Somalia’s transitional parliament met over the weekend in Baidoa, some 250 kilometers northwest of the capital, Mogadishu. It marked the first time the parliamentarians met on Somali soil since returning from exile last year. President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed used the occasion to appeal for unity among the country’s politicians and factional leaders.
The inaugural session was also attended by the United Nations political officer for Somalia, Francois Fall, who said the international community expected the Somali leaders to pursue peace. Missing from the meeting were the powerful warlords controlling Mogadishu – because of tensions in the capital.
Matt Bryden heads the Horn of Africa Project of the US-based International Crisis Group. In an interview with Voice of America reporter Ashenafi Abedje, Bryden described the Baidoa session as a “significant development in helping jumpstart the stalled transitional process.” He says the meeting also enabled the parliamentarians to draw up “a plan of action for the remaining three-and-half years of transition.”
Bryden cautions against reading too much into the absence of Mogadishu warlords from the inaugural session. He says their decision not to attend was “pragmatic – because they are involved in battles with an actor that’s not part of the transitional process.” He says people should accept at face value the warlords’ stated support for the transitional government. Bryden urges continued “non-partisan, hands-off international support” to help move the transition process further along.