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Somalia’s Struggle for Normalcy
UN Dispatch
Wednesday, August 15, 2012

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Twenty years without an effective government is not a record that countries would seek out willingly. Since 2004, Somalia has been ruled by the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), an attempt to slowly get Somalia back on its feet. The TFG experiment is now coming to an end, as a new permanent Constitution has been approved.

International accolades have poured forth since the adoption, but many challenges await Somalia. Most immediate and pressing is the need to select a new Parliament, who will then choose a new President. That task, sure to be daunting in states that haven’t been considered failed for an entire generation, needs to take place before the UN-mandate of the TFG expires next Monday. The 135 tribal elders charged with providing names for those who will represent the various clans and factions of Somalia in Parliament were to have submitted their candidates for approval by last Thursday.

The Technical Selection Committee, in charge of verifying that those candidates named meet previously agreed upon standards for joining Parliament, is facing a rough time of their work. Intimidation and violence are reported to be marring the selection process, leading the United Nations, African Union, and Intergovernmental Authority on Development to issue a joint statement of warning to potential spoilers. Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon and the U.S. Embassy in Kenya echoed those concerns. What consequences said spoilers would face is unclear.

Once the new Parliament takes their seats, they’ll be facing greater headwinds that many other governments had to face in their infancy. Despite many promises laid forward in the Constitution’s text, it will be difficult to fulfill lofty goals surrounding the rights of children and education. According to UNICEF, Somali enrollment in primary education ranks among the lowest in the world, with no survey having been done since 2004.

Recent security gains in Mogadishu proved fragile as the very approval of the new Constitution was the subject of an unsuccessful attack by suicide bombers. It is uncertain how far the reach of the new government will be in terms of providing security, with only a few thousand trained soldiers composing the Somali National Army. Much of the burden of countering militant groups and protecting civilians will continue to fall to the much larger UN-funded African Union mission AMISOM for the near future.

The rest of the burden seems to have been taken on by the United States. The U.S. has established several air bases throughout East Africa, from which unmanned aircraft are launched and used to target Somali militants. With al-Shabaab openly allying itself with al-Qaeda, the US stepped up their campaign, with the either implicit or explicit support of the TFG, though not always in coordination with the United Nations. It is unlikely that a new Parliament will act to end these missions on their territory.

Ransoming of ships attacked on the high seas remains nearly synonymous with Somalia. According to the International Marine Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Center, piracy so far this year has been the cause of 13 hijackings in the seas surrounding Somalia, with 212 hostages currently being held. This statistic, combined with the fact that the majority of Somalia’s natural resources, including charcoal, remain under embargo due to their sale by warlords and militants, will make an economic comeback difficult.

Still, the fact that the Somali people will once more be responsible for their own governance is an encouraging development. Somalia’s struggle towards normalcy has proved daunting, with too many setbacks and false starts over the years. As the TFG is replaced with an actual Federal government, it’s a new chance for the power brokers of the past to make decisions that actual benefit the citizens of Somalia. For a change.


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