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If all goes well, Somalia soon may have a government

Seen by World Bank and UN monitoring group as 'corrupt' and 'incompetent,' Somalia's interim government has a deadline within a month to transition to a permanent government.

By Zoe FloodContributor / July 24, 2012

Nairobi, Kenya

By Aug. 20, Somalia’s rulers must make the crucial step, going from being an unelected interim authority toward creating a more lasting government. But this target – set last September at a United Nations-backed meeting in Somali’s capital Mogadishu – may not be reached, many Somalia-watchers say, unless Somalia’s governing authority shows some commitment to the task.

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Several deadlines set out in last year’s agreements have been missed, including the convening of a constituent assembly and the adoption of a new constitution.

And a recently leaked UN report alleges “pervasive corruption” at the heart of the transitional federal government, implicating leading political figures in allegedly corrupt deals.

“The transition is definitely troubled,” says Rashid Abdi, an expert on Somalia and an editor at Kenya’s Daily Nation. “It is over-optimistic to believe that everything will work out smoothly and on time. “

“Government officials admit that they don’t have a plan B, so quick decisions will be needed to complete the process in the short time remaining,” says Abdirashid Hashi, Somalia analyst at the think tank International Crisis Group. “It means that the process could be bumpy and difficult, and perhaps not as transparent as it should be.”

After more than 20 years of internal conflict, it is perhaps remarkable that Somalia has a government at all, even a weak one. The current Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed is the fourteenth attempt to create a government after the fall of President Mohammed Siad Barre in 1991, and it spent its first three years operating in the neighboring country of Kenya. When the TFG finally finally moved to Mogadishu in 2007, following several defeats of a fundamentalist Islamic Courts Union, it did little to impress Somalis or foreign diplomats. Friendly diplomats and even government supporters call the TFG "corrupt."

In theory, all of that will change by next month. Somalia’s parliamentarians will vote for a new president, and then set about organizing a referendum on a permanent constitution. There is one hitch. The parliamentarians who would select the president – many of them chosen through protracted negotiations among clan elders – themselves have yet to be named by the constituent assembly.

Infighting and disputes about the constitution have all bogged down the political process, threatening to delay the completion of the transition.

“The timetable is artificial – the deadline is very tight and it will inevitably have to be pushed back,” added Mr. Abdi.


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