IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

African nations up pressure on Somali warlords

Seven east African nations placed travel bans on Somali warlords and froze their assets on Tuesday in an effort to push them into peace talks.
/ Source: Reuters

Seven east African nations placed travel bans on Somali warlords and froze their assets on Tuesday in an effort to push them into peace talks.

Kenya, where the seven nations comprising the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) met to talk about Somalia, last week banned the warlords and deported one.

“IGAD member states will apply the same sanctions against all warlords as has been applied by Kenya including (a) travel ban and freezing of accounts,” a joint statement said.

Kenyan officials recommended the ban and asset freeze in 2003 during peace talks it hosted to form the Somali government, as a way to force the warlords to stay at the bargaining table, Kenyan intelligence sources said.

Many of the warlords have extensive business and property interests in IGAD members Kenya, Uganda, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan. Somalia is the seventh member, but its interim government operates outside Mogadishu and has little power.

“We will not allow them to use our banks, we will not allow them to use our airports, we will not allow them to bring their kids to school here,” Kenyan Foreign Minister Raphael Tuju said. “We will not allow them to enjoy the facilities in our five-star hotels when they create hell in their own country.”

The ministers also said they would offer amnesty to those who used arms illegally to “terrorize and harm innocent civilians” who agree to surrender for dialogue within the framework of the interim Somali government.

The measure is a further blow to the self-styled coalition of anti-terrorism warlords — widely believed to have been backed by Washington — who this month lost control of the Somali capital they had lorded over for 15 years.

Somali capitol seized
Militia loyal to Islamic courts seized Mogadishu after battles which killed at least 350 people, in some of the worst violence seen there since the 1991 ouster of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre ushered in an era of anarchy.

IGAD ministers again urged Uganda and Sudan to mobilize peacekeepers — approved by the body a year ago — as part of a Somali government plan which was hotly disputed.

That would require an exemption under a U.N. Security Council arms embargo in place since 1992, which IGAD again urged the U.N. to grant.

Somali sources say the warlords have real estate, import-export and transport interests around east Africa and the Middle East, particularly Kenya and Dubai.

Two warlords contacted by Reuters earlier said they do not care about a ban.

“We stay inside Somalia, we have no more interest going to IGAD countries, and every country has a right to give and block visas,” said one of them, Abdi Hassan Awale.

Some of the warlords have threatened to fight their way back, but look increasingly isolated despite the support they received from Washington earlier this year, analysts say.

So attention has shifted to the relationship between the interim government and the newly prominent Islamic Courts Union, which joins 14 courts with both moderate and hardline elements.

Despite early overtures on both sides, relations have stumbled over the thorny issue of foreign troops.

Warlords of the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism have said the courts harbor Islamic extremists, some linked to al-Qaida — a fear apparently shared by the U.S. government. The courts have denied that.

Funded by local businesses and Somalis abroad, the courts are popular in Mogadishu for imposing a semblance of order in one of the world’s most lawless cities, analysts say.

Somali experts say the courts are broadly moderate, but have a small number of radicals in their midst.