Mogadishu — The key step in the completion of Somalia's peace process could be the spark to another debate that could put the process in jeopardy after an unprecedented move, Garowe Online reports.
Transitional Federal Parliament Speaker Sharif Hassan Sharif Adan accompanied by other government officials, unexpectedly gave a copy of the agreed-upon Draft Provisional Federal Constitution of Somalia to traditional elders in Mogadishu, and asked the elders to read the proposed document and give their input.
It is not clear how other Somali stakeholders, including Puntland State, Galmudug authority and Ahlu Sunna movement, will respond to this new development. Also UN Special Envoy to Somalia Amb. Augustine Mahiga has not responded publicly to this issue, as he has been a central voice coordinating the end of transition process in Somalia.
A source familiar with the ongoing political process in Somalia tells Garowe Online news agency: "This is a surprise move, because the elders have no role in the constitution process according to the signed agreements, such as Garowe Principles, Galkayo agreement, Addis Communique of 23 May 2012, and last week's meeting in Nairobi. The role of Somali elders is limited only to select NCA members and Federal parliamentarians based on 4.5 clan formula," the source added.
Under the agreements, Somali traditional elders are mandated to choose members of the National Constituent Assembly (NCA), which is scheduled to provisionally adopt the agreed-upon constitution in July, and MPs of the new 225-seat Somali Federal Parliament.
The 825-member NCA is mandated to vote "yes or no" on the new agreed-upon constitution, after Somali leaders agreed and signed the final draft of the constitution to be presented to the NCA for a vote.
The 135 traditional elders in Mogadishu who met with the Speaker Sharif Hassan did agree to examine the final draft constitution but did not say they would ratify it.
"We elders have been in Mogadishu for almost two months awaiting the draft constitution, we have finally received the document and we will read and examine it. But if the document does not benefit the Somali people we will not approve it," said Mohamed Hasan Haad, a member of the 135 traditional elders.
The Speaker emphasized that the schedule in ending the transitional government in Somalia is imminent and that the elders should support the document.
"There have been statements made about the constitution but support for the document is needed. Whatever the elders see as unfit or should be omitted will be taken out and whatever is missing will be added," said Speaker Sharif on Thursday.
The document was agreed on by leaders in Nairobi after more than a month of revising the initial constitution prepared by an independent committee. However the committee who have been working on the document for several years, refused to accept the revised document.
The Independent Federal Constitution Commission (IFCC) refused to support the final draft constitution, as the IFCC Chairman Abdullahi Hassan Jama said that the committee would not present the document to stakeholders.
"Officials in the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) have asked us to distribute the document to different members of the civil society, but we have objected to this because this is not a document that the IFCC can be responsible for," said Mr. Jama.
TFG Constitution Minister Abdirahman Hosh Jibril responded harshly to the chairman's statement accusing the IFCC of squandering resources given to them to complete the Somalia constitution, adding that their mandate had expired and that IFCC "failed to produce a credible constitution for Somalia after 7 years."
Minister Hosh said that the TFG would go ahead with the process which entails a vote by the NCA in July on the final draft constitution.
Although Al Shabaab terrorist group still controls large parts of southern Somalia, the TFG backed by the UN have concentrated on completing the new constitution, as a key benchmark of the Roadmap process to end the transition in Somalia for the first time since year 2000.
"Although benchmarks of Security, Good Governance and Political Outreach are priority tasks of the Roadmap, the completion of the constitution seemed to my administration from the outset to be the most critical task to end the transition," said TFG Prime Minister Dr. Abdiweli Mohamed Ali Gaas after leaders agreed on the constitution in Nairobi last week.
With less than 60 days left for the TFG, Somali leaders are cautious of opening another deliberation on the much debated constitution.
Somalia's last central government collapsed in 1991 and the country's leaders have agreed upon a new constitution which puts the country firmly under the federal system government structure.