Wednesday, August 22, 2012
Monday, August 20, was a historical day in Somalia. It was the day the political life of the Sharif Sheikh Ahmed led Transitional Federal Government (TGF), which has been running the war-torn country over the last couple of years, expired.
It was also the day when a new national assembly of 275 members was inaugurated. This assembly, selected by clan leaders, is supposed to usher in a new phase of the transition to normalcy in Somalia by electing a new president.
Due to logistical challenges that were not entirely unexpected, the election of a new president was postponed but the democratic process remains on course nevertheless.
Somalia has not had a central government since its last leader, Mohammed Siad Barre, was overthrown in 1991. Soon after that, the country degenerated into clan-based ethnic rivalry and has been ungovernable ever since.
The relative stability that has allowed this process to even get this far would not have been possible without the contribution of the African Union mission (Amisom), particularly the Ugandan and later Burundian soldiers.
Mogadishu was a no-go city until very recently but today dignitaries and airlines and other business from allover the world, are flocking to the Somali capital. Somalis in the Diaspora are also returning home in large numbers to contribute to the development of their country.
Understandably, there are fears that the process may not go ahead smoothly. For instance, will those defeated in the elections accept the outcome or resort to disrupting peace? The current renaissance is indeed at risk of imploding yet again if the transition is mismanaged.
At this stage the ball is in the court of the Somalis and their leaders. Amisom can only do so much. The Somalis must seize this moment and fix their broken country or live to regret another opportunity lost.
Moreover, if this process doesn’t deliver the desirable political outcome, the blood of those who have sacrificed for today’s relative stability in Somalia, including the Ugandan servicemen who recently died in helicopter crashes around Mount Kenya, will have been in vain.