An AU pre-election assessment team in Mogadishu

An African Union pre-election mission has pledged support for the political process in Somalia in advance of next month's election for a parliament and for the presidential election due in September. The four-member pre-election assessment team from the AU Commission arrived in Mogadishu on a two-day fact-finding mission on Monday (July 11) and pledged more support from the African Union to the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) to help stabilize Somalia. The leader of the delegation, Olabisi Dare, the Head of the AU Humanitarian Division in the Political Department of the African Union Commission, said "The situation in Somalia requires that we engage fully and in a more robust manner to be able to support AMISOM. We are aware of the fact that as AMISOM gains ground, the requisite stability to support the security situation is sometimes lacking and this sometimes leads to reversal. For overall security in Somalia, there is need to have the political element to support and give more permanent nature the security that is created by AMISOM."  Mr. Dare reaffirmed the African Union's support to Somalia beyond the forthcoming elections. He said the 54-member continental body was keen to support the growth of the country's institutional structures and federalization process. "We want to support this particular electoral process, but then beyond that, we need to develop institutional capacity, that then gives the state the capability to be able to run itself." Mr. Dare said.

During their visit, the delegation met with the AU Special Representative for Somalia Ambassador Francisco Caetano Madeira and other senior officials at AMISOM, including the Deputy SRCC Lydia Wanyoto, and the AMISOM Acting Force Commander, Major General Nakibus Lakara. The delegation also met with the Somali Deputy Prime Minister, Mohamed Omar Arte and other senior officials of the Federal Government of Somalia, including representatives of political organizations, civil society, the Federal Indirect Elections Implementation Team, the Deputy Special Representative of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) Mr. Raisedon Zenenga, and the UNSOM technical election team.

Mr. Arte commended the African Union for its continued support to Somalia and told the mission that the Federal Indirect Elections Implementation Team (FIEIT) was now working towards finalizing the election schedule and laying down more definitive timelines for the electoral process. Mr. Zenenga told the delegation that "Without the achievements made by AMISOM in creating the space, for the political process to make progress, we would not be where we are today." He said that failure to achieve any thing on the political front wasn't due to a shortage of security space: " The security space to achieve what was set for 2016 is there," he told the AU delegation.

The four-member delegation was there to gauge elections preparedness and identify areas for further support. Mr. Dare said, "We are here to actually listen to all stakeholders, including colleagues in AMISOM as well as partners, particularly the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia. In this regard, we want to look at what is needed, then go back and look at how best the rest of the Commission can support the work of AMISOM, particularly with regards to the electoral process that is forthcoming."

The pre-election assessment team will now make recommendations to the African Union Commission, which will inform its continued support to AMISOM and guide the decisions of the African Union on the scope of the election observer mission it plans to deploy in the country during the August - September electoral process. Mr. Dare said "It is expected that once we scope the electoral landscape as it stands, we will know exactly what it needed and suffice to say that AMISOM has put in place an elaborate security system that will support the electoral process. This elaborate security system gives us confidence that indeed we could physically deploy in all the seven states in the Federation of Somalia."  A statement issued by AMISOM on Wednesday said the four-member pre-election assessment team believed there was need to back security with political support to ensure stability. Mr. Dare noted that "For overall security in Somalia, there is need to have the political element to support and give a more permanent nature to the security that is created by AMISOM."

Meanwhile a high-level delegation from IGAD also arrived this week in Belet Weyne in Hiiraan region. Headed by IGAD's Special envoy for Somalia Mohamed Abdi Afey, it is holding meetings with local elders and politicians on the way to form a federal state for Hiiraan and Middle Shabelle regions.  The delegation is trying to end the standoff between the Federal Government and traditional elders of Hiiraan province over the regional state formation process taking place in Hiiraan and Middle Shebelle regions.  The delegation is trying to persuade the elders from Hiiraan to attend the inter-regional state formation conference expected to re-open in Jowhar. Hiiraan elders have been demanding that the conference should be held in Belet Weyne and that there should be a comprehensive and real reconciliation between Hiiraan clans. They have said that they will not attend the conference until their conditions are met. Hiiraan and Middle Shebelle will be the last of the federal states to be formed to join Puntland, Jubaland, South West and Galmudug, as part of the new constitutional process.