Can the new Somali government ensure sustained peace, security and proper governance?
Published: 4 Sep 2012
Source: Abdi-Karim Hussein
According to a public statement by SIHA on 23 August 2012, last week a female tea seller was dragged from a bus in the Baidoa region of Somalia by Al Shabaab militants, taken to the bush close by and beheaded. She had been based in Bardaale district (Bay region) and had, in the course of her tea selling business, served members of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) who came to her shop regularly. Although she had received threats from Al Shabaab that she would be killed if she continued to receive business from the TFG, due to her position as sole breadwinner in her household she had no choice but to continue.
This incident happened exactly a day after the country ushered in a new parliament. It encapsulates the momentous task that awaits the soon-to-be-elected government that is due to replace the now defunct TFG – the latest in a series of transitional regimes that have ‘governed’ Somalia since the collapse of the government Siad Barre in 1991 and was most recently led by the former Quranic teacher turned politician Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed.
The TFG term was extended last August for an extra year after various political horse trading among the key players in Somalia including President Sharif, the Speaker of the TFG parliament, Sheikh Hassan and the Prime Minister Dr Abdi Weli, under the supervision of Uganda’s president Museveni, who has apparently gained a lot of clout in Somali affairs (mainly due to the Ugandan military presence in Mogadishu) and Ambassador Mahiga, the Special envoy of the UN Secretary General to Somalia.
The rather complex process of electing a new government was initiated by the inauguration on 20 August 2012 of a new look, leaner parliament comprised of only 275 law makers, and from which anybody tainted by allegations of corruption, war mongering etc was excluded. A week earlier, a new Constitution, which puts emphasis on issues of good governance, accountability, respect for the fundamental human rights of all citizens, empowerment of women and a clear break from the previous tolerance of impunity, was endorsed by a group of traditional elders comprised of all the major clans in the country.
There is currently much optimism surrounding this process, as evidenced by the ever-increasing number of returnees to Somalia who are mainly engaged in commerce, the rebuilding of a shattered infrastructure and, of course, politics, and there are now even daily flights in and out of Mogadishu. For the first time, political processes are happening within the country in comparison to the previous foreign-initiated regimes.
However, the process is inevitably being influenced by the hidden hands of the international community, who, during the London Conference on Somalia in February and later at the Istanbul conference in June, promised sanctions to any Somali that would derail the formation of a new permanent government. The international community has a vested interest in a stable, secure regime largely due to the effects of terrorism and piracy. However, this level of meddling many Somalis who strongly believe that the problems faced by Somalia were mainly due to external influence due to the often misguided policies – including the 2006 military intervention by Ethiopia to unseat the Union of Islamic Courts, that had amazingly managed to restore a semblance of peace and hope for six months in the areas that were under their control.
Regardless, one thing is for sure: there is untold optimism, at least for now, among virtually all Somalis, whether within the country or in the diaspora, that finally they are about to take their rightful place among the nations of the world.
Abdi Karim is a Ugandan-Somali lawyer currently based in Kampala, Uganda. He can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com