IGAD meet roots for improved security in region

By John Agaba

We could save up billions (of dollars) if we were able to prevent conflict in the region.

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KAMPALA - An IGAD meeting which kicked off in Kampala Thursday prioritized peace and security on the bloc, as various delegates talked need to forge new means that can promote sustainable harmony among member states.

The Intergovernmental Authority on Development meeting, made more significant by the United Nations department of political affairs, also touched movement of people and harmonization of labour laws and policies, and the provision of a safe environment for refugees and asylum seekers.

Okello Oryem, state minister for foreign affairs, said it was important member countries sought ways to prevent conflict on bloc and leverage potentials that come with order.

The eight-member trade bloc which includes Uganda, Kenya, Sudan, South Sudan, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia and Eritrea, has for greater spells endured war and conflict, especially in Somalia and South Sudan that have handicapped trade and development.

"We could save up billions (of dollars) if we were able to prevent conflict in the region," said Oryem.

This was at Speke Resort Munyonyo yesterday, where foreign ministers from IGAD member states and delegates from the Europe Union and United Nations were expected to also discuss other challenges related to trade.

Ambassador Mahboub Maalim, IGAD's executive secretary, said the meeting would discuss issues "frankly and openly" after which member representatives would take agreed on procedures home.

"We have to look at the political climate in bloc, and at how we can harmonize it to create a better world," he said.

Of course, conflict and its resolution is not a switch one can switch on and off, said the executive secretary who insisted the intergovernmental body will have to keep dialoguing and playing its part to create lasting peace in region.

He said he was proud of his heads of state, who met an average of eight to nine times to try and resolve the conflict in South Sudan.

After the meeting, they expect a communique agreed on between the UN department and IGAD as both parties try to escalate measures to curtail conflict.

"Politics and peace are very important for development. We need to focus on creating peace," he said.

It was second dialogue IGAD and the UN department was holding in Uganda this year.

In April, the organs met to discuss a proposed protocol on free movement of persons in the region. The move was particularly pushed by South Sudan, which contributes some more refugees in bloc because of an unending feud in the country.

Rosa Malango, UN resident coordinator, underscored peace benefits and importance of conflict prevention, which cascaded to other fundamental human rights: of movement, worship, right to life and enabling environments.