MOGADISHU, Aug 19: Somalia’s newly appointed legislature will elect the country's next president on Monday, in a fresh bid to end two decades of unstable central government in the war-torn Horn of Africa nation.
The election of the new president would complete a complex process set in motion through a UN-backed agreement aimed at ending eight years of rule by Somalia's graft-riddled, western-backed Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and, it is hoped, would bring peace.
Outgoing president Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, in power since 2009, is one of the favourites for the top job, though he cuts a controversial figure with Western observers.
A UN report in July said that under his presidency, “systematic embezzlement, pure and simple misappropriation of funds and theft, of public money have become government systems.”
Somali Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali and the outgoing parliament speaker Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan are also contenders for the post.
Somalia has lacked an effective central government since president Mohamed Siad Barre was ousted in 1991, unleashing cycles of bloody conflict that have defied countless peace initiatives.
Ruthless warlords and militia groups including Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab insurgents have controlled mini-fiefdoms that the African Union and other troops have only recently started to re-conquer.
With several previous attempts at installing a new central government ending in failure, the international community has done everything to ensure that this latest deadline of August 20 — when the TFG's mandate expires — succeeds.
On Monday, the new parliament — comprising a 275-member lower house and a yet-to-be-launched upper house with a maximum of 54 members — will hold its first session to vote for the president.
The vote will only go ahead if a quorum of more than two-thirds of the lower house — 184 members — is present.
But doubts remain that the transition process will be successfully completed.
“We are heading towards a botched process,” said one Western diplomat, adding that an extension of the deadline by “a month, maximum” would have bought the time needed to give parliament some legitimacy.
Speaking in early August, UN special representative for Somalia Augustine Mahiga condemned “the dealing in favours, the bribes and intimidation” seen during the appointment of the country's new lawmakers.—AFP