January 28, 2011 / 6:37 PM / 9 years ago

Somalia mandate should be decided by people-minister

* Buck stops with Somalis

* Government not shying away from responsibility

By Aaron Maasho

ADDIS ABABA, Jan 28 (Reuters) - Somali Foreign Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Omaar said on Friday that the mandate of his administration should be decided “by the people”, days after a U.N. official said its extension was not an option.

Under the terms of a 2009 deal, the mandate of Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) expires on August 20, by which time it should have enacted a new basic law and held a general election.

But a raging insurgency has seen the government do little more than battle for survival, while tens of thousands of civilians have been killed over the past four years.

There have been calls from some parts of the government for its term to be extended. Augustine Mahiga, the U.N.’s special representative for Somalia, said this was not an option and talks were needed on what shape the next government takes.

“The international community has been supportive and will be supportive, and we are very grateful for that. But in the end, the buck stops with us,” Omaar told reporters on the sidelines of an African Union summit in the Ethiopian capital.

“We have to come forward with plans and proposals that will be supported not only and primarily by the people of Somalia, but also that are acceptable to the international community,” Omaar said.

During the summit, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is expected to convene a special meeting to discuss Somalia, before another summit takes place in Kenya’s capital Nairobi.

INCLUSIVE GOVERNMENT

With just months left before its mandate runs out, Somalia’s transitional federal government is struggling to oust hardline al Shabaab and Hisbul Islam insurgents who control most of southern Somalia and much of the capital Mogadishu.

The government’s control extends to about half of Mogadishu and it relies on help from African Union (AU) peacekeepers from Uganda and Burundi for its survival.

The U.N. has urged President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, a former Islamist rebel, to open the government’s doors to moderates within the two main rebel factions.

Experts say al Shabaab is split between a nationalist element fighting to topple the Western-backed government and jihadists bent on wreaking havoc across the region.

Political analysts have also blamed the instability on the transitional government’s constant bickering. The Horn of Africa nation’s prime minister unveiled another cabinet in November.

Omaar, however, said his government was not “shying away” from responsibility.

“We are no longer willing to wait for anyone else to solve our problems. We have to tackle them and we will tackle them,” he said.

Up to a million people have been killed by fighting, famine and disease in the 20 years that Somalia has lacked an effective central government, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). (Editing by David Clarke)

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