Somalia to get extra time to meet UN deadline: envoys
UN leader Ban Ki-moon also welcomed the inauguration of a new federal parliament in conflict-stricken Mogadishu but said the final transition steps must be urgently completed “in an environment free from intimidation.”
The UN said 215 of the 275 members in the transitional parliament had been sworn in on Monday. Some 185 were needed to allow the assembly to work with a functioning majority.
But to be in line with the August 20 deadline set by the Security Council, the assembly should also have elected a president, a parliamentary speaker and deputy speaker.
Deputies have said the votes will be held within days, but diplomats and observers in Mogadishu are more pessimistic.
“The current political process has been as undemocratic as the one it seeks to replace, with unprecedented levels of political interference, corruption and intimidation,” the International Crisis Group think tank said.
Despite the doubts, UN diplomats said the Somali transitional government would be given more time.
“They will be given more breathing space though clearly we can’t wait months,” said one diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity as talks on a Security Council reaction are still going on.
“Important steps have been taken and given the considerable international effort taken up so far, there is an interest for all to give them a little more time,” added another diplomat.
Ban, the UN secretary general, called the election a “watershed moment” on the road to peace in Somalia, where the transitional government has been propped up by an African Union military force.
Ban praised the “courage and tenacity” of the 135 traditional elders and a technical committee which chose the parliament, said a statement released by a UN spokesman. Diplomats said the elders faced strong threats from rival candidates.
Ban said the new parliament was “credible and representative of the national character of Somalia.” But he added that the process had to be “urgently” completed so the new parliament can meet within days.
“The secretary general urges all actors to ensure that the final steps to end the transition are completed promptly, peacefully, and in an environment free from intimidation. The Somali people have waited 20 years for peace to take root in their country,” said the statement.