Tuesday, June 17, 2003

SOMALIA: Disagreement over number and selection of future parliamentarians
NAIROBI, 17 JUNE 2003 (IRIN) - After days of bargaining, Somali groups meeting in the Mbagathi suburb of the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, have failed to reach agreement over the number and mode of selection of the members of a future interim parliament, a source from the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), close to the talks, told IRIN on Tuesday.

According to the source, the Somali Reconciliation and Restoration Council (SRRC), a grouping of southern factions opposed to the Transitional National Government (TNG), favours "a parliament of 450 members with the 361 delegates [to the peace conference] forming the basis". The TNG and donors, on the other hand, reject the figure of 450, and argue that the selection process should involve traditional leaders.

The TNG minister of information, Abdirahman Ibbi, told IRIN on Tuesday that the TNG opposed the figure of 450, because it was not economically viable. Ibbi said selection should not be made by the delegates present, but by elders. "The official position of the TNG is that traditional elders should have the final say in the selection of the MPs," he said.

Glenn Warren, the political officer for Somalia at the US Embassy in Nairobi, told IRIN that the international community felt that 450 parliamentarians for Somalia were "excessive". "It is difficult to justify and too large for decision-making," he said.

Another diplomat involved in the talks concurred, saying that a 450-member parliament "will be too large and unwieldy to make the hard decisions it needs to make in the interim period".

Warren said the selection process should involve elders and others and be "as broadly based as possible". According to second diplomat, "traditional elders must be involved in the selection process to give legitimacy to the whole process inside Somalia".

In an attempt to break the impasse, IGAD's technical [mediating] committee and the Kenyan special envoy, Bethwel Kiplagat, were meeting members of the leaders' committee, the IGAD source said. "They are trying to see if there is a possibility of bridging whatever gap may exist between the different positions, and reach a consensus. I am very optimistic that the gap can be bridged."

Another source, however, told IRIN that the gap between the TNG's position and that of the SRRC was such that "it will be very difficult to bridge".

The talks - which began last October - are being held under the auspices of IGAD's technical committee, made up of Somalia's neighbours or so-called frontline states - Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti.


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