The National Leaders Forum in Somalia discusses the electoral process for August..…

Somalia's National Leaders Forum met at Villa Somalia on Sunday (May 29) under the chairmanship of President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud to discuss the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections later this year. The three day meeting was also attended by Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke as well as the Presidents of the Jubaland, South West, Puntland and Galmudug administrations. They were discussing implementation of the electoral model previously endorsed at the National Consultation Forum and promulgated by Presidential decree on Sunday (May 22) after the Government had failed to muster enough votes in Parliament to get its proposed election modalities passed by Parliament. After weeks of deadlock, the President, after warnings that time was running out and with the approval of the UN Representative in Somalia and other international partners, opted for a presidential decree to keep the election process on track. 

The meeting was closed and little information was released about the discussions. Among the items under consideration reportedly was the question of the extra seven seats for the Upper House of Parliament. The original suggestion was for these to be allocated as extra representation for Somaliland and Puntland as the two longest existing states. Another suggestion was that they should go to Benadir region which includes the capital Mogadishu. Shortly before the meeting opened, President Mohamud said it was "unsustainable for a city of three million not to be represented in the Upper House".  However, there was some concern expressed about allocating seats in the Upper House to Benadir region. One Federal MP, Sharif Mohammed Abdulla, said on Monday this week that Mogadishu deserves to have its share in the Upper House and he was optimistic that the leaders would "close the gap about the status of Mogadishu and a solution will be reached." Among other topics were implementation of 2016 poll blueprint, the status of the capital, national security and poll wards. The leaders are reported to have approved Somalia's National Security Policy.

Reports indicated that the leaders had agreed not to spend time on issues that were not part of the original agreement, endorsed by the National Leadership Forum. This meant more contentious issues such as the allocation of seats for the Benadir region in the Upper House were put aside with leaders agreeing "not to waste time". Most of the discussions related to other issues including the replacement of those traditional leaders who had died since the selection of the current parliament in 2012. Conclusions on this were not finalized and will be carried forward to the next meeting. The full schedule and timing of the elections are now set to be officially announced at the next meeting.

A statement issued at the end of last week, on Friday (June 3), from the President's Office emphasized that Somalia would choose a new parliament as planned later this year. It said: "The conference repeats the previous promise that there will be no extension term and the election will take place at the planned time." It also noted that the further procedural details would be discussed at the next conference of regional leaders and the President on June 20, in Baidoa, and this would also finalize the details of exactly how the future lawmakers would be selected.

The Special Representative of the AU Commission and head of AMISOM, Ambassador Madeira, welcomed the statement and the fact that "the Somali leaders have agreed on the technical and political bodies to oversee the elections in manner that the election can be credible" He noted that each MP would be elected by 51 voters and "we consider this to a step in the right direction considering that Somalia is coming out from a deep crisis."  He announced the next day that AMISOM was gearing itself up to provide security to ensure a peaceful vote during the upcoming electoral process in Somalia. He said AMISOM had already begun working with the Somali Government and security forces to establish a technical security committee to oversee security arrangements for the August ballot. Ambassador Madeira said "The commitment taken by Somali politicians and leaders is that the 2016 elections be viewed as another transition towards a full-fledged electoral process of one-person-one-vote by 2020. We are happy that they have all agreed on how to go about this."

The electoral model developed by the National Leadership Forum follows the Garowe Agreement reached between the Federal Government and the Puntland State Administration on April 4 this year. This resolved the dispute over whether to base the electoral model on the 4.5 clan formula or on districts and constituencies, covering the  2016 electoral process, formation of  the Upper House of the Federal Parliament, a 2020 roadmap, the constitutional review process, federation and other issues. It was following this that members of the Federal Parliament set up a parliamentary committee to consider amendments and prepare a draft 2016 election law. The process, however, dragged on and the delays began to threaten the timetable and caused concern both with the government and with the international community which had guaranteed and witnessed the Garowe agreement. In the end the President felt obliged to issue decree mandating the implementation of the electoral model adopted by the National Leadership Forum on April 12, underlining that this would be used only for the 2016 election after the expiration of the constitutional terms of the legislative and executive institutions. The President said it was imperative the electoral model be adopted into law to prevent any escalation of rifts and protect the interests of the country. According to Somalia's Provisional Federal Constitution, adopted in 2012, the mandates of the Somali Federal Parliament and of the government would come to an end in August and September 2016, respectively.

….President Mohamud on an official visit to Kenya and the Dadaab camp…

President Mohamud of Somalia paid a three-day official visit to Kenya this week (June 6-8) during which he visited the Dadaab camp and held talks with President Kenyatta on Tuesday (June 7). At Dadaab, President Mohamud assured refugees that the Government of Somalia was committed to receive them back home to participate in the process of state building, peace building and national reconciliation. He reassured them that the repatriation will be orderly, humane and dignified as per the Tripartite Agreement between Somalia, Kenya and the UNHCR. After talks with President Kenyatta on Tuesday, reviewing bilateral and multilateral issues including peace, security and stability in Somalia, repatriation of refugees from Dadaab and economic cooperation a joint communique was issued, reaffirming "the good neighborliness, bonds of heritage, shared destiny and the cordial relationship" between Kenya and Somalia. The two Presidents also "rededicated themselves and their Governments to enhance and further deepen the cordial relations that exist between Kenya and Somalia."

The statement appreciated the contribution of African countries within the framework of AMISOM in stabilizing Somalia and commended the value of cooperation between AMISOM and the Somalia Security Forces in securing a stable environment for state building in line with Somalia's Vision 2016. It specifically appreciated the key role that Kenya continued "to play in promoting peace, security, unity and stability in Somalia". It also noted the progress made in the political process and expressed confidence that the elections would lead to a foundation for a stable and prosperous Somalia. It committed the two sides "to working jointly on the orderly, humane and dignified repatriation of the Somali refugees back to Somalia as per the Tripartite Agreement," and emphasized that the Tripartite Agreement provided "the framework for fast-tracking orderly, humane and dignified repatriation". It said this cooperation would enhance the spirit of collaboration over and above the framework of the Tripartite Agreement. It also called upon the international community to support this process by providing adequate support to the Federal Government of Somalia to receive the returnees.

On bilateral cooperation, the statement directed   the immediate convening of the Joint Commission for Co-operation to follow up on issues of joint border crossing and security, trade and investment, health, education, sports and youth, culture and scientific research and communication. It agreed that in the short term customs and immigration clearance procedures for flights from Somalia to Kenya should be carried out at one point of entry which would be determined shortly; in the longer term, modalities would be developed for a direct flight between Somalia and Kenya.

On regional issues, the two sides agreed to consult the Chair of the IGAD Assembly of Heads of State and Government for the convening of the IGAD Summit in Mogadishu. They also reaffirmed their firm commitment to work together on areas of mutual interest.