Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Power-Sharing Now On the Cards

Power-Sharing Now On the Cards
The East African (Nairobi)NEWS
Posted to the web 21 October 2008

By Fred OluochNairobi
There are prospects of a power sharing deal being struck in war torn Somalia that would borrow from the examples of Kenya and Zimbabwe.
Following the Djibouti agreement in June and a realisation that the conflict in Somalia is now taking unpredictable forms, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (Igad), has summoned the entire Transitional Federal Government (TFG) parliament to Nairobi to explore the possibility of the antagonists in Somalia working together after 18 years of anarchy.
Although most TFG MPs The EastAfrican spoke to maintained that the three-day meeting, set to kick off on October 26, will discuss issues like the rampant piracy in Somali waters, outside interference in Somalia, Somali refugee imprisoned in Tanzania and the continuing attacks on Somali nationals in South Africa, it is evident that most participants would not be averse to a power sharing deal.
Prospects of a power-sharing formula are strengthened by the fact that Sheikh Ahmed Sheriff, who led Somalia during the reign of the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), has of late been pursuing a compromise approach to the conflict.
Sheikh Ahmed has always been seen as a moderate within the UIC, which was driven out of Mogadishu in early 2007 following the intervention of Ethiopian troops with the support of the US. He is now leading the Alliance for Re-Liberation of Somalia, which signed the Djibouti agreement with TFG in June.
Prof Mohamed Omar Dalha, Deputy Speaker of the TFG parliament, told The EastAfrican that the MPs are optimistic that something tangible will come out of the Igad talks.
"Having signed the Djibouti agreement, we will not mind if this meeting comes up with proposals for greater co-operation between the TFG and the opposition, even if it means sharing power to end this violence that has prevented the Somali people from realising their potential for the past 18 years. We expect that the group based in Asmara will join us," he said.
Prof Dalha noted that conflict is no longer between TFG and the UIC, but between those who want to restore law and order in Somalia and those who are against any system of government since they are benefiting from the chaos by engaging in illegal trade, kidnapping and illegal taxes.
Apart from the continued violence, the main concern for the international community is that the mandate of the TFG is set to expire at the end of next year, and nothing of significance has been achieved towards ending the war since the peace deal was signed in Nairobi in 2004.
Should the mandate expire without a new constitution to allow the holding of elections, and without the boundaries of the proposed state having been defined, Somalia will experience more anarchy, given that some groups would not support the handpicking of MPs that happened in 2004.
The setting up of the TFG and parliament, which later moved to Midowa, presented a semblance of sovereignty, but TFG has not been able to consolidate its control over the country in the past four years. Some of its MPs have been killed or injured in continuous attacks that also targeted President, Abdullahi Yusuf.
The parliament is yet to finish drawing up the constitution and the boundaries of the federal states, to be based on existing regions. Some regions like Lower Shabelle and Lower Juba are not under the control of local people, which is a recipe for constant conflict.
Specialists in Somalia affairs argue that the Djibouti agreement could act as a platform for serious co-operation, especially if it follows the example of neighbouring Kenya that used power sharing to bring an end to inter-ethnic strife.
However, the agreement has been criticised by some observers who argue that it did not give a definite timetable for the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops from Somalia.
As it is, the international community has been lukewarm on the issue of Somalia and has not conducted a serious follow-up of the peace deal as happened in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Rwanda and Burundi.
The Ethiopian government has said that it will withdraw its troops once African or UN peacekeepers are deployed. Most countries except Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi have been reluctant to deploy their troops in Somalia.
But now, the issue of piracy in the Somali waters is an emerging problem that could either force the international community to engage in a broader peace process, or concentrate on wiping out the pirates at the expense of the peace process.
Prof Dahla opposed the practise of paying the ransom demanded by the pirates because it would just empower those who are hijacking ships in the Gulf of Eden. Instead, those paying the pirates would rather give the money to TFG to establish its navy to deal with the pirates from within.

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