By Matt Baugh – British Ambassador to Somalia, Nairobi
On Monday, Somalia marked a significant milestone in its history. Twenty years after the country fell into conflict, a new Federal Parliament was inaugurated – paving the way to end the Transition in the next few days, and opening the first legislature to be formed inside Somalia since 1991. This is a huge achievement, both for the people of Somalia and their representatives in Mogadishu.
Success in Somalia is not always easy to measure, and often much harder for those of us who follow developments day-in and day-out. We very rarely step back and look at what has been achieved overall. So I want to take stock of the successes of the last 12 months, because they have been significant and historic.
Firstly, the security situation has improved in a way that none of us thought possible. Thanks to the bravery of AMISOM troops and Somalia’s security forces, Mogadishu is no longer under the control of al-Shabaab; considerable gains have been made in Baidoa and Jubaland. Slowly but surely, Somalis are starting to rebuild their communities; I have seen first-hand life what this means – in Mogadishu, streets are returning to life, shops are opening; homes rebuilt.
Secondly, Somalia’s political process has moved forward. The Transition is ending; its final conclusion is only a matter of days away. Most notably, we now have the beginnings of a parliament that is more representative and more accountable to the Somali people than its predecessors; and a broadly representative National Constituent Assembly that has approved a new provisional Constitution. This is a Somali process, albeit one supported by the international community.
Thirdly, the international community is more united than it has been for a long time. The London Conference in February and the Istanbul II Conference in June played a huge part in this, in particular that Somalia was a country that needed concerted, consistent and coherent support – but that the process needed to be owned and led by Somalis themselves.
Clearly the process could be better – it could still be more transparent; we still need more women to be represented in parliament and to be playing their vital and necessary role in Somalia’s political future. As a number of Somali women told me only the other day, Somalia has been carried on the back of women for over twenty years – a statement with which I entirely agree. Women have a vital role to play – not only in communities, families, businesses and homes; not only in building peace in Somalia, but also in its political leadership. And there is still a lot to do. In my conversations with Somalis, I am always struck by the consistent message: that the Transition must end; that the new Parliament and new Government need to be more credible, more legitimate and more accountable to the Somali people.
I was in Mogadishu on Sunday and Tuesday with my US and EU colleagues. We urged all those involved in the process – the Signatories, the Elders, the New Federal Parliament and the Technical Selection Committee – to continue to work together; to ensure that the remaining MPs are agreed, sworn in and allowed to take their seats in parliament; and to meet the quota for women’s representation. As our Minister also reiterated yesterday, then elections can take place for a Speaker and President preferably in the next few days. Continued dialogue; engagement; discussion – this is what will move the process forward.
With this responsibility, however, comes accountability. I share the concern expressed by the SRSG, AU and IGAD about corruption and intimidation in the process. This is why it is so important that the new Parliament and Government commit to increasing transparency and fighting corruption. We stand ready to support our Somali counterparts in that effort, including through the Joint Financial Management Board, agreed at London and endorsed by the UN Security Council.
Right now, I look forward to the future with some optimism. The conclusion of the Transition should mark the beginning of more representative institutions. As we made clear in our recent joint statement, the international community’s priority remains simple – to ensure that the people of Somalia are better represented and become the beneficiaries of a better political process; a process that can deliver an enduring peace, sustainable economic recovery and the restoration of credible, legitimate and more accountable government prepared and able to meet the aspirations, hopes, freedoms and human rights of the Somali people. Ending the Transition and beginning a new phase in the long struggle for greater stability is within Somalia’s grasp.
As always I would very much welcome your views. What do you think about the end of the Transition? Despite the flaws in the process, what can the international community do to support our Somali counterparts in the next phase of government?