In a key first step toward restoring political stability to war-torn Somalia, a special congress has convened there to begin the process of approving a new national constitution. Over the next week, an 825-member National Constituent Assembly that was chosen by the nation’s traditional elders will debate and vote on a provisional legal framework for a new federal government to take office after the mandate for the interim administration expires next month. The Provisional Constitution will eventually be put to the Somali people in a national referendum.
Somalia has lacked a stable central government since the ouster of a revolutionary council led by former president Mohamed Siad-Barre in 1991. In 2004 an internationally-recognized transitional federal government was established, with a mandate to restore democratic rule, but it has struggled with clan rivalries, environmental crises such as drought, an insurgency that has displaced tens of thousands of citizens, and inefficient transitional federal institutions that have struggled to deliver responsive, representative and transparent governance. A 2011 deadline for forming a new government was not met.
Over the last year however, strong Somali leadership has led to significant progress on completing the transitional tasks and paving the way for a new government that can better meet the needs of the Somali people. The United States alongside other international partners has saluted this progress. At the same time, the U.S. and the United Nations have clearly stated that spoilers who actively seek to prolong the broken status quo will not be tolerated.
Our nation is committed to restoring peace and stability to Somalia and welcomes the National Constituent Assembly’s convening. It is a milestone in the nation’s democratic transition. The next major step is for Somalia’s traditional elders to select a new parliament that will in turn elect a Speaker and President. Selection of the new Parliament should commence immediately so that these remaining tasks be completed quickly and transparently so the transition ends on schedule August 20, and Somalia is able to usher in a new era of governance that is more responsive, representative and accountable.