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New Row Among Somali MPs

Somalia’s interim administration is in another row.

Last month, a disagreement over the make-up of a proposed regional peacekeeping force for the country led to fistfights among lawmakers.

Today, nearly half of the 275 member parliament is refusing to go to a meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, called by President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, who wants to discuss the deadlock over where Somalia’s capital should be. Many MPs want to return to the old capital of Mogadishu, but others say it’s not safe. The president and prime minister want to temporarily move to a smaller, more secure town, like Baidoa or Jowhar.

Babafemi Badejo is the officer in charge of the UN Political Office for Somalia and co-chair of the Joint Co-Ordination and Monitoring Committee, a UN-led group of international aid agencies working in Somalia. Mr. Badejo told English to Africa reporter William Eagle the committee backs the call for a meeting in Nairobi of all members of parliament.

The issue, he says, is that the president and some members of the government want to relocate to what they see as a more secure town in Somalia until Mogadishu’s rival factions cede powers to a beefed up police force. Other leaders, who say the safety concerns are exaggerated, would rather stay in Mogadishu. As for alternative venues, the UN official says one problem is that many places are not equipped to host the 275-member parliament and cabinet. Others lack security or are politically unacceptable to one side or another.

Mr. Badejo says the on-going effort at securing the city is “laudable." “We recognize the efforts [of the pro-Mogadishu parliamentarians],” he says, “but we feel there should be national dialogue that everyone agrees on, and we appeal for them all to come for such a dialogue in Nairobi.“ He also says it’s better for Somalia’s own stability for all of the country’s politicians, with international support, to be involved in the reconstruction of Mogadishu – and not just the faction that is currently there.