- Around 250 Somali Members of Parliament (MPs) will start a six-day UN training seminar today to prepare the ground for a new federal constitution in Somalia. The MPs, who mostly lack any kind of parliamentary and legal training, will thus have about two years to prepare a new constitution for Somalia.
Somalia has lacked a working government ever since the collapse of Dictator Muhammad Siad Barre's regime 15 years ago. The current transitional government and parliament is dominated by Somali warlords, agreeing to lay down weapons at a peace conference in Kenya last year. To get passed transition and establish an elected government and parliament, Somalia will need a new constitution.
However, constitutions are delicate issues, demanding ample knowledge on democratic structures and legal frameworks. In Somalia's case, a split country that has experienced war for 15 years, making a new constitution is even more complicated as it will have to find a workable and agreeable balance between local forces and central forces.
The UN thus decided to send most of the Somali MPs back to school to learn about the complicated material. The seminar on "Federalism and Constitutional Affairs" is taking place in the northern Somali town of Baidoa, the interim seat of most of the government, the UN informed today.
The special seminar has been organised by the UN Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS) "to stimulate a dialogue on the Transitional Federal Charter, to help members understand how federal government works and to enhance their legislative and policymaking capacity," according to a news release issued in UNPOS' Nairobi headquarters.
According to the current peace and transition deal, a new constitution must be drafted within two and half years and adopted by popular referendum in 2009, the last year of the transitional period. From 2010 and onwards, the peace agreement foresees that a normal, elected government takes office in Somalia.
This was decided in the Transitional Federal Charter that was approved by the 2004 National Reconciliation Conference in Kenya. That landmark event also created the current transitional federal institutions, which include the Somali parliament. The Baidoa parliament held its first extraordinary session on 26 February of this year.
"For the seminar, UNPOS has commissioned experts to make a comparative analysis of federal systems and explain to the Somali parliamentarians how legitimate power is shared," the UN agency today informed.
The seminar is one of six projects recently approved by the UN Department of Political Affairs to back peace-building and reconciliation efforts in Somalia by supporting civil and political leadership, demobilising militias, preventing the re-emergence of large-scale conflict among militia groups and resuming commercial and income generating opportunities, UNPOS said.
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