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Somalia enters "critical stage" as end of transition period nears

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

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UNITED NATIONS, May 15 (Xinhua) -- Somalia is entering the " most critical stage" as the end of its transitional governing period approaches, a UN envoy said here on Tuesday, calling on the international community to boost efforts to help the Horn of Africa country through the process of peace building and national reconciliation.

The statement came as the special representative of the UN secretary-general for Somalia, Augustine P. Mahiga, was briefing the Security Council, which met in an open session to discuss the current situation in Somalia.

"As Somalia faces the greatest opportunity to end the transition, after so much investment by the international community and well-wishing Somalis, we must complete the tasks at hand," Mahiga said.

"We must provide timely logistical and financial support to enable us to complete the implementation of the roadmap before August this year, as well as strengthen international cooperation and coordination," he said.

The East African country's Transitional Federal Institutions ( TFIs) are in the process of implementing a roadmap, devised in September last year, that spells out priority measures to be carried out before the current transitional governing arrangements end on Aug. 20.

Mahiga noted that there are a number of challenges for the roadmap's implementation to be completed. In particular, he cited a lack of time and unavailability of resources as the two factors that could have a negative effect in the next months.

"The lack of funding for implementing the roadmap in the remaining three months is of serious concern to all of us, including the Transitional Federal Government (TFG)," he said. " The Constituent Assembly is almost grinding to a halt for lack of funding."

The envoy also warned that spoilers pose a real threat to the peace process as they are employing various methods to obstruct and reverse gains made in the implementation of the roadmap.

"We must deal with these elements before they succeed in undermining the peace process," Mahiga said.

Earlier this month, the UN Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS), the African Union peacekeeping mission in the country, known by the acronym AMISOM, and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) issued a warning to all potential spoilers against jeopardizing the roadmap, warning that sanctions and restrictions could be imposed on those seeking to obstruct the peace process.

In addition, Mahiga emphasized that in the remaining months before the end of the transition, it is necessary to intensify public and civic education on the peace process. He noted that UNPOS is producing television, radio, print and online material targeting civil society groups which will be part of the National Constituent Assembly.

The 1,000-member body, as well as the new parliament, will be selected by the group of Traditional Elders, who represent the full spectrum of Somali society. The Assembly is tasked with drafting a new constitution.

Mahiga also noted that Turkey will host a conference on Somalia, in Istanbul next month, and that meeting will help define elements of the war-torn country's post-August strategy.

In a press statement following the briefing, the 15 members of the Security Council welcomed the progress made so far in the implementation of the roadmap, and reaffirmed their commitment to support the process.

The Security Council also urged the TFIs and all other signatories of the roadmap to redouble their efforts to complete the roadmap tasks, with the participation of women and civil society, while voicing its concern over the role of spoilers.

"The members of the Security Council strongly supported the joint AU-IGAD-UN letter of May 2012 and reiterated their readiness to support measures against internal and external actors or groups who sought to undermine or block the peace process in Somalia, including after the August transition deadline has passed," said the press statement. "They encouraged all Somalis to engage constructively in the political process and move towards a more peaceful and stable Somalia."

Until last year, most of the Somali capital Mogadishu was riven by a fluid frontline dividing the two sides -- fighters belonging to the Al-Shabaab movement and troops belonging to the TFG, with the latter supported by the peacekeeping forces of the UN-backed AMISOM.

Since the Al-Shabaab withdrawal from the capital's central parts in August, the frontlines have been pushed back to the city' s surrounding areas. However, the use of roadside bombs, grenades and suicide bombers is still a regular occurrence, and outbreaks of fighting still take place.

Al-Shabaab is a radical group with al-Qaeda's African offshoot.

In February, the Security Council called on the African Union ( AU) to increase the size of its peacekeeping force in Somalia by almost 50 percent to deal with continued insecurity in the impoverished country.

The 15-member body unanimously adopted a resolution requesting that AMISOM increase the number of its troops and police officers from 12,000 to a maximum of 17,731, and also decided to both expand the UN's logistical support package to the force and extend it through Oct. 31.

Currently, AMISOM's mandate restricts it to operate only in Mogadishu as a peacekeeping force, where it is providing security to the Transitional Federal Government led by President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed. Uganda and Burundi are the only countries that have contributed troops to the force.

Since 2007, AMISOM has been trying to restore peace in Somalia, which has had no functioning central government for the past 20 years.


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