By Juma Kwayera
After two decades of bloodbath, Somalia is this week expected to elect a new Government to take over from the interim Transitional Federal Government in what the rest of the world hopes will end lawlessness in the Horn of Africa nation.
In the countdown to the vote, there is also cautious optimism that the election will usher in a new era, what with the bickering that involves the four leading candidates. Of major concern is whether the incumbent, President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh will accept the outcome if he loses.
Sheikh Sharif is a former warlord who belonged to the Islamic Courts Union and whose conduct is keenly being followed inside and outside Somalia.
Thus as the curtains come down on the tenure of TFG tomorrow, uncertainty looms over whether the election, the first to be held on Somali territory since the fall of the Siad Barre regime in 1991, will proceed with regard to the stabilisation of the Somalia roadmap.
At least 20 candidates have expressed interest in the seat, but only four have the mettle and clan support to go all the way.
Candidates to be vetted
Mohamed Ali Nur, Somalia’s ambassador to Kenya, says unlike the election of former President Abdullahi Yusuf, a technical team has been formed to vet the candidates. One of the criteria presidential candidates must fulfil is “one should not have been a warlord”.
“There is a technical committee that will vet MPs. Anybody who committed crime will not be allowed to participate, and must have at least high school education,” says Mr Nur.
So far, President Sheikh, Speaker of the National Assembly Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan, Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, and former Prime Minister Mohammed Ghedi have emerged as the strongest contenders for president. The process began with convening of a constituency assembly that endorsed a new constitution.
The transition to a new national Government culminates in the election of the president tomorrow, which began with the clans nominating representatives to a constituency conference, which deliberated and approved a new constitution. This was the first peace process to be undertaken on Somali territory. President Sheikh Sharif was elected in exile in Djibouti, while predecessor Abdullahi Yusuf was elected in Nairobi.
Nur is of the opinion that the transition to a new regime reflects the aspirations of most Somalis.
“Somalis are sick and tired of war. People from the Diaspora are coming to invest the country as a result of the optimism created by impending election. This is the first time the election is taking place in Somalia. The other critical thing is that most warlords have been disarmed, which adds to the optimism building up in Somalia,” says the ambassador.