With slightly more than a month to go before Somalia's current transitional governing period comes to end, the top United Nations political official for the East African nation today called on all Somalis to help their country on its path to peace and stability.
"The end of the transitional period will be an important benchmark, but it is time for us all to begin to look past 20 August and think about the future political dispensation of Somalia," the Secretary-General's Special Representative and head of the UN Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS), Augustine Mahiga, said in an open letter to the people of Somalia.
"Let me urge all Somalis who are stakeholders in the peace process to sustain the political commitment for a broad-based, inclusive and representative post-transitional arrangement. Somalia deserves a political dispensation based on election, not just selection. Somalia deserves peace, prosperity and development," he added.
After decades of warfare, Somalia has been undergoing a peace and national reconciliation process, with the country's Transitional Federal Institutions currently implementing the so-called Roadmap for the End of Transition in Somalia, devised in September last year, that spells out priority measures to be carried out before the current transitional governing arrangements end on 20 August.
Mr. Mahiga pointed to recent events as key steps in Somalia's transition process, including the
agreement on a provisional constitution by the Roadmap signatories, major meetings on international support for the Horn of Africa country, and the withdrawal of Al-Shabaab militants from around the capital, Mogadishu.
In late June, at a meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, the so-called Joint Communiqué of the Consultative Meeting of the Signatories of the Process for Ending the Transition, which included an official draft constitution, was agreed on by all the Roadmap signatories, including President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG); the Speaker of the Transitional Federal Parliament, Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden; Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, and others. The Principals also agreed on a number of mechanisms to help move the process forward in the small amount of time left before 20 August.
The Nairobi meeting was convened to discuss a number of outstanding issues and to finalize agreements reached at a meeting held in Ethiopia in May, at which the Somali leaders had agreed to set up a National Constituent Assembly (NCA), which would adopt the East African nation's new constitution in line with the roadmap.
The draft constitution will be submitted in mid-July 2012 to the NCA, which will represent the full spectrum of Somali society, and in turn selected by a group of 135 traditional Somali Elders representing all of Somalia's clans in accordance with the '4.5 formula' used to apportion roles in government such as parliamentary seats.
"The adoption of the provisional constitution will indeed be a watershed. But here, let me make an important point: this approval will not be the end point of the constitutional process but the beginning of a new chapter," Mr. Mahiga said. "The Somali people will have ample opportunity to provide input and amendments to the document in the post-August period ahead of a public referendum to be held before the end of the new parliament's first term."
In the wake of recent major international conferences and meetings in London, Istanbul, Addis Ababa, Nairobi and Rome, the envoy said the message from the international community has been uniform and crystal clear: now is the moment for Somalia to make headway on its path to peace and development.
"We must work together to seize this golden opportunity for peace," he said. "The world is looking to the future of Somalia and sees a state that serves the Somali people with effective governance through representative, inclusive and accountable institutions at all levels."
Mr. Mahiga welcomed military advances made by the UN-backed African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), TFG forces and their allies in regaining territory held by the Al Shabaab militant group, which still controls parts of Somalia, primarily in its south-central regions.
Until last year, most of Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, was, for several years, riven by a fluid frontline dividing the two sides - Al Shabaab fighters and troops belonging to the TFG, with the latter supported AMISOM. Displaced by fighting and drought elsewhere in the country, some 184,000 people have sought humanitarian relief in the city.
Since the Al Shabaab withdrawal from the capital's central parts in August, the frontlines have been pushed back to the city's surrounding area. However, the use of roadside bombs, grenades and suicide bombers still take place, as do armed clashes. Since late May, AMISOM and TFG troops and their allies pushed into the Afgooye corridor, outside of Mogadishu, and also gained control of the town of Balad, located within the
As well, Mr. Mahiga noted in his letter, AMISOM forces are close to capturing the port town of Kismayo, an important stronghold of the Al-Shabaab.
The envoy also warned of the likelihood of parties trying to spoil the progress achieved so far by trying to hold "the political process hostage to further their own political and personal ends."
"There will always be a place for vibrant discourse and spirited disagreement-it is an intrinsic and healthy part of any democratic process. But determined action will be taken against those who are willing to undermine and subvert the process," Mr. Mahiga said. "The international community will simply not tolerate spoilers when we are so close to achieving real progress. After 20 years of strife, Somalia cannot afford more delays, more procrastination."