East African leaders under the banner of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) meet today in Somalia for the 28th extra ordinary summit of heads of state and government.
The one-day meeting takes place in the capital Mogadishu. This is the first meeting to be held in Somalia since the grouping was founded three decades ago.
Uganda, Ethiopia and Kenya, who are IGAD members, provide majority troops to the African Union mission in Somalia (AMISOM), a force that is supporting the Somali government in its attempt to combat al-Shabab militants.
Security concerns were raised ahead of the meeting especially as the militants had recently carried out deadly attacks in the capital, as a result of the summit many roads in the capitals are closed.
IGAD members comprise countries from the Horn of Africa (Ethiopia, Djibouti, Somalia and Eritrea), the Nile Valley (Sudan and South Sudan) and the African Great Lakes region (Kenya and Uganda).
IGAD in a recent report titled Al-Shabaab as a Transnational Security Treat, likened al-Shabab to the Islamic State group, with capablities to recruit young people beyond its power base.
The report stated that al-Shabab (real name Harakaat Al-Shabaab Al-Mujaahidiiin) had long been perceived as a Somali-organization even though it represented a threat to the wider East African region.
Chronicling a trend of attacks from the group, the report in its executive summary states that, ‘‘Al-Shabaab is clearly no longer an exclusively Somali problem, and requires a concerted international response.’‘
The reports suggests that al-Shabab, Al-Qaeda’s affiliate in the Horn of Africa, had a presence in five countries: Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Tanzania and Uganda and was working hard to extend its tentacles across the region.
On measures IGAD was taking to tackle the terrorist menace, the report disclosed that ‘‘Member States are fully cognizant of the threat posed by Al-Shabaab and most are actively engaged in trying to degrade and defeat the organisation.’‘
‘‘AMISOM’s fighting forces are drawn almost exclusively from IGAD countries, with the exception of Burundi. IGAD member states, notably Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda also host foreign military capabilities that are engaged in combating Al-Shabaab,’‘ it added.
The militant group has been exchanging fire with Somali forces and the African Union force in the country (AMISOM). They have been recording losses in recent combats, their most recent casualty being the killing of the mastermind of an attack on Kenya’s Garissa university college.