too many distractions in Nairobi," one Somali delegate told IRIN. "Also it will next to impossible to stop the large Somali community in Nairobi from coming to the venue of the talks."

[ENDS]

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