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Somalia Swears in New Parliament

  • Gabe Joselow

Somali president Sharif Sheik Ahmed, center, Prime Minister, Abdiwali Mohamed Ali, right, and parliament speaker Sharif Hassan Sheik Adan, left, during constituent assembly opening in Mogadishu, July 25, 2012.

Somali president Sharif Sheik Ahmed, center, Prime Minister, Abdiwali Mohamed Ali, right, and parliament speaker Sharif Hassan Sheik Adan, left, during constituent assembly opening in Mogadishu, July 25, 2012.

MOGADISHU – Members of Somalia's new parliament have been sworn in, bringing the country a step closer to completing an eight-year political transition. The new parliament has a lot of work to do in the coming days, including the election of the next president.

Somalia's Chief Justice administered the oath of office to more than 200 members of the new parliament Monday, in a secure lot overlooking the sea near the Mogadishu airport.

As the sun set on the last day to end the country's Transitional Federal Government, the new lawmakers promised to uphold the law and work for the good of the people.

TFG Prime Minister Abdiwelli Mohammed Ali, one of the veteran lawmakers taking the oath of office, described how it felt to be a part of the historic moment.

“Ecstatic, excited that I will be a new member of parliament, a more quality parliament, a smaller, more efficient parliament, a parliament based on the constitution," said Ali.
But Ali, who is also running for president, told VOA he would not take his seat if he does not win that upcoming election.

“If I do not win then I will go back to my humble job," he said. "I was a professor of economics - 10 years an economic professor - I had a good life, good family, and I will go back to my job.”

The parliament also includes a number of women lawmakers, following a strong push from the international community and the passing of a provisional constitution that guarantees more political rights for women.

Incoming member Khalija Mohammed Diriye told VOA women will keep calling for more representation.

She says “People have seen for themselves in the last 20 years, most of the Somali population heavily depended on women. I hope people realize this and to add more women until we reach 30 percent, as right now we have about 15 or 16 representatives.”

While the parliament will eventually seat 275 members, they have settled, for now, on only 225 - which is enough to convene the body.

The members were selected during the past few weeks by a group of Somali elders, working with members of a technical selection committee. U.N. and international observers have expressed concern about reports of vote buying and influence peddling.

An official from the technical selection committee said the wrangling continued until the last minute Monday, as Somali President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed lodged complaints about the process in what the official said was an attempt to gain influence.

A group of international diplomats met with Somali leaders and U.N. representatives Sunday in Mogadishu, to discuss the final stages of the political transition.

U.S. Envoy to Somalia, Ambassador James Swan, who attended the meeting, told VOA the United States welcomes the progress made by the Somali leaders, but will expect more accountability from the new government.

“We are also looking for these new institutions to play their role, to be more legitimate, to be more transparent, to be more accountable, and to truly represent the people so we can focus less on internal political competition and much more on building a better future for the country," said Swan.

The parliament is due to select a new speaker on August 26 and a new president sometime after. The country's constitution minister says the current president and government will continue to serve in a care-taking capacity until then.

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