Somali warlords slapped with E Africa travel ban
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Somali warlords slapped with E Africa travel ban

Seven east African nations also froze the assets of Somali warlords in an effort to push them into peace talks.

india Updated: Jun 14, 2006 10:55 IST

Seven east African nations on Wednesday imposed travel bans on Somali warlords, who lost bloody battles with Islamist fighters over Mogadishu, and froze their assets in effort to push them into peace talks.

Kenya, where the seven nations in 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 communiqué said.

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.

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 and Sudan. Somalia is the seventh member, but its interim government 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."

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, analysts say.

The ministers 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.

Diplomats said that definition cast a wide net and could be applied to the Islamists if needed.

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 mobilise peacekeepers -- approved by the body a year ago -- as part of a Somali government plan.

The warlords, among them four cabinet ministers fired after the battles, had been major opponents to it and frustrated efforts to get it into place for over a year.

The peacekeepers would require an exemption under a UN Security Council arms embargo in place since 1992, which IGAD again urged the UN to grant.

That issue is proving to be a stumbling block in the new relationship between the interim government and the newly prominent Islamic Courts Union, which joins 14 courts with both moderate and hardline elements.

First Published: Jun 14, 2006 10:55 IST