A group of East African states has called for air and sea blockades of Somalia to prevent outside forces – including the Eritrean government – from sending weapons and fighters to support rebels trying to overthrow the Somali government.
The group, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), has launched what is, in the language of diplomacy, a harsh attack on Eritrea for its support of hard-line Islamist militants fighting the transitional federal government of Somalia.
A meeting of IGAD's council of ministers held in Addis Ababa on Wednesday issued a communiqué saying that it "condemns… in the strongest terms possible all the individuals, organizations and countries in particular the Government of Eritrea and its financiers who continue to instigate, recruit, train, fund and supply the criminal elements in and or to Somalia."
It called for sanctions against Eritrea and condemned its government for backing attacks on African Union peacekeepers in Somalia.
IGAD comprises the governments of Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda. The Eritrean government was not listed as being represented at Wednesday's council meeting. Among those who did attend the meeting was Jean Ping, who chairs the African Union Commission.
The council called on the United Nations Security Council to impose a no-fly zone to prevent arms, ammunition and "personnel from [the rebels']… foreign backers" from being flown into Somalia. It singled out the following airports as those which needed to be blockaded: Kismayo, Baidoa, KM 50, Balidoogle, Waajid, Hudur, all airports in Gedo Region, Isaley and Johwar.
The council also urged the blockading of ports, particularly Kismayo and Merka, and asked the international naval forces which have been deployed against pirates in the region to enforce the blockade.