Ministers of the seven-member African Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) met in Nairobi Friday, calling for lasting peace in Sudan and Somalia and expressing deep concern over the escalation of hostilities in Africa.
"We must work hard to achieve durable peace in southern Sudan and Somalia. We all participated in the Oslo Conference of Donors and made pledges to support the reconstruction process in southern Sudan. We need to make good our pledges to facilitate the post- conflict peace building process," said Kenyan Foreign Minister Raphael Tuju in his opening remarks.
Tuju urged deployment of a peacekeeping mission in Somalia. " Failure to do so will simply exacerbate the situation allowing instability to continue to dog Somalia," Tuju warned.
"It will also increase piracy, lead to proliferation of illicit small arms and light weapons will continue unabated, and organized criminal activities will escalate if no concerted effort is made to disarm and demobilize the armed groups and re-integrate them in civil society," the minister said.
The minister said that recent violence and abductions in Somalia could undermine the current political progress achieved by the leaders of the transitional institutions as they try to reconstruct their war torn country.
Tuju said continued clashes, as well as pirate attacks against aid ships, have hampered UN efforts to provide emergency food at a time when severe drought has affected nearly 2 million people.
He cited armed militia groups, increased piracy off the coastal waters, obstacles to reconciliation efforts and divisions among political leaders as the main problems facing Somalia.
The ministers called on the IGAD member states to resolve the current border hostilities between neighboring Eritrea and Ethiopia where the long running conflict between the two neighboring states is threatening peace in the region.
"While the hostilities between the Eritrea and Ethiopia are being dealt with by the AU and the UN, I think the IGAD approach could be tried to cool the apparent hostilities between these sister countries," said Uganda's Regional Cooperation Minister Augustine Nshimye.
"The other dark spots that have captured the attention of the international community are the Darfur crisis and persistent Lord's Resistance Army nuisance in northern Uganda," he said.
The Ugandan minister called on the group to work closely with the AU to find a lasting solution to the Darfur crisis, where a three-year conflict has led to the death of at least 300,000 people and the displacement of 2 million others.
"There is need for IGAD to work closely with the AU to find a solution to resolve the Darfur crisis. Uganda is closely working with Sudan to wipe out the remnants of the LRA," Nshimye said.
IGAD summit is scheduled to open in Nairobi on Monday next week.
The regional bloc spearheaded both the Somalia National Reconciliation Conference and the Sudan Peace Process, which were successfully concluded with the establishment of the Transitional Federal Government for Somalia and the signing of the Sudan Peace Agreement.
The latter led to the formation of the government of national unity in Sudan, ending the 21-year civil war, which pitted the Sudan Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA) led by late Dr John Garang against the Khartoum government.
The IGAD groups Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Sudan, Eritrea, Djibouti and Somalia.