ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - An east African regional bloc called on Monday for Somalia’s parliament to have its term extended beyond its August deadline and be tasked with deciding the fate of the interim government.
At the same meeting on the sidelines of an African Union (AU) summit, Jean Ping, chairman of the AU Commission, accused Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of “non performance” and making little headway in restoring stability.
An Islamist 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.
Under the terms of a 2009 deal, the TFG’s mandate expires on August 20, by which time it should have enacted a new constitution and held a parliamentary election.
“The Assembly reached a consensus on the urgent need to extend the term of the current Transitional Federal Parliament while the remaining political dispensation be handled by the people of Somalia,” the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) said in a statement.
A senior IGAD source said that meant parliament would decide whether to elect a new leader or allow President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed to remain in office and form a new government.
Somalia’s foreign minister told reporters at the summit that the two-month old government headed by Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed had made security gains in the capital Mogadishu and in the fight against corruption.
“What we need to focus on is not the mandate of the government, the issues of procedure ... but on what is actually gathering momentum,” said the minister, Mohamed Abdullahi Omaar.
Omaar said the TFG’s future would be determined by Somalis. Cabinet, he said, would consult the population, submit a proposal to parliament and negotiations would ensue.
But the IGAD source said its members had rejected a request from the Somali delegation that the term of the president, prime minister and speaker of parliament be extended.
It was not immediately clear how long parliament’s term would be prolonged for.
Underscoring the insecurity in the anarchic country, police and residents of a densely populated section of Mogadishu said a clash between government intelligence officers and police officers had killed some 20 people.
It was not immediately clear what caused the clash, but government forces have in the past fought each other due to political and clan rivalry.
Western intelligence agencies say Somalia has become a hotspot for foreign jihadists bent on destabilising the region.
Apart from signing a peace deal with the moderate sufi militia group Ahlu Sunna, Ahmed’s administration had failed to persuade other militants to lay down arms, Ping said.
“This non-performance ... has impacted negatively on perception of (the TFG’s) legitimacy and credibility, both domestically and internationally,” Ping told the meeting attended by President Ahmed.
The United Nations last week warned Somalia against unilaterally deciding on the shape of the next administration.
The U.N. Security Council agreed last month that the AU peacekeeping force could be increased to 12,000 troops.
“We now need to rapidly generate and deploy the new troops recently authorised by the Security Council, and give the force the technical, logistical and financial support it needs to do its work,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the meeting.