The U.N. envoy to Somalia is warning against corruption, as the country’s electoral body begins to register candidates for the February 8 presidential election.
Speaking exclusively to VOA from New York, Ambassador Michael Keating said it’s very important to have a free and fair election.
“Unfortunately corruption is a big feature in Somali society, and the election has shown that ... because of the concerns about the parliament process and the use of vote-buying, it’s incredibly important that this state of process be done freely and fairly and the abuse be minimized,” Keating said.
“We need a president who is seen as legitimate because, otherwise, all the issues that need to be tackled in the coming years will be much more difficult,” he warned.
The envoy said there would be consequences if the presidential election is marred by malpractice.
“If the president is elected on a basis which is seen as illegitimate,” he said, “then there will be consequences in terms of the willingness and the ability of the international community to work with that president.”
The envoy said the U.N. will also consider how Somalis view the electoral process.
“If Somalis see the next president as having been elected on the basis of a flawed process,” he said, “then his ability to work with the federal member states or parliament will be compromised, if not undermined.”
More than 15 candidates, including the current president and his prime minister, are vying for the position of the president. The U.N. envoy said he met most of them and was encouraged by the fact that most of them are thinking about what Somalia needs, if it’s going to progress in terms of peace and stability.
Al-Shabab attacks and its threat to the election
Keating said the militants’ attacks in the runup to the election is “worrisome, but they have not been able to disrupt the electoral process,” he said. “They are a threat to members of parliament who need to be in Mogadishu in order to participate in the presidential election.
“But Somalia security forces together with AU (African Union) troops are working to provide security for the voting locations,” he added.
Keating said the militants have shown they have the capability to kill civilians, but that does not indicate they are gaining momentum.
“Often when insurgencies are weakening, they tend to go for high profile attacks to demonstrate that they are relevant ... they are not gaining strength, but if anything I would believe that these attacks alienate people from al-Shabab,” he said.
Drought worsens in Somalia
The U.N. envoy to Somalia said U.N. relief agencies have huge programs in Somalia to support farmers and other drought-affected people to provide access to food and water. “One of the things I am doing in New York and will be doing at the U.N. Security Council is to underscore the imperative of raising more funds for drought response, so we are putting our political weight behind this,” he said.