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UN Envoy relocates to Somalia after 17yrs

Ambassador Mahiga, who was welcomed at the airport by Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, Somali Officials and foreign diplomats, said he was delighted that the UN Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS) would now be working from the capital.

The last Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) to be based in Mogadishu, James Victor Gbeho of Ghana, who was with the UN Operations in Somalia II (UNOSOM II), left in early 1995. UNPOS was established shortly afterwards and was based in Nairobi. However UN staff remained in Somalia throughout the following years and at present six agencies have permanent staff in Mogadishu. 

“Without the incredible efforts and sacrifice of the troops from Somalia and other African countries, we would not be here today,” said Ambassador Mahiga. He pledged to the Somalis that the UNPOS move to Somalia would herald the beginning of a new era of cooperation and political engagement as the transitional period draws to a close. 

The Incompetency of UNPOS and Failure of the Leadership In Mogadishu - By Ahmed Kheyre

The Incompetency of #UNPOS and Failure of the Leadership In #Mogadishu - By Ahmed Kheyre

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In 2010 the International community hosted a conference on Somalia in London. It was a truly international gathering over 50 nations, including heavyweights such as British PM David Cameron, US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, UN  chief Ban-Ki Moon and many others. The conference was intended to set up a road map for Somalia’s recovery from anarchy, piracy and terrorism. The conference also,…

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Somali Draft Provisional Constitution Guidebook

After independence in 1960, the Republic of Somalia adopted a written constitution by national referendum. This was replaced by a new constitution in 1979, adopted again by national referendum. Following the total breakdown of governmental structures in Somalia in the 1990s, the Transitional National Charter, adopted in 2000, was the first attempt to reestablish governmental functions by means of a constitution.

The Transitional National Charter expired in 2003, and was replaced by the Transitional Federal Charter in 2004. Today, this remains the transitional constitution governing the Transitional Federal Government and its institutions. The National Constituent Assembly is now empowered to provisionally adopt a new constitution to replace the Transitional Federal Charter. This constitution would then become the permanent constitution for Somalia pending adoption by national referendum.

The Guide Book below is designed to aid the Somali people to become familiar with the contents of the draft Provisional Constitution.

Available in Somali and English.

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Renewed Hope in Somalia

By Hasmik Egian, Chief of Staff - United Nations Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS)

January 24th, 2013

No amount of hearing and reading about the “paradigm shift” in Somalia, could have prepared me for the incredible reality of the change that unfolded in front of my eyes as we were driven last week from southern to northern Mogadishu to witness the transformation of the city. These were my first sightings of life outside the “UN wire”.

The skeleton symbols of the past war were everywhere, standing next to the newly rising constructions of residential houses, shopping centres, small businesses, restaurants and cafes, new streets being built and old ones cleared of debris.

As I continued the journey with my UN colleagues, we saw what real change meant in Mogadishu. It was an eye opener to see how the bullet-ridden city has changed for the better. It was also confirmation that the successful end of the transition in August 2012, leading to the establishment of Federal Government, is truly benefiting the country. In the past, the streets of Mogadishu had been deserted, but as we drove we saw a vibrant residential area around Lido Beach, the ghosts of once elegant villas and former embassies, juxtaposed with the ever-present tented IDP camps. Still, it was all reminiscent of a place that must have been beautiful once.

The lighthouse near the fish market, was picture-perfect, with fishing boats floating in the azure waters of the Indian Ocean, while holed-out edifices of Ottoman and Italian architecture line the road close to the market area. We witnessed a stunning beachfront of cafes and restaurants serving delicious fresh juices and an array of hot drinks - from traditional tea to cappuccinos, as well as an assortment of local dishes, with families enjoying a peaceful afternoon of togetherness. Had it not been for the armed guards on the beach, it would have been a perfect place of peace and harmony in any other part of the world. Even more surprising was to see a group of young boys and girls playing football on the beach, full of laughter.

Amidst all the destruction, there was so much vibrancy, life and hope … no one would have believed that this would have been possible a year ago in a city/country which had become the quintessential “failed state”. It was a place where hope was the last thing on people’s minds and yet, there it was hope being materialised right in front of our eyes. Seeing “inside” Mogadishu and “feeling” the vibrancy was also a reminder of the great strides made by the Somalis, with support from the international community, including UNPOS, in bringing about a successful political transition which has helped, in turn, to herald these changes on the streets of Mogadishu.

Now that Somalia has a new President, Prime Minister and Parliament, there is a new sense of hope, hope that is paving the way to a brighter future for the people of Somalia.

See scenes of change in Mogadishu on the UNPOS FLICKR site: http://bit.ly/Won9rF and on @UNPOSomalia.

Somali Presidential election date set for 10 September is “yet another positive step towards ending the transitional period and ushering in a new, more representative Somali government,” says UN Envoy Mahiga.
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The Newly formed Presidential Election Committee met in Mogadishu yesterday and agreed on a date for the Somali Presidential election - to be held on Monday, 10 September.

Read the full Webstory on the UNPOS website.

A billboard from the BE INVOLVED: MY COUNTRY, MY CONSTITUTION public outreach and education campaign in the Dabka Junction in central Mogadishu. The provisional constitution will provide the base for future progress and development. It will protect human rights, ensure adequate women’s participation and guarentee fundamental freedoms without discrimination on the grounds of race, colour, gender, language, religion, political or other opinion, origin, or other status.

Two hostages released but still many more held in captivity, by UNPOS Chief Counter Piracy and Maritime Security, John Steed

Sunday, 4 November - Two hostages from the Seychelles were released today from captivity after strenuous efforts by the Seychelles Government for over a year. The two hostages, Rony Tambara and Marc Songoire, were captured on 30th October 2011 when their fishing vessel FV Aride ship was attacked by Somali pirates 65 miles west of the Seychelles. The Hostage Relief Programme run by UNPOS and UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) assisted the Seychelles Government with links on the ground. While we welcome with relief the release of the two Seychelles nationals, our thoughts remain with the 147 crew still held on ships and the 41 other victims held on land. The Hostage Relief Programme will continue its efforts in providing its specialised knowledge and expertise on Somalia to help bring people home when it’s possible and put an end on the ordeal endured by the victims of piracy.

Open letter to Somali Parliamentarians

SRSG Augustine Mahiga

Mogadishu, 6 September 2012

My brothers and sisters, As-Salaamu Alaikum. I write to you as we approach a truly momentous day for all Somalis.  After two decades of civil war, a collapsed state and innumerable indignities to the proud Somali people, we are hours away from the election of a new President—the event that will completely end the transitional period and move us towards a phase of political and socio-economic transformation.

Read the full letter on the UNPOS website

SRSG Mahiga: Transition to Transformation in Somalia

10 August 2012

One of the truths I’ve come to learn during my time working on the Somalia peace process is that everything seems impossible—until it happens. I have lost count of the number of times I have read or been told that a particular benchmark simply could not be met or that an impasse could not be overcome. When I began as SRSG, one of my diplomatic interlocutors referred to Mogadishu as “The Capital Kilometer”—a reference to the small amount of territory held by the TFG.  Around the same time, prior to the June 2011 Kampala Accord, the political process in Mogadishu was completely paralyzed. Cynicism bordering on hostility was the norm. There was a real danger of the TFG fracturing into two separate and competitive governments. The end of the transitional period was a distant dream, given little chance of realization by most observers. 

Since then, the TFG—with the help of our brave AMISOM brothers and sisters—have retaken their capital city. A reinvigorated peace process characterized by inclusiveness and participation of regional administrations allowed for progress on a number of critical political issues. We’ve seen the signing of the roadmap in Mogadishu, the agreement of the Garowe Principles to underpin the ongoing process and most recently the watershed adoption of the provisional Constitution by a National Constituent Assembly representing all segments of Somali society. But this is no time to rest on our laurels—in fact on the contrary now is the critical moment; the decisive juncture when full engagement can mean all the difference. And let us be clear: the situation remains fragile and volatile. A functioning legislature will be central to stability, stabilization and development and the New Federal Parliament needs to be selected in the coming days with a sufficient number of women to ensure gender balance and adequate representation. The selection process must be transparent and fair and the Technical Selection Committee must continue with its important and historic task.  Their work will require courage, integrity and overall, independence.  Somalia needs a clean, qualified and competent leadership with a vision for the future. 

As the end of the transition on 20 August nears, the stakes will get higher and the potential for spoilers to undermine the process will increase. I am sure there will be moments in the coming days when the situation will look bleak and the critics will again raise the familiar cry that things never really change in Somalia.  I reject this hopelessness and I remain more optimistic. When I look back on the past year, I see how far we have come, I see how the Somalis have tenaciously moved the process forward, I see a civil society determined to participate in a vibrant and inclusive political process. We have climbed a big hill, but now that we are near the top, it is clear to see that a long road stretches out in front of us. It is time to move, together, from selection to election, from transition to transformation.  

Challenge and Opportunity

The following post was submitted by Robin Gary, Constitution Legal Adviser for UNDP/UNPOS, who is spearheading UNPOS’ NCA task force in Mogadishu.

At the beginning of April I accompanied the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Peter de Clercq on the mission to assess the possible venues for the National Constituent Assembly; along with representatives of the Transitional Federal Government we visited a handful of sights and came out feeling that this task was impossible. How were we going to accomplish the preparation of a venue to hold the biggest constituent assembly in the world in one of the most dangerous cities in the world without enough time and with insufficient resources?

In our moment of despair, we looked to the Somalis. And as we began to engage, they stepped up to the challenge. As we approach the commencement of the NCA deliberations, the task we thought was unachievable, the test that we believed we were destined to fail, has been achieved.  I visited the venue today and improbably, it is ready to host one of the most important events in Somalia’s recent history, an event that can change the course of the country and provide for a better life for all Somalis.

In reflecting on this process, I can’t help but think that, in a way, it mirrors the struggle that Somalia has grappled with for the last 20+ years–a seemingly insurmountable task of creating a stable and secure environment for all Somalis. Progress has ebbed and flowed, felt hopeless and at times looked impossible – but then, with dedication, remarkable progress is achieved very quickly. It is my hope that, as the Somalis have succeeded to rehabilitate and elevate the venue to provide a comfortable environment for the Constituent Assembly in this limited time period, that another great success is looming and that we are on the eve of a historic moment in Mogadishu where a real change is going to take place.

UNPOS SRSG Augustine Mahiga's Letter to the Somali People

9 July 2012

As-Salaamu Alaikum,

My friends, we now find ourselves at a decisive moment in the Somali peace process. Since I last wrote to you all in March, a number of remarkable developments have taken place. We are very close to witnessing one of the most significant political events in a generation: the adoption of a provisional draft constitution by a Somali National Constituent Assembly (NCA). The road that led us here has been difficult, with many bends, bumps and no shortage of obstacles.  But the Somali people have worked hard to overcome these challenges and their efforts have begun to bear fruit.  On 22nd June 2012 the signatories to the Roadmap process signed the provisional Somali Constitution at the Principal’s meeting in Nairobi. The draft text will be submitted in mid-July 2012 to a National Constituent Assembly representing the full spectrum of Somali society and in turn selected by a group of 135 traditional Elders representing all of Somalia’s clans in accordance with the “4.5 formula”. The Principals also agreed on a number of mechanisms to help move the process forward in the small amount of time left before the Transitional period expires on 20 August, including creation of an International Observer Group and a series of protocols establishing a Technical Selection Committee, a Signatories’ Technical Facilitation Committee, the National Constituent Assembly and the New Federal Parliament.  Each of these bodies has an important “quality control” role to play in safeguarding the political process and ensuring the adoption of the provisional constitution and preparation for elections by the new Parliament of the President, the Speaker and his or her Deputies. 

The adoption of the provisional constitution will indeed be a watershed. But here, let me make an important point: this approval will not be the end point of the constitutional process but the beginning of a new chapter. The Somali people will have ample opportunity to provide input and amendments to the document in the post-August period ahead of a public referendum to be held before the end of the new parliament’s first term. The draft constitution is fully compliant with Islamic law and written by Somalis after consultation with Somalis, specifically through the Independent Federal Constitution Commission and the Committee of Experts. The international community has assisted with funding and has provided expert technical advisors who have developed constitutions in other countries, such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Nepal, Indonesia and South Africa. It is a living document which provides a framework to end the transition as foreseen by the Mbagathi and Djibouti Agreements of 2004 and 2009 respectively.  Critically, it will also set the stage for the establishment of permanent institutions, such as New Federal Parliament, the Executive and an independent Judiciary. The provisional Constitution will provide the base for future progress and development.  It will protect human rights, ensure adequate women’s participation and guarentee fundamental freedoms without discrimination on the grounds of race, colour, gender, language, religion, political or other opinion, origin, or other status. 

The end of the transitional period will be an important benchmark, but it is time for us all to begin to look past 20 August and think about the future political dispensation of Somalia. The international community continues to stand shoulder to shoulder with our Somali sisters and brothers.  At recent major international conferences and meetings in London, in Istanbul, in Addis Ababa, in Nairobi and in Rome the message has been uniform and crystal clear—THIS is the moment. We must work together to seize this golden opportunity for peace. The world is looking to the future of Somalia and sees a state that serves the Somali people with effective governance through representative, inclusive and accountable institutions at all levels.  

As we move forward, the issue of stabilization in Mogadishu and in the newly recovered areas will become increasing important. We are greatly encouraged by the fast progress made by the TFG and its allies such as Ahlu Sunnah wal Jama'a in cooperation with AMISOM–recently expanded to include Kenyan, Sierra Leonean and Djiboutian units–as well as engagement from Ethiopia forces.  The insurgents have been retreating and quickly losing control of large swathes of territory. I am particularly encouraged by the recent recovery of Balad town, which will allow the local population to build their livelihoods in this rich farming region in addition to providing an extra level of protection to Mogadishu. Following the “re-hatting” of Kenyan forces, AMISOM is now poised to take the crucial port of Kismaayo, formally an Al-Shabaab stronghold.  I am also glad to report that UNPOS, AMISOM and IGAD along with other UN agencies are visiting the newly recovered areas regularly in coordination with the TFG, in order to support the establishment of local security committees and assess the needs of the local population.  The TFG is leading in drafting a comprehensive stabilization plan which will ensure the engagement of all stakeholders.

Only weeks remain before the end of the transitional period and unfortunately, it is likely that as we get closer to 20 August there will be elements that will try and hold the political process hostage to further their own political and personal ends.  There will always be a place for vibrant discourse and spirited disagreement—it is an intrinsic and healthy part of any democratic process.  But determined action will be taken against those who are willing to undermine and subvert the process. The International community will simply not tolerate spoilers when we are so close to achieving real progress.  After 20 years of strife, Somalia cannot afford more delays, more procrastination.

During the remaining days before 20 August—and for the weeks that will follow—communication with and between our key audiences will be increasingly critical.  To this end UNPOS will be reaching out broadly, through new media platforms to help get the word out and to provide a forum for us to hear from you. Starting today, you can follow us on Twitter (@UNPOSomalia), view photo essays and images on Flickr (flickr.com/photos/unpos) and read a regular “leadership blog” on Tumblr (unposomalia.tumblr.com). Our Twitter account will “tweet” about the Mission’s work and products. Additionally, it will provide us with an alert system to inform you of press statements and other public notifications.  Our Tumblr Leadership Blog will promote provide an informal communications channel to continue the dialogue we’ve started with these letters.  Our Flickr account will highlight engaging images from Somalia, to show the world how things are changing on the ground. New shops are opening every day in a revitalized Mogadishu–please visit us at our new digital storefront.

In conclusion, let me urge all Somalis who are stakeholders in the peace process to sustain the political commitment for a broad-based, inclusive and representative post-transitional arrangement.  Somalia deserves a political dispensation based on election, not just selection. Somalia deserves peace, prosperity and development.  It is time for IDPs and refugees to return home to build their lives in a new Somalia. It is time for Somalia to be whole again. Together, we can make this elusive dream a reality.

Amb. Augustine P. Mahiga