Consultations on the post-transitional government process in Somalia have started, and will involve all stakeholders and the international community, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General to Somalia said.
"There was unanimous agreement, both inside and outside Somalia, that the transitional period has to end in August as envisaged under the Djibouti Peace Agreement," Augustine Mahiga told a news conference in Nairobi. "In the meantime, consultations are under way to develop a consensus on how to end the transition and on the nature of post-transition political arrangements."
The term of office of the Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG) expires in August. "We have less than seven months before the end of the transition, and yet a lot still has to be done. The question we are now asking ourselves is how to end this transitional government," the envoy added on 26 January. "Without the constitutional process ending in time, we need to look for another way, and that will be a political way."
A special high-level meeting to review the progress of the peace process in Somalia will take place in Ethiopia during the African Union summit this weekend. It will be convened by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Jean Ping, chairman of the AU. Other meetings are scheduled for later in the year and will involve Somali civil society.
Mahiga said the TFG itself had come up with a roadmap towards the end of transition.
"We have to tackle civil war, international terrorism, international piracy and human trafficking. We can't afford another crisis," he added.
The international community has recently expressed growing interest in resolving the Somali question. The UN Security Council has increased support to African peacekeeping efforts and 4,000 Ugandan troops are headed to Mogadishu.
According to Mahiga, a consensus-building process has started within the Transitional Federal Institutions, with ongoing consultations between the TFIs led by the President, the Speaker and the Prime Minister. "It is critical that the consensus-building process ensures that the gains made so far are sustained and entrenched beyond the end of the transition," he said.
In Addis Ababa, civil society representatives called for peace in the war-ravaged country. "We want to see a peaceful Somalia, hunger-free and to stop the killing and turmoil in the country," Abdullahi Shirwa, chairman of Somali Peace Line, told IRIN.
Apart from violence, Somalia is also suffering its worst drought in years and failed rains are devastating half a million lives, Oxfam warned. Twenty years of conflict, plus the drought, have pushed hundreds of thousands of Somalis beyond their ability to cope, the agency said.
The central and southern regions are suffering the most. Livestock herds have been decimated, forcing destitute pastoralists to migrate to towns and villages in search of aid.
"Drought and hunger are so severe that thousands have fled the relative security of their villages and headed to Mogadishu," said Zachariah Imeje, programme officer for Oxfam. "They are desperate enough that they will risk the fighting and shelling there to find food.
More than two million people are dependent on humanitarian aid for survival and one in six Somali children suffers acute malnutrition, says the UN.