The top United Nations official in Somalia today hailed the election of a new president of the semi-autonomous region of Puntland as the harbinger of a peaceful, federal solution for the entire Horn of Africa country, which has been wracked by civil war, factional fighting and Islamist extremism for over two decades.
"Puntland is leading the way on the development of a federal Somalia,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative Nicholas Kay said in a statement released in Garowe, Puntland’s capital.
“The United Nations support the people of Puntland and all of Somalia as they move together towards peace, reconciliation, democracy and prosperity," he added, congratulating President-elect Abdiweli Mohamed Ali Gaas on his appointment today by Parliament.
"I applaud the Speaker and Members of Parliament for their efforts leading to the smooth process of today’s vote. I also appreciate the important role of the traditional leaders. I congratulate all the people of Puntland," Mr. Kay said, hailing the smooth and peaceful transfer of power and the constructive role of outgoing President, Abdirahman Mohamed Farole.
He noted that despite numerous challenges along the way, through compromise and perseverance, the Puntland-led process had achieved its goal of selecting the region's new leadership. He called for calm and unity in the region following the process.
Somalia descended into two decades of war and anarchy after the ouster of President Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991, as sectarian and religious factions tore the country apart, though the violence was less pronounced in the two regions on the nation’s northern shoulder – Somaliland which declared itself independent in 1991, and Puntland which declared itself autonomous in 1998.
Mr. Kay heads the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), which has increased the scope of its activities in the country as an African Union peacekeeping force (AMISOM) and local forces pushed Islamist Al-Shabaab insurgents out of Mogadishu, the national capital, in 2011 and made further advances over the past two years.
New Federal Government institutions emerged in 2012 at the close of a transitional phase toward setting up a permanent, democratically-elected Government with elections scheduled for 2016. In the meantime Somalia’s political map of 18 regions is being redrawn into a lesser number of federal member states.