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Somalia strains to build democracy

Tue., Aug. 21, 2012

MOGADISHU, Somalia – Somalia’s chief justice on Monday swore in 215 new members of parliament, an accomplishment but one that fell far short of U.N. hopes that the Horn of Africa nation would seat a full 275-member parliament that would vote in a new president.

Monday – the last day of eight years of Somalia’s U.N.-backed Transitional Federal Government – was the day by which the U.N. repeatedly said a new president would be in place. But political bickering, violent threats and seat-buying schemes delayed progress, guaranteeing the day would come and go with no new leader in place.

Nonetheless, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon congratulated the people of Somalia “on reaching this watershed moment on their road to peace, stability and political transformation,” U.N. deputy spokesman Eduardo del Buey said.

He urged clan elders to complete the seating of all parliament members within a few days and called on the new parliamentarians to prepare for elections of a speaker and president so that the country’s political transition can be completed promptly “in an environment free from intimidation,” del Buey said.

Somalia has seen much progress over the last year. Al-Shabab militants were forced out of Mogadishu in August 2011, allowing businesses to thrive and the arts and sports to return.

However, Mogadishu politics remains an ugly business, as it did in 1991, when the country’s last legitimate president was ousted and the country spiraled into bloody chaos. The International Crisis Group think tank said the current political process has been as undemocratic as the Transitional Federal Government structure it seeks to replace, “with unprecedented levels of political interference, corruption and intimidation.”


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