Political divisions between Somalia’s transitional Government and interim Parliament have undermined the momentum of the country’s peace process, a United Nations envoy said today, calling for a concerted regional and international effort to help break the stalemate.
“We had reached a stage where we thought we had provided a very good momentum through the Djibouti agreement two years ago… we had agreed in Djibouti that the transitional has to come to an end in August,” Augustine Mahiga, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia, told the UN News Centre.
“The problem is that neither Parliament nor the Government want change. And that is the crux of the paralysis,” said Mr. Mahiga.
Somalia’s transitional parliament voted in February to extend its term for three years after the end of the transitional period, a move rejected by the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), which has instead proposed extending the interim period for one year, saying it wanted to try to enhance political stability and security.
Earlier this week, the Security Council called upon Somali’s transitional federal institutions (TFIs) to “ensure cohesion and focus on the completion of the transitional tasks.”
It regretted decisions by the TFIs to extend their mandates unilaterally and urged them to refrain from further unilateral action.
“What we are trying to do in the Security Council and [other] stakeholders in the region, the African Union and IGAD [regional Intergovernmental Authority on Development] is to heal this paralysis and provide a fresh momentum to push the peace process forward by agreeing on the necessary benchmarks for the end of the transition,” said Mr. Mahiga.
The benchmarks include political outreach to political factions and Somalia’s semi-autonomous regional administrations to foster dialogue and reconciliation, and the drafting of a new constitution for the Horn of Africa country, which has lacked a fully functioning national government and has been wracked by factional warfare since 1991.
“The Government has not succeeded in undertaking any political reforms that would inject new momentum into the process,” said Mr. Mahiga. “At the moment the political will is lacking.”
“What I need to do with the help of the Security Council, IGAD and the African Union is to try first of all to create congenial conditions for the two institutions… to see the extent to which we can develop consensus to hold the elections in August or to have them deferred,” he said.
He said the Security Council is expected to meet Somalia’s leadership and representatives from the AU and IGAD in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, during its forthcoming mission to Africa, in an effort to break the deadlock.
Mr. Mahiga said that TFG forces and allied militia have, with the support of the troops of the
AU mission in Somalia (AMISOM), made significant territorial gains against Al Shabaab insurgents in the capital, Mogadishu, as well as in the central, western and southern areas.
“My worry is that this political bickering may adversely affect this very significant military gains on the ground,” he said.
He also stressed that Somalia’s semi-autonomous regions could form the basis for a viable federal government.
“This needs to be brought into the political dialogue for an agreed framework of federalism, devolution, decentralisation,” he said. “Both the Government and Parliament have not addressed this issue,” he said.
Mr. Mahiga voiced great concern over the humanitarian situation in Somalia, saying it was “worse that it has ever been”, with more than 75 per cent of livestock having perished as a result of the prevailing severe drought, and people moving from one corner of the country to another and across the borders into neighbouring countries in search of food and water.
“The international community has not given enough resources for food and other basics. This is our cry to the international community,” said Mr. Mahiga.
An estimated 2.4 million people – or about a third of the country’s 7.2 million people – are in need of relief aid as a result of drought and two decades of conflict.