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Somalia: Give democracy a chance, says Aden

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The transitional Somali government has achieved very little since its formation over 15 months ago


Special Correspondent

15 May 2006

Recent fighting in Mogadishu notwithstanding, senior officials of the Somali transitional federal government maintain that they are making progress in stamping out lawlessness, despite lack of international support.

Doubts also persist over the functionality of the transitional parliament.

In an exclusive interview with The EastAfrican in Nairobi during the Inter-parliamentary Union (IPU) congress, Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden, the speaker of the Somali transitional parliament argued that the government – currently holed up in Baidoa – could move to Mogadishu within two months if it got support from the international community towards restoring peace and stability in the capital.

Given that the Somali par-liament is yet to become fully functional owing to previous internal power struggles, Mr Aden was invited to the Nairobi congress as a mere observer.

"We are first seeking international diplomatic recognition before appealing for financial and technical support. The message I brought to IPU members and the world in general was that the international community should assist the nascent Somali institutions to enable us to join the club of democratic nations. For instance, our parliament is convening in a former grain warehouse," said Mr Aden.

Besides rampant insecurity in Mogadishu that has prevented the government from settling there, Mr Aden noted that for many Somalis, the experience of the past decade meant that any attempt to establish a government was seen as an attempt to return to the authoritarian rule of the past.

In the past two weeks, over 100 people have been killed in Mogadishu following renewed clashes between Islamists and the counter-terrorism militias rumoured to be supported by the US.

President Abdullahi Yusuf and Mr Aden, however, have different takes on the renewed fighting.

The president is on record as having said that the secular alliance is being supported by the US. Mr Aden refuted the claims and said, "I don't know whether the US is supporting some groups or not, but we are very upset about the new wave of fighting. I believe that the US, as the sole superpower would come out clean if it was supporting such groups. We abhor terrorism of any kind, and although the government is young, with the relevant support we believe we can handle the situation."

Mr Aden was however optimistic that the 275-member parliament enjoys the support of the people who look to it as their hope for security, stability and prosperity. The legislators work without pay.

The principal duty of the transitional parliament is to initiate the reconciliation process and rebuild democratic institutions. In April, the transitional parliament voted to make Baidoa the seat of government after a prolonged power struggle that followed the formation of the government in Kenya in October 2004.

For the first time, Mr Aden revealed that his much publicised differences with President Yusuf were on two fundamental issues that have since been settled following the intervention of President Ali Abdallah Salah of Yemen.

"Before we relocated to Somalia, differences had emerged over the transitional institutions, which forced us to relocate to two cities – Johar and Mogadishu. The two issues were where to relocate in Somalia and whether to include troops from the frontline states among the peacekeeping forces. But these have since been resolved," he said.

Nevertheless, the transitional government has achieved very little since its formation over 15 months ago. For one and a half years since the signing of the Somali peace accord, President Yusuf has been pleading for a regional intervention force to help establish his government, in addition to calling for the lifting of the UN arms embargo to allow the transitional federal government to arm itself.

But various civil society groups supported by some warlords have been opposed to the deployment of troops from the frontline states of Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti on the grounds that these countries, which have been deeply involved in the affairs of the country since the fall of Siad Barre in 1991, are pushing for their own interests.

On a positive note, Mr Aden says that for the first time in 15 years, the first parliamentary assembly was held in Baidoa on February 26, where parliament formed 14 committees and elected chairmen.

The House also voted to adopt Baidoa as the seat of government till the capital Mogadishu is stable and also voted to separate parliament from the presidency.

Having gained a footing in Baidoa, the transitional government has started putting the various militia groups in garrisons and training them to be part of a new military and police force. "As the first step, we are changing the militia from clan-based armies to an integrated national army and we strongly believe that the situation will improve soon," said Mr Aden.

Source: The East African

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