OPINION / FIKRAD | by Abdi Dirshe | On the eve of the selection of a new President in the formation of next government in Somalia one thing is very clear; the Somali women have been marginalized again by those entrusted with the selection of the new parliament, particularly the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) leaders and the Traditional Elders. Despite the fact that TFG leaders have signed the new Somali provisional constitution and the Garowe Principles which mandate 30% female representation in the parliament, some of the TFG leaders have selected themselves into the new parliament while illegally sidelining the Somali women.
Over two hundred parliamentarians selected so far, only twenty women have been selected into the new parliament in a process where over 82 women were supposed to be included. Interestingly, this process has been underwritten by the international community and its representatives are on the ground, supervising this tragic practice. Despite decades of victimization by warring men and cultural challenges, the Somali women have been playing a constructive role in the peace process and the rebuilding of the new institutions of Somalia. In fact, some Somali female social justice workers have become international icons because they refused to accept marginalization and have become strong voices for the thousands of victims of war. One such female is Asha Hagi Elmi, the internationally celebrated peace activist who has won the Right Livelihood Award in 2008. Having worked in Somalia for the past two decades, Ms. Elmi is not impressed with what she has been witnessing for the past several weeks in Mogadishu and observes that “the selection process has become full of contradictions”. Moreover, Ms. Elmi says that “it is not surprising that in a male dominated society and with corrupted leaders, the Garowe Principles are ignored and women are not given their rightful quota in the new parliament”. This does not bode well for the post transition government and the international community as questions of legitimacy will be raised. Somalia has endured decades of civil war and mistrust towards the official “government”. Past Somali leaders have engaged in widespread nepotism and corruption that continue to have adverse impact on the national psyche. More recently, the United Nations Monitoring group has accused the TFG leaders of shocking widespread corruption and outright theft. These accusations could not be dealt with by the weak domestic institutions in Somalia and the Somali public was looking up to the global actors to take measures against the accused since they are in their payroll. The TFG leaders have become more emboldened by the inaction of the international community and are competing for the leadership of the next government.
However, the TFG leaders are drawing international attention, condemnation and threats. William Hague, the UK Foreign Secretary has recently underscored that the international community will not tolerate the exercise of “bribery, corruption and intimidation by those involved in the selection process of the new parliament”. Similar concerns were raised by the UN and the African Union leaders. However, without any action, these words are nothing but empty rhetoric. It is a known secret in Mogadishu that the hottest commodity in town has been the seat in the new parliament which is alleged to have been offered at a cost of over one hundred thousand dollars. Those with money could buy it from the TFG leaders. The TFG has set up an oversight scheme to oversee the selection process but it is clear, the group entrusted with this responsibility, the Selection Technical Committee has been accused of bribery and realpolitik as they solely select new members according to political calculations as the new parliamentarians will determine the next president of Somalia. The Somali women have become the first victims of this shady process. In this context, many Somalis predict that this will be another missed opportunity and the political conflict in Somalia will continue for many years to come as the new Somali government will likely not be different than the current failed TFG.
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