After over two decades of conflict, Somalia is this week expected to open a new chapter in its administrative structure.
Tomorrow, the Horn of Africa country, which has had no stable leadership since the ouster of President Siad Barre in 1991, is expected to elect a new government to take over from the Transitional Federal Government (TFG).
Kenya, and the international community in general, will be keenly watching the events as they unfold in Somalia. It is expected the new government will end lawlessness and years of clan bickering.
And President Kibaki was quick to warn that Kenya will impose punitive sanctions on those out to sabotage the implementation of the Somalia political road map. On Thursday, he said Kenya would not tolerate anyone bent on derailing, undermining or manipulating the road map towards a permanent political settlement in Somalia ahead of the end of the transition period.
President Kibakiâs concerns are understandable. This is because since the breakdown of law and order in Somalia, Kenya has shouldered the huge burden of taking care of thousands of refugees who have escaped the wartorn country. It is estimated that Kenya is hosting over 500,000 refugees from Somalia in the refugee camps in Dadaab, Garissa.
The influx of Somali refugees into the country has had its challenges. Top among them is security. Some of the refugees who fled Somalia smuggled arms into the country, which have been used to commit crime. At the same time, the refugees have put a lot of pressure on existing social facilities and the environment in Dadaab.
It is against this background that Kenya will be watching with keen interest as Somalia enters another phase in its political history. Already, there is cautious optimism the election in Somalia will usher in a new era. At least 20 candidates have expressed interest in the seat, but only four have the mettle and clan support to go all the way.
President Sheikh Sharif 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 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.
It is glad to note that African Union representative in Somalia, Wafula Wamunyinyi, has already expressed optimism the war-torn state was on course to reverse the two decades of war and humanitarian crisis.
But as he warns, freeing of the Somalia from the clutches of Al Shabaab is presenting fresh challenges that the incoming regime will have to contend with. The entrenchment of peace and democracy in Somalia, he says, requires the international community to go beyond neutralising Al Shabaab.