27 January 2011

Somalia: The TFG Must End in August, Says UN Rep

Somalia's Transitional Federal Government must come to an end in August, a top UN official told RFI. Augustine Mahiga, the special representative for Somalia, said there have been "ups and downs" since 2004, but it will soon be time to "broaden the political base", ratify a new constitution and run elections.

Mahiga said in a telephone interview Wednesday that he wants a "much broader" political base to take over from the Somali TFG, involving the autonomous regions of Somaliland and Puntland, clan leaders, prominent religious leaders, civil society and grassroots organisations, as well as the diaspora and business community.

Mahiga, a Tanzanian career diplomat, believes that the TFG has already brought most of the armed opposition into the "political and military fold".

He calls those left "hardcore terrorists, who I don't think are interested in any kind of dialogue or to renounce their strategy of violence", such as Al-Shabaab, the hardline Islamist group fighting the African Union mission in the country.

"We think it is important that we use this opportunity to take stock of what the government has been able to do and not able to do," says Mahiga, of the transition.

He said it is important to "extend outreach, reconciliation and cooperation with the areas of relative stability in Somalia including Puntland, Somaliland and other local emerging administrations on the margins of the areas controlled by Al-Shabaab".

Somaliland, which is seeking international recognition, is according to Mahiga a role model.

"It has been going through a very successful political process and a democratic one for that matter".

But he recognises that the region is reluctantly part of Somalia, and despite efforts by the TFG, involving them in the next phase of Somali government "is going to be a difficult path to pursue".

On the other hand, Puntland, he says, is an area of stability.

"Despite the frequent forays of terrorists and pirates, it's not entirely lawless. It's probably an area of potential stability. I've been myself to Garowe and I've seen that it's a relatively safe place."

Parts of Somalia remain a battleground, and control of Mogadishu is split between Al-Shabaab and a contingent of federal government troops and African Union soldiers.

In spite of the ongoing fighting Mahiga is optimistic. He sees the ratification of a draft constitution by a "constituent assembly" over the next seven months.

Then he says elections "would be the ideal end of a peaceful and stable Somalia once the security situation is at rest".

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