International committee to monitor ceasefire accord

An international committee is being set up to monitor a shaky ceasefire accord signed by Somali faction leaders, Kenya's special envoy for Somalia Bethwel Kiplagat said on Tuesday.

He was speaking at a plenary session to relaunch the Somali peace talks at their new venue in Mbagathi, near Nairobi. The conference was moved from the western Kenyan town of Eldoret for financial reasons.

The Mogadishu-based Transitional National Government (TNG) boycotted the plenary to protest against the new conference facilities, while a number of factions were also absent.

"We have already contacted the United Nations, the African Union, the Arab League, the European Union and all are now committed to be members of the committee which will be monitoring the ceasefire in that declaration [of 27 October 2002]," Kiplagat told the conference.

"IGAD [Inter-Governmental Authority on Development] of course is a member of that committee and also the United States of America," he said. "And I will be calling the committee this week to discuss what action we need to take for those who violate what they have signed."

Referring to the departure of the Juba Valley Alliance (JVA) from the talks, Kiplagat said those who wanted to leave could do so.

"Even if there are only two of us to work for Somali peace, we shall remain only two of us," he stated.

Kiplagat, who chairs the IGAD technical committee which is organising the conference, stressed it was time to get back to work. The six technical committees deliberating core issues of the conference should resume and would not need more than two or three works to complete their work, he said.

TNG BOYCOTT

The TNG information minister Abdirahman Adan Ibrahim "Ibbi" said the transitional authorities were boycotting the meeting because the conference organisers had not given sufficient consideration to the "importance" of the TNG, and the new premises were "not suitable".

Speaking by phone from a Nairobi hotel, he nevertheless said the TNG would return to the conference if given suitable accommodation.

Conference organisers are threatening to stop paying the TNG's bills at their central Nairobi hotel.

A number of faction leaders were also absent from the plenary. At a press conference, they said they had written to Kenyan Foreign Minister Kalonzo Musyoka listing their grievances.

These included a demand that Kenya should be allowed to run the conference alone, without "interference" from Ethiopia and Djibouti. These three "frontline" countries make up the IGAD technical committee which is steering the talks.

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