Somali leaders to hold rare conference
Nairobi – Somali leaders will hold a rare three-day conference in the war-torn capital Mogadishu next week in an effort to resolve 20 years of turmoil and set up plans for a new government.
The UN-backed meeting will gather leaders of the Transitional Federal Government as well from the breakaway Puntland region and other semi-autonomous territories.
A key focus will be on winding up the seven-year-old transitional government, which has failed to deliver on its top objective of reconciling the country, writing a new charter and holding elections.
The talks Sunday through Tuesday will also focus on improving security, national reconciliation, a new constitution, governance and parliamentary reforms.
“We want to achieve what we have not achieved in the past seven years,” UN special representative for Somalia Augustine Mahiga told reporters in Nairobi.
“The Somali leadership and the Somali people have demonstrated the willingness to end this transition (government). Change has to come,” Mahiga added.
The current government of President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed is one of the more than a dozen attempts to form a central authority in Somalia since it plunged into a bloody civil war with the 1991 ouster of president Mohamed Siad Barre.
None of Somalia’s interim governments have ever been able to extend their authority nationwide due to complex clan politics and internecine feuds.
Hardline al-Shabaab insurgents, who recently pulled out of Mogadishu but remain in control over most of southern Somalia including areas declared as famine zones by the UN, will not attend.
Somalia is the worst affected country by the Horn of Africa’s worst drought in decades, with nearly half its 10 million people in need of humanitarian aid.
However, Mahiga voiced optimism over the Mogadishu meeting.
“The status quo is untenable,” he said, noting that there was a fatigue with the Somali transitional government.
The mandate of the Somali government was to end last month, but Sharif and the parliament speaker signed an agreement in June in Kampala extending their mandates by a year.
Parliament earlier this year unilaterally extended its mandate for three years.
Under the Kampala accord, a new election for president and parliament speaker should be held before August 20 2012.
Since its formation in neighbouring Kenya in 2004, the Somali transitional government has seen two presidents and five prime ministers, and its initial five-year mandate has been extended twice.
Running the Somali government costs donors between $50m and $100m a year, while the 9 000-strong African Union force protecting it costs about $400m per year.