News Analysis: What lies ahead for the new Somali government?

09:20, November 29, 2010      

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After weeks of political horse trading the Somali parliament managed to approve the new cabinet of Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed Saturday but the move marks the beginning of the government's real challenges, say analysts.

Out of the 343 lawmakers present at the meeting 251 voted in favor while 92 opposed it and the speaker of the parliament announced the cabinet confirmed and approved to take office.

The 18-member cabinet, leanest so far, took the oath of office soon following the vote at a ceremony held at the presidential residence in Mogadishu with the presence of the Somali president and parliament speaker.

CHALLENGES AND PRIORITIES

The new government inherits a country ripped apart by two decades of civil conflict and an ongoing struggle against Islamist insurgency, as well as a widespread dire humanitarian crisis in which 3.2 million people, more than 40 percent of the population, is in need of aid.

Most of the south and center of the war-ravaged nation, including large swathes of the restive capital Mogadishu, remains under the control of Al Qaeda-allied Islamist militants of Al Shabaab.

The radical Islamist groups continue to wage almost daily attacks on government installations and bases of the African Union (AU) peacekeeping troops in Mogadishu where almost two-third of the residents fled to the relative safety of city's suburbs.

The new Somali Premier announced that his government's top priority will be security and the reclaiming of areas outside the government's control in the capital and in the wider south and center of the country.

"It seems the new government has got its priority right but it needs to follow it through and deliver what has so far been impossible for previous bloated administrations and that is security and the reform of the armed forces," Ali Mohamoud, political scientist, told Xinhua in Mogadishu.

Mohamoud contends the new Premier has won the support of the Somali military who see him as a man willing to help them defeat the insurgency, adding that the cabinet faces a lot of expectations to deliver not only from the Somali public but the international community.

The government also promised it will facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance to those in need while improving governance and the fight against the chronic corruption as well as the provision of essential services. "The new cabinet comprises mostly of individuals who have been outside the country most of their time and that makes them unqualified to deal with the myriad of issues facing the nation," Yahya Muse, a Somali academic in Mogadishu told Xinhua.

Muse says the currents team of Prime Minister Mohamed needs the support and expertise of local veteran politicians who now feel sidelined because "they have lot to offer" in turning the fortunes of the beleaguered government of Somalia.

UBIQUITOUS RIFT

The rift within the government still remains as the opposition MP's who voted to reject the new cabinet issued a statement saying the government did not gain the approval of the parliament as the needed majority for confirmation was not the 251 votes it garnered but 276 which is 50 per cent plus one of the 550 parliament membership.

Most of the opposition lawmakers are former members of the previous government and their supporters who feel left out in this new cabinet of mainly technocrats from the Somali Diaspora just as the Premier himself.

And although there has lately been visible rapprochement between the Somali President and the speaker of parliament, analysts here say that the softening of tensions between the presidency and parliament came as a result of a sustained pressure by international community upon the two sides.

The differences within the government has been lingering since the 2004 national reconciliation conference ended resulting in the formation of a government of national unity that is based on the power-sharing along clan lines.

Analysts say the chronic disputes which pits the top Somali leaders is often has roots in the way the national charter organizes power.

Power is shared along clan lines with four shares given to the main clans and half a share to alliance of smaller clans in what is known as "4.5 formula".

"The 4.5 formal means that the president, the prime minister, the speaker and the chief justice come from different clans. The president is elected by the parliament, the head of states in turn names the premier but cannot sack him," Somali law expert Farah Diriye said.

Farah says the current government seems to transcended that and named cabinet minister in terms of merit adding that that will go a long way in making sure the right people are placed in the right positions.

"TALL ORDER"

With the end of the government's transitional period less than a year away a sense of urgency is evident in the new government's approach of issues and the challenges it faces as most of the benchmarks set out in the Djibouti processes has not been achieved.

The Transitional government was required to complete national reconciliation and bring those outside on board, the setting up of a new constitution, and the carrying out of a national census and a referendum which would lead to a free and fair election.

"That looks a very tall order for the new government with the obvious obstacles of internal feuding and deadly and strong insurgency which has never shown a willingness to talk," says Mohamoud, a Somali political scientist.

Farah disagrees and says the new government is up to the job and will tackle the challenges the country faces including meeting the main signposts during the transitional period including spreading its authority into most of the country but more time for the remaining tasks could be negotiated among government.

Source: Xinhua

(Editor:张茜)

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