21 August 2012

Somalia: UN Envoy Says Inauguration of New Parliament in Somalia 'Historic Moment'

UN envoy to Somalia Augustine Mahiga on Monday congratulated the newly sworn in parliament and Somali people on a "remarkable occasion" after the inauguration of the new legislature.

Up to 215 members of the 275 lawmakers were sworn in at the first session held at the Mogadishu airport as the parliament building is under renovation work.

"This historic moment marks the long-awaited end of the transitional period in Somalia. The new MPs, selected after broad- based, grass roots consultations and representing all of Somalia's clans, have been successfully screened against objective criteria and are now ready to start their important work," Mahiga said in a statement issued in the capital Mogadishu.

The new parliament selected former army general Musa Hassan Abdulle, 72, as an interim speaker who will oversee the election of new speaker and deputy speakers.

Outgoing Somali government officials including President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali and former speaker Sharif Hassan Sheikh Ahmed were present at the inaugural session of the new legislature.

The new parliament is characterized by a high number of university graduates, relevant professional experience and a significant number of women, said the UN Somali envoy, while acknowledging that the quota of 30 percent of the new parliament membership for women was not reached.

"Today's events are the culmination of over 12 months of arduous and contentious political negotiations and mark the beginning of the last phase of the transition which will be completed in the coming days with the appointment of a Speaker, Deputy Speaker and a President," said Mahiga.

Interim speaker Abdulle told lawmakers candidates for the post of speaker and deputy speakers to submit their candidature before voting starts in five days.

The term of the Somali government expires on Monday and the election of the new president is expected to herald a permanent government that replaces the current one.

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