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Somali Constituent Assembly Delayed Due to Constitution Quarrel

Transitional Federal Government of Somalia president Sheikh Sharif Ahmed (R), attends the meeting of the signatories of the roadmap for ending the transition in Somalia, in Nairobi on June 22, 2012.
NAIROBI — A constituent assembly tasked with ratifying the Somali draft constitution will not convene on schedule. Tribal elders empowered to select the assembly are withholding the names of candidates for the new body in a play for more political power.

An 825-member National Constituent Assembly representing a broad range of Somali political factions was scheduled to meet Thursday in Mogadishu to begin its work of discussing and ratifying the Somali draft constitution.

But a council of tribal elders responsible for selecting members of the constituent assembly has refused to release the names.

Mohamed Hassan Haad, the chairman of the Hawiye clan elders, said this is a way for the elders to exert more influence over the transition process.

“Actually we have all the names,” he said, “but elders were saying to each other if they present the names everything will be in the hands of the parliament and nothing will remain for the elders to talk and be consulted about,” Haad said.

Haad says the elders are particularly concerned about a draft constitution, written in consultation with the United Nations. He told VOA in a previous interview that elders take issue with sections granting women the right to run for high office and that the draft does not specify a capital city.

According to the U.N.-backed "Roadmap" process for ending the political transition, it is the constituent assembly that will decide whether to approve the constitution, not the elders.

Haad said the elders are getting mixed signals from the U.N. and the other signatories to the Roadmap.

“They say that the elders have an important role to select better people for the next government,” he said. “On the other hand they say we aren't doing what we're supposed to do. We don't see our role the way they see it,” Haad said.

A diplomatic source familiar with the discussions said the constituent assembly likely will be delayed until July 22 or 23.

The source said once the parliament is formed, the transition should be completed on time, emphasizing that all parties are still adamant about the August 20 deadline for lawmakers to elect a president.

An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that a constituent assembly would choose Somalia’s next parliament. The constituent assembly is tasked with ratifying the Somali draft constitution. VOA regrets the error.