(RTTNews) – Somalia’s first formal parliament in more than two decades was sworn into office on Monday, marking a major milestone in the country’s efforts to end the eight-year-long transitional period by establishing a stable and permanent government.
The 211 new parliament members sworn in on Monday were selected by a group of 135 traditional Somali elders with the help of a technical selection committee entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring that the new parliament does not include those accused of war crimes.
The group of elders who chose the new parliament was in-turn selected by Somalia’s National Constituent Assembly (NCA), which has total of 825 elders drawn from all Somali clans. The group of elders were originally expected to select 275 members to the lower house of parliament, but the technical selection committee rejected some of their choices.
Although another 64 seats remain to the filled to the 275-member lower house of parliament, the 211 new MPs are sufficient for a quorum. They are currently holding the first ever meeting of the new parliament at an airport protected by the African Union peacekeeping forces in capital Mogadishu.
During Monday’s meeting, the new MPs elected General Muse Hassan, the oldest member of parliament at 72, as a temporary speaker. Nevertheless, they are not expected to meet the August 20 deadline set by the international community for completing the transition process by electing new Speaker, Deputy Speaker as well as the President.
General Hassan will now oversee the formation of an electoral commission that will organize the vote for selecting the new parliamentary speaker, his deputy and the president. The main presidential contenders include outgoing President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali and former parliamentary speaker Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden.
In a joint statement issued Sunday, the United Nation, the African Union, the United States and the European Union noted that conclusion of the transition process would mark the “beginning of more representative government in Somalia.”
“Whilst parliament remains a selected rather than elected body, it is essential that it cuts its ties with the past of self-interest and warlordism, and is populated by a new generation of Somali politicians, including the proper representation of Somali women,” they added.
In recent months, the country had been undergoing a peace and national reconciliation process, with the country’s transitional federal institutions implementing the ‘Roadmap for the End of Transition’ devised last September. The Roadmap outlined priority measures to be carried out before the transitional governing arrangements end, on August 20.
In line with the Roadmap, the National Constituent Assembly (NCA) had voted earlier this month to endorse a Draft Constitution. However, the NCA-approved draft constitution still has to be ratified by the new Parliament to take effect.
Somalia has been without a functioning government since the fall of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre’s government in 1991. Incidentally, the outgoing UN-backed interim government set up in 2004 has been struggling to enforce its authority in the Horn of Africa nation.
Until recently, Islamist militant groups controlled large areas in southern Somalia where they enforced strict Islamic laws or Sharia. But in recent months, Somali forces, backed by African Union peacekeepers, have managed to seize control of most regions, except some pockets that are under rebel control. However, the country still witnesses frequent bombings and militant attacks, mainly in Mogadishu.
by RTT Staff Writer
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