Sunday, August 26, 2012

UN Representative to Somalia Concerned by Slow Political Transition

UN representative to Somalia concerned by slow political transition, wants deadlines met

By Associated Press, Updated: Sunday, August 26, 8:12 AM

KAMPALA, Uganda — The U.N. representative to Somalia said he is “deeply concerned by the ongoing delays” in choosing all the 275 members of parliament who will select a new Somali president.

Somali elders must select the legislators ahead of the planned election on Aug. 28 of a speaker and a deputy, U.N. Special Representative Augustine Mahiga said on Saturday.

Mahiga said there was no “time for delay,” and urged the technical committee and elders compiling the list of parliamentarians to “continue working together in a spirit of mutual trust and flexibility to fulfill their responsibilities as defined in the protocols.”

In an exercise praised by the U.N. as a “watershed moment” in Somalia’s road to peace and stability, 215 Somali lawmakers were sworn in on Aug. 20, the day the mandate of Somalia’s eight-year-old caretaker government expired. It also was the day a new president was to be selected, but those hopes were dashed by political bickering, seat-buying schemes and threats of violence.

Somalia’s intricate clan politics and loyalties must be navigated in the selection of the country’s next leaders. A clan that wins the post of speaker, for example, is not eligible to get the presidency. Somali elders are tasked with naming a full parliament, since a general election is impossible because of the country’s chronic insecurity.

The current political process has been undemocratic, “with unprecedented levels of political interference, corruption and intimidation,” according to the International Crisis Group.

It remains unclear when a new president will be sworn in. Nick Birnback, a spokesman for the U.N. mission to Somalia, said last week that this would happen later in August or in early September. But the International Crisis Group predicted that it would not be until October that a full government is seated. After the president is elected, he must appoint a prime minister who then assembles a Cabinet.

Somalia, which has lacked a stable government since 1991, has seen improved stability recently as government forces and African Union troops pushed the al-Shabab militants out of the capital Mogadishu in August 2011. Although there is the occasional terrorist attack, the city is returning to life.

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