Somali gov't rejects UN efforts to hold elections

AP News
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Posted: Apr 14, 2011 10:32 AM
Somali gov't rejects UN efforts to hold elections

Somalia's government on Thursday rejected the outcome of a U.N.-backed meeting on the Horn of Africa nation that called for the ouster of the current leadership to prepare the country for new elections.

The two-day gathering was aimed at working out how Somalia can navigate through an upcoming transitional period. The mandate of the Mogadishu government expires in August, and the government's international backers are demanding that new elections be held.

"That meeting was fruitless and did not meet what was expected of it," said a statement from the Somali government Cabinet. "It was not representing the desires of the Somali people."

The response underscores the tension between the U.N. envoy on Somalia, Augustine Mahiga, and Somali President Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed.

Ahmed's administration was angered that the meeting, held this week in Kenya's capital, Nairobi, was attended by so many officials opposed to a term extension for Ahmed's government. Some two dozen international observers, including the U.S., U.K., EU, African Union and the League of Arab States, were also in attendance.

Mahiga said late Wednesday after winding up the high-level meeting that "there is still room to discuss" the government's position on how it wants to end its term.

Mahiga said it was not up to the U.N. or international community to extend the government's term, but that Somalia's parliament could do so.

Somali government officials on Tuesday called on Somali participants in the meeting to withdraw. The Somalia government did not attend the meeting, though Somali parliamentarians as well as representatives from two regional administrations and a pro-government militia did.

"Decisions have to come from the Somali people. The world is expected to respect the decision of the Somali people," Ahmed said Wednesday.

In an attempt to counter the outside pressure, the Cabinet announced a parallel meeting to be held in Somalia in June to discuss "how to face the future of the Somali people."

Abdirahman Abdishakur Warsame, a Somali parliamentarian and one of the participants at this week's meeting, said the Mogadishu government's refusal to join the talks was out of fear that the gathering would oust the government and elect new leaders.

The Mogadishu government argues that its term should be extended by a year so it has more time to try to provide basic services to Somali residents. The government is currently overseeing an offensive led by African Union troops that has taken back chunks of territory in Mogadishu from insurgents from the militant group al-Shabab.

Participants in the Nairobi meeting also objected to a recent decision by parliamentarians to extend their own mandate by three years. They said the extension should be for two years.

On Tuesday, Somali Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed circulated a four-page dossier containing what he said were the achievements of his technocrats-laden administration in its first 100 days, including providing regular pay to soldiers, reopening the country's central bank and setting up an anti-corruption commission.