From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Wed Jan 28 2009 - 14:27:14 EST
Opposition MPs sworn in as Somali plan advances
Wed Jan 28, 2009 10:10am EST
By David Clarke and Abdiaziz Hassan
DJIBOUTI, Jan 28 (Reuters) - Somalia's parliament swore in new opposition
members on Wednesday as it prepared to elect a president this week in a
long-awaited step towards ending 18 years of conflict.
Meeting for security reasons in neighbouring Djibouti, the parliament voted
to extend its mandate until August 2011 and swore in nearly 150 out of 200
new members from the opposition Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia
The United Nations and African Union (AU) have been cracking the whip to get
a more inclusive parliament up and running and a president elected in time
to attend an African summit in Ethiopia on Sunday.
Security will be the new leader's main challenge. Hours after Ethiopian
troops who had been propping up the Transitional Federal Government (TFG)
pulled out of Somalia on Monday, al Shabaab Islamist fighters captured the
seat of parliament. The capital Mogadishu could also be at risk of more
The previous Western-backed government failed to establish stability in a
country where more than 16,000 civilians have been killed in the past two
years, and which the United States fears could serve as a haven for
terrorists. The chaos onshore has allowed piracy to flourish in Somalia's
Presidential hopefuls have until Thursday morning to apply. The candidates
are due to address parliament later that day and the election will take
place on Friday afternoon.
"We are going to tell the Somalis to take their responsibilities," said U.N.
envoy Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah. "I expect Somalia to form its government and
return to Mogadishu."
Another challenge will be to try to encourage hardline Islamist opposition
members based in Eritrea to join a peace process they have snubbed so far.
"We know that there are a lot of people who are not yet with us. I hope
these people will join and see the fruits of this reconciliation," said
Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein.
Moderate Islamist Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, the presidential candidate from the
ARS, was the first new opposition member of parliament to be sworn in.
Candidates put their hand on the Koran and swore they would protect the
Outside the meeting in Djibouti's People's Palace conference centre,
presidential candidates handed out their CVs to members of parliament and
had their photos taken with them.
The list of candidates is growing daily. Besides Ahmed and Prime Minister
Hussein, there are members of the TFG and a former prime minister and
academic living in the United States.
Hussein and Ahmed are currently seen as frontrunners. But if one wins, the
other would not be able to become prime minister as they are from the same
clan. Somalia's political framework aims to reflect the country's clan
structure in government. (Editing by Mark Trevelyan)
C Thomson Reuters 2009 All rights reserved
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