Somalia swears in 283 members of parliament amid international scrutiny
Mogadishu (HOL) – Somalia’s tenth Parliament moved one step close to forming a new government Tuesday with an inauguration ceremony that saw 283 members of parliament (MPs) be sworn in at the General Kahiye Police Academy.
At the tightly secured compound in Mogadishu, 43 MPs of the Upper House and 242 MPs of the Lower House (House of the People), placed their right hands on the Holy Quran in groups of 30 as they took an oath of allegiance.
The ceremony was both held and attended by current senior government officials including Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, Deputy PM Mohamed Omar Arte and Speaker of Parliament, Mohamed Sheikh Osman Jawari who officiated the function calling it a milestone in the history of Somalia.
“We are witnessing a new set of parliamentarians taking over from others. I want to take this opportunity to salute parliamentarians who have been re-elected. This is a huge responsibility bestowed on you by your constituents, and it is a vote of confidence,”
However, in a rare and unusual joint statement, The United Nations, African Union, European Union, Inter-Governmental Authority on Development, Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States all said they were “gravely” concerned about the course of the elections, specifically a number of closed-door decisions made by the NLF in its latest communique.
The statement pointed at several electoral irregularities, delays, and discrepancies that have begun almost at the onset of the 2016 campaign and asked authorities to rectify these mistakes lest they jeopardize the credibility of the entire process.
“International partners strongly believe that elections must be re-run for seats where the voting outcomes were clearly distorted by violence, corruption, intimidation, the unauthorized substitution of electoral college delegates and a failure to set aside one of every three seats for exclusively female candidates. ”
“If these candidates are allowed to take their seats in Somalia’s tenth parliament, it will bring into question the NLF’s expressed commitment to the principles of accountability and credibility that underpin the entire process. It will also undermine the electoral code of conduct signed by all parliamentary candidates in the spirit of leveling the playing field and ensuring the delivery of a credible process.”
The main issue of contention was the NLFs decision to only re-run voting for 5 of the 24 parliamentary seats that the electoral body disqualified for corruption, intimidation and violence and other forms of electoral malpractice.
The statement said the NLF refusal to re-run all the seats in question tacitly amounts to “a blanket amnesty for some of the most blatant irregularities witnessed during this electoral process. It also contravenes the Federal Government’s solemn commitment to respect the rule of law.”
Federal MPs take the oath of allegiance with the Quran in Mogadishu, Somalia. December 27, 2016
What MP’s are saying
“I am happy to represent the people and to be sworn in to serve them and the country,” said Naima Mohamed Ga’al, an MP elected from Galmudug. “I hope we will witness a change in the country.”
MP Ahmed Mayow Abdulle of South West state urged his fellow lawmakers to give priority to the interests of the Somali people.
“I thank my constituents for electing me and all those who made this possible. I hope that as MPs, we will serve our people diligently and in unity,” Mr. Abdulle stated.
Mohamud Hayir Ibrahim was re-elected to parliament from Puntland state and noted the differences between this year’s electoral process and the one that elected Somalia’s ninth parliament four years ago.
“Today is different from 2012 because these MPs were elected in their respective regions,” he said. “They have genuine constituents. Somalia is moving forward and Somali people are maturing.”
Security was beefed up in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu as preparations were made for the inauguration ceremony.
Officials erected road blocks at various thoroughfares through the city and extra security personnel was deployed to thwart potential attacks by Islamic militants.
Vote for Presidency
Earlier this week it was announced that the presidential election is scheduled to take place on January 24th, assuming it not delayed for the fifth time, 275 members of the House of the People and 54* senators from the Upper House will filter through 20 candidates to select Somalia’s next leader.
Among the contenders is incumbent President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, current Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Sharmarke, ex-Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed (Farmajo) and ex-President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed.
The new president will then appoint a prime minister, who in turn will form his cabinet of ministers.
*Although the Somali Constitution only allows for 54 Senators to be members the Upper House, the NLF recently announced an additional 18 seats to be added to the Upper House. It is not yet known what that decision will stand or what their roles will be.