MOGADISHU, Somalia – Somalia on Tuesday was hosting its first regional summit of African heads of state in 30 years, a source of pride in this Horn of Africa country after years of chaos and deadly attacks by al-Shabab extremists.
Security measures were high, and residents said celebrations of the Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha had been severely restricted in recent days.
Among the countries expected was Sudan, whose President Omar al-Bashir would be defying a warrant for his arrest from the International Criminal Court if he arrived.
Somalia's government said leaders also were expected from Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Djibouti and South Sudan for the summit of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development regional bloc.
The crisis in South Sudan and Somalia's upcoming elections were two of the top issues for discussion.
The summit has been seen as the latest sign of confidence in a return to normal life in Somalia, which was plunged into decades of conflict in 1991 when warlords overthrew the regime of dictator Siad Barre.
The country is now preparing for a presidential election in October, a significant step forward.
But homegrown Islamic extremist group al-Shabab continues to strike at the heart of Somalia's seaside capital, killing scores of people so far this year. In the latest attack, a suicide bomber detonated an explosives-laden truck near the gate of the presidential palace in Mogadishu late last month, killing at least 12 people.
Several of the countries invited to the summit take part in a 22,000-strong African Union force protecting Somalia, though the force faces funding cuts and troop shortages that experts have warned could further destabilize the country.