Somalia faces acid test ahead of new order
Posted Saturday, May 12 2012 at 20:09
On a political path strewn with obstacles and dangers, Somalia stands at a new crossroads.
The term of the current Transitional Federal Institutions ends in three months and everybody is wondering what will come next.
Elections are not possible, so Somali politicians and their UN-led international backers have agreed that traditional tribal elders will lead the next phase in the transition process.
But questions remain over who exactly represents Somali clans, and any mistakes in naming them have the potential to unravel the significant political and security progress that has been made so far.
Over the next two months, traditional elders will be the most important actors in Somali politics.
Instead of foreigners or politicians appointing the next members of parliament, 135 genuine tribal chiefs would exercise those powers.
The elders are tasked with doing two things. They will select an 825-member Constituent Assembly, which in turn, will debate and adopt the new constitution.
They will also appoint the incoming 225 or 275 Somali parliamentarians. Parliament, in turn, will elect Somalia’s next president.
But there is a caveat; these leaders must be uncontested and recognised elders.
The selection process and commissioning of these elders could usher in a new dawn or send Somalia sliding back into chaos.
On the whole, traditional elders are well-respected by their clans and most are anointed for their integrity, impartiality and cultural acumen.
The general expectation, if the process is not manipulated, is that these chiefs will select credible and competent political representatives.
On the other hand, if politicians with personal agenda corrupt the process and empower phony clan elders, these imposters could sell seats in parliament to the highest bidder.
The whole enterprise of ending Somalia’s dysfunctional transition and ushering in a more progressive political era would then be futile.
Any resulting institutions would lack legitimacy, and the strife-torn country could enter a new era of uncertainty, if not full scale disorder.
This need not happen, and the international community has both the obligation and the ability to make sure that the process is neither hijacked nor tarnished unnecessarily.
The process of assembling these traditional elders in Mogadishu is already under way.