Somalia's newly-expanded parliament, meeting in Djibouti, is moving
swiftly to elect a new interim president, possibly by Friday. The
election is seen as the last step toward creating a unity government
between Somalia's interim administration and an opposition group. But
continued threats from Islamist militants and rising clan tensions are
creating uncertainty for the latest U.N.-backed effort.
The acting president and speaker of parliament for
Somalia's transitional federal government, Sheik Adan Mohamed Madobe,
says parliament members are expected to vote for a new interim
president on Friday.
More than a dozen presidential candidates
are competing to replace Abdullahi Yusuf, who resigned last month after
losing political backing from neighboring Ethiopia.
regarded as an obstacle to peace following his refusal to endorse a
U.N.-sponsored peace process to form a unity government with the
Djibouti-based Islamist-led opposition Alliance for the Re-liberation
of Somalia, also known as ARS.
As part of the peace deal
between the government and ARS, Ethiopia, which had been propping up
the weak, secular government since late 2006, pulled its troops out of
Somalia this month. That paved the way for the expansion of the Somali
interim parliament to include some 200 ARS members. The mandate of
parliament was also extended two more years to give the new members
time to settle into their legislative roles.
transitional federal government-ARS alliance still faces serious
challenges in establishing legitimacy and authority in Somalia.
radical Islamic al-Shabab group, which led the fight to end the
Ethiopian occupation and is listed as a terrorist organization by the
United States, remains a bitter opponent of the peace process. It has
vowed to continue fighting until all of Somalia is brought under strict
Equally alarming are recent statements by the
administration of Puntland's newly-elected president. In a letter to
the U.N. special envoy to Somalia last week, President Abdirahman
Mohamed Farole complained that the northern Darod clan, the dominant
clan in the restive semi-autonomous region, was not being adequately
represented in the expanded parliament.
The ARS faction, led by
moderate Islamist leader Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed, is largely seen in
Puntland as a political group that represents the interests of the
Darod clan's rival, the Hawiye. The Hawiye clan is predominant in
central regions of Somalia and in the capital Mogadishu.
new information minister, Warsame Abdi Sefta-Bananka, bluntly said on
Tuesday that the unity government being formed in Djibouti is simply
The information minister says his government is
against the Djibouti peace process with the ARS because it does not
have the support of the Puntland people.
autonomy in 1998 to insulate the northern Darod clan from the political
and economic upheaval in central and southern Somalia after the
collapse of the central government seven years before.
nearly a decade of relative peace, Puntland in recent years has
suffered from an upsurge in criminal activity, including kidnappings,
human trafficking, and piracy.
Analysts say the region must be
considered vital to any international effort aimed at finding a lasting
solution to the Somali crisis.