Somalia's problems will not end with changing seat of Parliament

 By Mohamud Uluso

To revive the Somali peace process, the first in-country session of Parliament is planned to take place on February 26 th in Baidoa, 250km south west of Mogadishu , the capital. This looks like good news until one considers the implications. The change of the temporary seat of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) from Jowhar to Baidoa could open the door for contest by other towns for the mobile seat of government.

This sets dangerous precedent that could undermine the legitimacy of leadership and more divisions. From the onset, the interim leadership was expected to adhere strictly to the reconciliation Charter during the transition period, climaxing in democratic parliamentary elections.

When President Abdullahi and Speaker Sharif Hassan were elected, donor countries said that they would only recognize if the TFG operated from Mogadishu . On December 29, 2004, a group of intellectuals concerned about the extended presence of Somali government in Kenya wrote to the Prime Minister, Mohammed Ghedi, pointing out that government relocation was not only a security issue, but also a political. They suggested means of speeding up the relocation from Nairobi to Mogadishu .

This raised debate, which encouraged the group to organise a five-day meeting from December 30, 2004 to January 4, 2005 in Nairobi . Following the discussion, the group wrote to the President, the Speaker and the Prime Minister, recommending gradual relocation of the government to Mogadishu . They suggested that the President, Speaker and Prime Minister launch an organised political and public relations campaign by engaging MPs, prominent political leaders, warlords, civil society, traditional leaders, business and religious communities to secure public support and international assistance.

Unfortunately, the government opted for another route to the provincial city of Jowhar .

What is surprising is that some leaders want security guarantee in Mogadishu when the masses have been living in insecurity for 15 years.

Before the collapse of the Somali State in 1991, the country was divided into 18 regions and 92 districts. Today, we have Somaliland and Puntland administrations and Southern regions. The country is awash with arms in the hands of militias and criminals because of the anarchic situation that persisted for so long.

In addition to the physical destruction of infrastructures, the civil war and poverty, Somalia is literally in a shambles as a country. To restore order requires national vision and well-developed political strategy that attracts both domestic and international support.

Some of the advantages of relocating the government to Mogadishu? Apart from adhering to the Charter- include the consolidation of political reconciliation, speeding up diplomatic and financial support by the international community, higher potential revenue generation for the government, avoidance of duplication of costs for startup operations.

Others are availability of sufficient public utility premises, including access to seaports and airports, increase public trust in government commitment to share burden with the people and implementation of immediate tasks in the Charter.

Another encouraging fact is that Mogadishu is the only place in the country where, despite all security concerns, opposing groups and views coexist with relative peace and freedom of expression flourishes.

In other cities, the government will be a guest of one sub clan or one or group of warlords that would control it. This is unlike Mogadishu where MPs criticize warlords and do not pander to their whims.

About two million people are living in Mogadishu . Moreover, the majority of the estimated 350,000 internally displaced people and 50 percent of Militias are in Mogadishu . Therefore, Mogadishu is where the priorities of TFG are.


The writer is a former Cabinet minister and governor of Central Bank of Somalia