Somalia transitional parliament extends term three years, prompting criticism

The vote of Somalia's transitional parliament to extend its term may damage its international credibility and undermine support in the West.

Mohamed Sheikh Nor/AP
This is an Oct. 31, 2010 file photo of Somali lawmakers as they raise their hands during a confidence vote in Mogadishu, Somalia. On Feb. 4, the United States sharply criticized a vote by Somali parliamentarians to extend their term by three years, saying the unilateral decision is a disservice to the Somali people and is a setback to the establishment of a legitimate and effective government.

On Thursday, Somalia’s parliament voted to extend its term by three years. The move is of questionable legality and has evoked criticism from Somali clan elders and from the UN, the US, and the UK.


“This is a disappointing decision taken in haste without the required level of discussion and consultation on how to end the transition,” the UN’s special representative for Somalia, Augustine Mahiga, said.


“Our concern is that the international community has urged the Somali government to consult very wisely with Somalis – including those in the diaspora – and their international partners to find a way forward,” said Matt Goshko, public affairs officer at the US Embassy’s Somali affairs unit in Nairobi, Kenya.

Goshko said the transitional parliament disregarded an African Union request for expanded consultation.

“Their decision to extend was unilateral, it was hurried, it was not in the best interest. And that’s why we are asking them to reconsider.”


Britain’s senior representative for Somalia, Matt Baugh, said parliament’s decision stood to affect the legitimacy and credibility of the country’s transitional institutions.

“It is deeply regrettable that the TFP have chosen to ignore the request of the African Union and the UN for wide consultation before taking action,” he said in a statement.

“The Somali people, who continue to suffer the appalling effects of 20 years of conflict, deserve better.”

Parliament’s self-extension has clearly damaged its international credibility, and given that Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) relies heavily on international support, the move could represent a Pyrrhic victory for Somali lawmakers. Policymakers in the US have already been thinking about strengthening relations with regional governments in Somalia, such as Somaliland and Puntland, and a perception that the TFG is stubborn could push Washington further toward engagement with these other actors.

Parliament’s moves make the short-term trajectory of (attempted) governance in Somalia more unpredictable in other ways as well. Dr. Michael Weinstein writes that the TFG’s transition, scheduled for August, is “imploding,” and that international actors are increasingly dissatisfied with the TFG’s approach to the final months of its mandate. Open conflict between the TFG and its international backers could therefore not only strengthen regional players in Somalia, but could also tear up the road map for this year’s transition. If the TFG overstays its welcome and the international community balks, that conflict could affect the civil war and the next incarnation of a would-be Somali state.

Alex Thurston is a PhD student at Northwestern University who studies Islam in Africa and blogs on Africa's Sahel region at Sahel Blog.

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