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Former PM warns of pitfalls in Somali peace plan

By | March 18th 2012


A month after an international conference on Somalia, there are fresh concerns of relapse into chaos that have characterised the Horn of Africa state for the past two decades.

The new concerns surface following a resolution of the conference in Lancaster, UK, last month at which it was agreed the life of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) should end in August, and a constituent assembly formed to write a new constitution and ‘elect’ a new parliament.

The constituent assembly would consist of 1,000 representatives, who will in turn nominate 225 MPs based on the 4.5 formula used during the Somali peace talks that resulted in the formation of the TFG.

The 4.5 power sharing system is a clan-based approach in which parliamentary slots were worked out based on the four main clans and a conglomeration of minority clans lumped together as a single entity during the Nairobi peace process in 2005.

With uncertainty growing over a looming vacuum when TFG under President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed exits office five months from now, a former prime minister in Siad Barre’s government that was ousted in 1991, Ali Khalif Galaydh, says while the renewed interest to end the conflict is welcome, the proposals to stabilise the war-torn state are laden with pitfalls that can defuse optimism that Somalia has turned the corner.

"The conference was a positive indication that there are people who still care about Somalia. Despite the frustration in the search to end the multiple conflicts in Somalia, there are people and nations that want to part of the solution. What the British Government has done has encouraged those who still had reservations about the future of Somalia," Khalif told The Standard On Sunday.

He is in Nairobi for meetings with fellow Somalis who have launched the Khatumo Somalia Initiative. Khalif, who has expressed interest in the presidency when tenure of President Sharif ends in August, wants the international community to take advantage of the relative calm following the defeat of Al Shabaab from key areas and start and awareness campaign to stabilise the country.

Khatumo Somalia or State of Somalia was launched prior to the London conference as an alternative mechanism for stability, which a year ago looked remote.

Al Shabaab threat

However, following a multi-pronged military operations by frontline states – Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti – in addition to African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) the Islamist Al Shabaab have been uprooted from strategic positions, from where they destabilised the entire country and neighbouring states.

The routing of Al Qaeda-supported militiamen from strategic towns of the country paved the way for the relocation of the United Nations Political Office for Somalia from UN regional headquarters at Gigiri Nairobi, to Mogadishu, the Somali capital. Somali leaders behind the Khatumo intend to engage Al Shabaab and other organised military outfits as a means of demilitarisation of the conflict and permanent restoration of peace.

"It is necessary to engage the Shabaab and other organised groups in dialogue. The proposals by the international community are good, but here is the risk that they can drag the country backwards, unless resources are provided to sustain the peace and stability. A bottom-up approach is needed by building regional administrations to be constituencies of Somalia," says Khalif.

A roadmap adopted by representatives of the 40 countries that attended the Lancaster conference has a raft of proposals that presume the military intervention by Amisom and neighbouring countries would restore order permanently.

The Lancaster conference, which had a strong representation from the Arab and Muslim led by the Arab League members, addressed piracy off the coast Somalia, terrorism, insecurity posed by the Al Shabaab, humanitarian crisis and political stability of the Horn of Africa state.

A communiquÈ issued after the conference said the historic meeting focused on stabilisation of the Somalia in the post-TFG era.

"The conference noted the intention expressed at the Garowe meeting in December to convene a Constituent Assembly. It called on the Garowe signatories to enhance the proposed process to ensure that members of the Constituent Assembly were genuinely representative of communities across Somalia; and that the assembly had adequate time to discuss the four key outstanding constitutional questions: whether Somalia should have a centralised or federal state; the boundaries of the constituent regions; whether Somalia should adopt a cabinet or presidential system; and the role of religion in the state," it said.

There was also the issue of whether a two-chamber parliament would suffice for the country that has not had central government since 1991.

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