Bigger not better for Somalia

Parties to the peace talks aimed at ending the conflict in Somalia have reached a power-sharing deal in Djibouti that doubles the size of Parliament, observers said.

But analysts fear the deal is unworkable and it seems to have widened the split within the Transitional Federal Government (TFG).

Representatives of the TFG and a faction of the Eritrea-based Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS), led by Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, began their latest talks on November 22.

“It was not perfect, but it was a compromise deal to get a unity government,” Mohamed Abdi Yusuf, a member of the ARS central committee and one of the negotiators, said this week.

“It is a bitter pill but we have to swallow it for the good of the country and the people.”

Other sources, however, said interim President Abdullahi Yusuf was not involved and opposed the deal.

“The president was not in any way involved in this agreement, therefore nothing agreed there is binding on him,” Abdirashid Mohamed Iro, an MP and close adviser to Yusuf, said.

The agreement provides for the enlargement of Parliament to 550 members from 275. Two hundred seats will go to the ARS and 75 to civil society, including women, the business community and the diaspora.

The talks also extended the length of the transitional period for two years starting in August next year.

Iro described the deal as unworkable. “A 550-member Parliament for Somalia is simply unrealistic and unsustainable,” he said. “We don’t even have space big enough to hold meetings.”

An analyst said it would be difficult to implement. “Increasing the size of the Parliament may just complicate matters and will make reaching decisions extremely difficult,” Timothy Othieno, a regional analyst at the London-based Overseas Development Institute, said.

The arrangement between the TFG and one faction was bound to come into conflict with the Asmara faction and Al-Shabab “which, unfortunately, once again, spells doom for the people of Somalia”.

“I am afraid this arrangement may fail,” said Othieno.

Neither the armed wing of the Islamic Courts, the al-Shabab group, nor the Asmara faction of the ARS, led by Sheikh Hassan Dahir, was involved in the Djibouti talks.

A civil society activist said the agreement was a compromise document “and will not please everybody”, including those who signed it.

“The TFG is divided and so is the alliance and that will make their work even more difficult,” he said. “The main challenge now is not only to sell the agreement to the Somali people and the international community but to their own erstwhile allies.”—Irin

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