Tight Security as East Africa Leaders Meet in Somali Capital

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  • Heads of state in Mogadishu, a city trying to rebuild from war
  • IGAD summit is first in country since body formed 30 years ago

East African leaders met in Somalia’s capital for talks on issues including South Sudan’s crisis, a sign of improving security in the Horn of African country that’s trying to emerge from decades of civil war and hold elections next month.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn were among those who arrived in Mogadishu on Tuesday, Somali Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdusalam Omer said on his Twitter account. The summit for the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, of which Uganda, Djibouti, Sudan and South Sudan are also members, was the first held in Somalia since the body’s formation 30 years ago, according to Da’ud Aways, a spokesman for Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud.

Talks were due to focus on recent violence in South Sudan that’s threatened a return to all-out civil war, as well as preparations for Somali elections that will culminate in lawmakers choosing a president on Oct. 30, Aways said by phone from the city before the leaders arrived. Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Uganda all contribute troops to an African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia, known as Amisom.

Somalia, which has been mired in conflict since the late 1980s, is trying to use recent advances against al-Qaeda-linked militants by its national army and Amisom to attract investors and rebuild the economy. Security was tight on Mogadishu’s streets on Tuesday, with traffic and pedestrians banned from areas of the city. While the al-Shabaab fighters were forced out of the capital in 2011, they still stage frequent attacks.