Somali parliament opens

Somalia's parliament has held its inaugural meeting, but has adjourned to give members time to plan how to return government to the country.

    Deputies hope to overcome rivalries and end years of conflict

    The parliament, sitting in the capital of neighbouring Kenya, called a one-day recess on Thursday after naming its eldest member as temporary chairman. 

    The decision to give 83-year-old Hirsi Bulhan Farah the chair was a formality, stipulated by the charter guiding the rebuilding of the Horn of Africa nation under the watch of African and international mediators. 

    It is Somalia's 14th attempt at establishing a national government since 1991, when regional commanders toppled president Muhammad Siad Barre and carved the country into clan-based fiefdoms.

    Scuffle

    Lack of security at home has forced parliament to meet in Nairobi. Underscoring the simmering tensions in the nascent assembly, a shoving match broke out on the assembly floor over the number of women in the parliament.

    President Muhammad Siad Barre
    was toppled in 1991

    The scuffle ended after two women spoke out and others urged parliamentarians to calm down. 

    Farah called a brief recess that was soon extended until Friday, after many members found they were without some critical legislative tools.

    All but two or three of the 275 members of the assembly were present on Thursday, although several still had not taken their oaths of office. Five did so on Thursday, leaving a dozen to go.

    Cautious optimism

    Somali journalist Hassan Haj Muhammad voiced cautious optimism about the establishment of the parliament.

    Analysts warn of neighbouring
    countries influence on events

    "This is a very important step for the Somali people as it will be the first legal institution in the country after 13 years of tribal war," Muhammad told Aljazeera.net

    But the Omani-based journalist warned: "This will succeed only if the neighbouring countries' intentions of bringing peace to Somalia were honest, especially those of Ethiopia."

    His caution was echoed by Dr Jalal al-Din Muhammad Salih, an expert in the political issues of the Horn of Africa.

    "This [the parliament] will succeed only if the political players distant themselves from the effects of regional neighbouring countries that do not want to see a stable Somalia," London-based Salih told Aljazeera.net

    Somaliland

    The northwest part of Somalia, which declared itself independent in 1991 under the name Somaliland, also has a role to play in the parliament.

    "North Somalia is not a hurdle in achieving peace. Their issue can be solved with negotiations, no more," said Muhammad.

    "There are currently 47 delegates form the north in the current parliament," he added.

    Somaliland, whose independence is not recognised by international bodies, has enjoyed relative stability.

    SOURCE: Aljazeera + Agencies


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