The TFG was established in 2004 with a five-year mandate meant to lead to the establishment of a permanent government, following national elections in 2009. In January 2009, the TFG extended this mandate an additional two years to 2011, also expanding the number of members of the parliament, including 200 members of parliament (MPs) from the opposition Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia and 75 MPs from civil society and other groups, doubling the size of the TFG to 550 MPs. Consideration of a constitution continues.
In a February 3 meeting in Mogadishu which was attended by some 435 lawmakers, the House unanimously approved the motion put forward by the House’s Constitution and Federal Affairs Committee, led by lawmaker Abdiqadir Sheikh Ismail.
“Out of the 435 members present today, 421 voted in favor, 11 rejected while 3 abstained,” said Parliament Speaker Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden. "The extension period will run from August 2011 until August 2014 without further extension," he added. Minutes before he made the declaration, the Speaker suggested to the parliament that the extension term should be limited to two years, plenty of time for the House to complete its business. However, that proposal was rejected by the lawmakers.
Now that the parliament's mandate has been extended, members are expected to select a new Speaker in the next few months and a President in July or August.
The terms of a 2009 peace deal signed in neighboring Djibouti that formed the interim government require the mandate to expire on August 20, 2011, by which time the interim government should have enacted a new constitution and held a parliamentary election.
Following the collapse of the Barre regime in 1991, various groupings of Somali factions have sought to control the national territory (or portions thereof) and have fought small wars with one another. Approximately 14 national reconciliation conferences have been convened over the succeeding decade.
The governments of Egypt, Yemen, Kenya, and Italy also have attempted to bring the Somali factions together. In 1997, the Organization of African Unity and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) gave Ethiopia the mandate to pursue Somali reconciliation. In 2000, Djibouti hosted a major reconciliation conference (the 13th such effort), which in August resulted in the creation of the Transitional National Government (TNG), whose three-year mandate expired in August 2003. Kenya organized the Somalia National Reconciliation Conference, a 14th reconciliation effort, in 2002 under IGAD auspices. The conference concluded in August 2004 with the establishment of a Transitional Federal Government (TFG).
A transitional government, the components of which are known as the Transitional Federal Institutions (TFIs), was formed in accordance with the Transitional Federal Charter. The TFIs include a transitional parliament, known as the Transitional Federal Parliament (TFP), as well as a Transitional Federal Government (TFG) that includes a transitional President, Prime Minister, and a Cabinet known as the "Council of Ministers." For administrative purposes, Somalia is divided into 18 regions; the nature, authority, and structure of regional governments vary, where they exist.
The U.N.-backed government controls only a few neighborhoods in the capital with the help of 8,000 African Union peacekeepers, and the parliament is frequently mortared by insurgent groups.
Somalia has been without an effective central government since the ouster of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.
The United Nations' top envoy for Somalia expressed his disappointment on February 4 with the decision by the TFG to extend its mandate by three years.
In a statement issued in Nairobi, Augustine Mahiga, the U.N. Secretary-General's special representative to the Horn of Africa nation, declared: "This is a disappointing decision taken in haste without the required level of discussion and consultation on how to end the transition and on the next political dispensation after August 20."
The job-extending vote also drew a scathing response from the United States, which said the extension could even strengthen Somalia's most dangerous militant force, al-Shabaab, an insurgent group that actively recruits Somali-Americans and which masterminded the twin bombings in Uganda during the World Cup final last July.
"This unilateral and unrepresentative extension ... serves only to further undermine the credibility of the Parliament and risks strengthening al-Shabaab," the U.S. statement said. "This self-serving political maneuvering calls into question the suitability of the senior leadership of the Parliament as viable partners for the Somali people and the international community as we collectively work to bring peace, stability, and progress back to Somalia."
Somali political analyst Dr. Mohamed Abdullahi was also critical. He told the The New American that parliament was supposed to organize elections and create a new constitution before its mandate expired, but has failed to do so:
This government ... fails to recognize at a great peril to the future of our people the realities on the ground that demand swift and concrete changes of mandate, strategy and the entire modus operandi. TFG’s long publicized military offensive to rout the armed opposition, dubious peace deals and the illegal process of writing [a] new constitution for the country in neighboring countries’ five-star hotels are empty measures designed to deflect public opinion so [as] to prolong its stay in office which means continuation of the status quo.
Continuation of this situation only means destruction of Somali nationhood and identity. The much-suffering Somali nation urgently needs [a] new approach and direction for national rebirth. The era of holding peace conferences in foreign lands to replace [a] failed transitional government with another failure-bound transitional government must end.
Corrupt politicians and political payoffs are widely blamed for the failure to make progress toward a permanent political unit. Abdullahi was asked about whether Somali legislators received enough money to be able to reject corruption — they each receive $300 a month from the United Nations. He replied: “The Somali government was chosen by foreign nations, not by Somalia’s; that is why there has been a war between the U.N.-backed [government] and the insurgents for at least a decade.” He added:
Corruption has swept Somali political affairs in 20 years of clashes. At least all government officials — mostly Members of Parliament and Ambassadors — have become avenues for lining the pockets with the national resources. Somali government Ministers have auctioned off diplomatic visas for trips to Europe to the highest bidders, some of whom may have been pirates or insurgents. Now the question is, “How would they end their corrupt businesses (TFG mandate)?” I am sure these extension games of “corruption” will continue.
According to the report from the United Nations Security Council’s Monitoring Group on Somalia, a number of stinging allegations have been unveiled, all of which back up Dr. Abdullahi’s claims. The report reveals that officials in Somalia (one of the most violent and needy countries in the world) were collaborating with pirates, that the Somali security forces were “ineffective, disorganized and corrupt,” that United Nations contractors were helping insurgents, and that huge amounts of food aid was stolen.
Additionally, U.S. State Department Deputy Secretary James Steinberg commented during a visit to Kenya on February 4 that Washington hasn't seen any progress by the Transitional Federal Government, adding,
We just can't continue with business as usual. We have been frankly disappointed with the performance of the TFG. It has not broadened its base of support. It has not been effective in meeting the needs of the people.
The United States has warned that the Horn of Africa nation is turning out to be an al-Qaeda safe haven, with terrorist-linked groups such as al-Shabaab controlling large swaths of southern and central regions and waging deadly insurgency against the U.N.-backed Somali government. Along with other insurgent groups such as Hisbul Islam, al-Shabaab has trapped the country's U.N.- and U.S.-backed Transitional Federal Government into a small part of Mogadishu, the Somali capital.
Graphic: Somali flag