During the African Union Assembly, IGAD’s Assembly of Heads of State and Government held its own 17th Extraordinary Summit in Addis Ababa, on 30 January. Prime Minister Meles chaired the meeting attended by President Omar Al Bashir of Sudan, President Ismael Omar Guelleh of Djibouti, President Mwai Kibaki of Kenya, President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed of Somalia, Gilbert B. Bukenya, Vice-President of Uganda and Engineer Mahboub M. Maalim, the Executive Secretary of IGAD. Also present were Jerry Rawlings, the Africa Union High Representative for Somalia (AUHLR), and former Presidents Thabo Mbeki and Pierre Buyoya of the African Union High Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP). The agenda covered current developments in Somalia, the Sudan and Kenya, and a communiqué was issued at the end of the meeting.

On Somalia discussions centered on the end of the transition period, on 20 August 2011, and on possible measures that could be taken to extend the current transitional institutions. Under the Transitional Federal Charter, the existing Parliament would continue as a caretaker administration if it did not amend the Charter and create a mechanism to expand its term of office. IGAD leaders agreed, given the limited time available, that the most plausible course of action was for the current Transitional Federal Parliament to extend its term for a limited time, and that the remaining political dispensation should be handled by the people of Somalia. The Assembly welcomed the appointment of the new Prime Minister, Abdillahi Mohamed Abdillahi.  It urged the new cabinet to embark expeditiously on the remaining transitional tasks including the drafting and approval of the Constitution as well as expanding the authority of the state, promoting the reconciliation process and improving the livelihood of the population by providing essential services until the end of its term of office. The leaders discussed the problem of drought, the blockade of humanitarian assistance to the needy by extremist forces and their blatant human rights abuses. In the face of these problems, the Assembly decided to open corridors for humanitarian access and agreed that IGAD member states would provide concrete assistance to the Somali people. The assembly warned all parties not to abuse any humanitarian support.

The Assembly also noted the challenges the TFG faced in reorganizing those of its security forces which were being trained outside Somalia. It underscored the need to train Somali security forces inside Somalia. Given the current weakness and divisions within Al-Shabaab, the TFG was encouraged to exert all its effort to use this opportunity to make real gains on the ground. President Sharif himself underlined that more emphasis needed to be given to the security situation. He also stressed that the remaining issues of the transition period should be left to the Somalis to sort out. He detailed the plans of the new cabinet, most of whom are intellectuals from the Diaspora, to implement the recently announced Hundred Days’ Plan. The IGAD Summit expressed solidarity with the new cabinet. It condemned the barbaric acts and human rights abuses committed by Al-Shabaab against the civilian population, including extra-judicial executions, death by stoning or decapitation, torture, public amputations and flogging. The Assembly said the leaders of the terrorist groups would be held responsible for all the criminal acts committed by their militias.

On the Sudan, the Summit received extensive briefings from President Omar Al-Bashir and by former South African President Thabo Mbeki on behalf of the AUHIP. In his capacity as chairperson, Prime Minister Meles noted the Sudan’s extraordinary diversity and called on the Summit to give unqualified support to the people and the leadership of the Sudan. Indeed, the IGAD Assembly congratulated President Al-Bashir, and the 1st Vice-President of the Sudan and President of South Sudan, Salva Kiir Mayardit, for their exemplary, courageous and wise leadership in this difficult time. The Assembly welcomed the peaceful, orderly and democratic conduct of the referendum by the people of South Sudan. It appreciated the recent momentous developments and expressed its full support to both parties. It encouraged the leaders of both North and South Sudan to work for greater unity and integration and use the high spirit and great civility shown by all the Sudanese people to respond to the challenges ahead. The Summit encouraged both parties to work towards ensuring the existence of two viable states living side by side, and to move forward to address the outstanding issues, including Abyei, borders, citizenship, security and other post referendum matters, in good faith. The Summit emphasized that both parties needed to work to ensure that the two states should be viable. The North would be challenged if there was trouble in the South, and the South would have little chance of success if the North was not at peace. The Summit also called on the international community to deliver on its promises for the Sudan. These included debt relief, the removal of the Sudan from the list of states sponsoring terrorism, the lifting of sanctions and a deferral by the Security Council of the ICC indictment of President Al-Bashir to allow the peace process to move forward smoothly. These would have the effect of bringing an end to the international community’s impediments to peace in the Sudan.

The Assembly also considered the prospects and challenges currently facing Kenya. President Kibaki briefed the Summit on developments in Kenya since its post-election violence and the efforts of the government to deal with those who had been involved. He pointed out that with the endorsement and promulgation of the new Kenyan Constitution, the country’s judicial structures were being restructured and the necessary staff being organized. He provided an update of the progress made in investigating the perpetrators of the violence, to arrange for due process in Kenyan courts and fight against impunity. He noted the serious challenge posed by the ICC initiated process, which threatened the success of Kenya’s transition. Kenya therefore was requesting the deferral of the International Criminal Court indictment in accordance with article 16 of the Rome Statute. The IGAD Assembly was concerned that the ICC process in Kenya threatened the on-going national efforts in peace building, national reconciliation and political transition. Members felt it was hardly appropriate for nations to have to ask for permission to handle their own affairs internally, but with a view to keeping up the momentum created by Kenya’s new constitutional dispensation, the Assembly supported Kenya’s request for the deferral of the ICC investigations and prosecutions in line with Article 16 of the Rome Statute to enable the affirmation of the principle of complimentarity.