June 01, 2012
Somali tribal leaders face a crucial test to steer the political process towards completing the transitional tasks as the deadline to end the transitional period approaches.
The 135 selected tribal leaders have been charged with two main tasks to lift the country out of the transitional period. First, they must choose 825 members of the National Constituent Assembly, representing all segments of Somali society. The second task is to appoint 225 members to the new parliament.
The parliament will then elect the next president on August 20th, the final step in the transitional process.
Relying on tribal leaders to resolve issues in the country is compatible with Somali customs, as tribal leaders have been responsible for resolving past disputes and differences among tribes, according to political analyst Ahmed Mu'alim Mohammed.
Nonetheless, the task at hand is of a different nature, as tribal leaders face a difficult mission to help conclude the transition and lead the country toward a new era.
"Tribal leaders are really being tested, because the responsibility they have been given is difficult," Mohammed told Sabahi. "The Somali people are relying on them and setting their hopes high to lead them towards a new dawn".
"If the tribal leaders succeed in this arduous task, they will then lead the country toward a new era," he said. "If, however, they fail in selecting members of the National Constituent Assembly and members of parliament, the country will, as a result, slip into political chaos."
The Mogadishu conference for tribal leaders to select the 825 members of the National Constituent Assembly, which began on May 5th, ended in failure as tribal leaders exceeded the 10 days allotted to choosing the members.
According to analysts, the delay was caused by disputes among tribes and political leaders. These differences prompted some tribal leaders to withdraw from the conference.
On May 23rd, signatories to the Roadmap met in Addis Ababa and agreed to select members of the National Constituent Assembly by no later than June 20th.
Attendees also vowed to implement a new constitution by July 10th, with a July 15th deadline for selecting members of the new parliament, followed by the presidential election on August 20th.
After the Mogadishu conference, tribal leaders were flown to Istanbul by the Turkish government for conflict-resolution sessions to help pave the way for the international conference on Somalia hosted by Turkey.
Representatives from 54 countries gathered in Istanbul on Thursday to help guide Somalia's future, as a follow-up to February's conference in London.
"Taking tribal leaders to Turkey to raise awareness on how to best select members of the National Constituent Assembly and parliament is a positive step," political analyst Jamal Abdullah told Sabahi.
"Tribal leaders represent the main source for resolving conflicts that rise among tribes, and if these sheikhs are trained and educated on how to select members of the National Constituent Assembly and members of parliament, this will raise awareness among them regarding the level of responsibility they carry," he said.
Tribal leaders also took part in a preliminary conference for civil society organisations and Somali expatriates, addressing means for the country to move beyond the transitional period.
Participants in this preliminary conference, which ended Wednesday, presented their recommendations to the Istanbul conference. Among the most significant of those recommendations was a call to all Somali stakeholders to follow through with their commitments to end the transitional period and to work towards a national reconciliation amongst Somali tribes and regional authorities.
Moreover, there were calls to conduct large-scale consultations with all segments of Somali society, including expatriate communities and civil society organisations while ensuring representation of the latter in the decision-making process.
The two-day Istanbul Conference is expected to address security and politics in Somalia, as well as economic and developmental factors that are necessary to rebuild the country.
The conference is attended by heads of state, international and regional organisations, Somali signatories to the Roadmap, various representatives of Somali society, religious leaders, civil-society leaders and Somali expatriates.
Political analyst Ali Abdulqadir said he hopes the Istanbul Conference will provide viable contributions towards resolving the current problems in the country.
"The Istanbul Conference is the second international conference that represents a real chance to end the armed conflict and to restore peace and security in Somalia," he told Sabahi. "For the first time, tribal leaders and representatives from the various tribes are taking part in this conference. It is very important that tribal leaders are given a chance to work with politicians to discuss outstanding issues and to reach a solution at this crucial stage for the future of Somalia."
Abdulqadir said this conference is the first of its kind. "Previous conferences did not give civil society organisations and segments of Somali society the chance to participate and discuss the future of their country," he said. "Rather, politicians were the only participants in these conferences. This conference will provide an important opportunity for political leaders to listen to the ideas and opinions of segments of Somali society."
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