Hopes, doubts expressed about Somalia consultative meeting
By Abdurrahman Warsameh
MOGADISHU -- As the United Nations (UN)- sponsored gathering of key Somali leaders enters its final day, people have expressed mixed feelings regarding the outcome of the meeting in the Somali capital.
The three-day meeting facilitated by the UN Political Office for Somalia is aimed at formulating a roadmap for the war-ravaged country to end the almost seven years of successive transitional administration that largely failed to accomplish key tasks required to lead to a permanent and stable government for Somalia.
The main tasks include the completion of the reconciliation process, and the establishment of a secure environment in the country to make it possible for the holding of free and fair elections. The national constitution should have been drafted during the long transitional period while good governance was supposed to be the bases for administering the affairs of government.
Both organizers and participants of the Mogadishu meeting are hopeful that the country is now ready to move from the transitional era to a more "inclusive and stable government" for the horn of African country that is currently reeling from the worst famine in more than half a century.
Somali President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed expressed confidence that the leaders are able to fulfill in a year what others failed for the past seven years, saying that now that the Islamist rebels whose fight has taken up most of the government's resources are out of the way.
The radical group that has been carrying out deadly insurgency last month retreated out of their most fortified bases in Mogadishu following weeks of sustained military offensive by Somali government forces and African Union peacekeepers.
Somali Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali for his part echoed the hope that the country is now ready to move forward during the next 12-month mandate that the current government has to end the transition by carrying put the four key tasks and preparing the country for the end of the transition in August 2012.
"During the remaining one year we have a huge opportunity to establish a plan based on the four key tasks.. to lead us to have the authority over this country back to the hands of the Somali people," Ali told delegates at the meeting in Mogadishu.
However, some have expressed doubts about the meeting and what it can achieve in the next 12 months that this government and previous ones failed to realize to take the country to a stable and permanent administration.
The Mogadishu meeting is attended by selected leaders from the Somali government and parliament while only two regional states were represented at the gathering. The main Ahlu Sunnah Waljama (ASWJ) which is also a key player in Somalia was only nominally represented as the top leaders stayed away from the meeting.
Mohamed Yusuf, an MP in the Somali parliament, is skeptical that the meeting will not be any different from previous failed gatherings of Somali politicians, saying the meeting is "no more than alliance forming than one to discuss substantive issues in the country."
"We are all interested in the country moving out of transitional period to permanency of stable government, but what is taking place will never illusion anybody as it sidelines key players that should have had their say in the future of this country," Yusuf said.
"Traditional elders who are the true leaders of this country were not invited, nor were Ahlu Sunnah nor anyone from the civil society were represented at that meeting which seems more an alliance forming than one to discuss the substantive issue in the future of this country," Yusuf added.
Community leaders as well as civil society groups said that as the meeting is supposed to charter the future direction of the country it should have been more inclusive and representative of the Somali people instead of having just key leaders of the country discussing on the future of the whole Somalia in three days.
"I don't know what is going to be had in three days that will enable the country to do in a year what it could not do in seven years without a much broader consultation than we are seeing now," a top leader in the Somali civil society said.