Somali leaders sign deal for new government structure

AFP, Sunday 19 Feb 2012

After a three-day meeting, Somali leaders sign an accord under UN auspices to set up the basic structure of a new parliament and government

Somalia's President Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed addresses delegates at the UN-brokered talks in Mogadishu. Photograph: (AFP: Photo)

Somalia's disparate leaders have agreed on the basic structure of a new parliament and government to replace the fragile transitional body that has failed to bring peace to the war-torn country.

Constant infighting, rampant corruption and bloody attacks by Islamist Shabab insurgents have undermined Somalia's unelected Transitional Federal Government (TFG), whose Western-backed mandate ends in August.

Somalia's president, the presidents of the breakaway Puntland and Galmudug regions, and the commander of the powerful anti-Shabab militia Ahlu Sunna Wal Jamaa signed the deal under UN auspices.

The accord proposes a parliamentary system for Somalia, with both Puntland and Galmudug recognised as states within a federal system.

A new 225-member lower house -- including at least 30 percent women -- will be nominated by "traditional elders assisted by prominent civil society members," the agreement reads, released late Saturday after a three-day meeting.

The agreement is the latest among more than a dozen attempts to resolve Somalia's more than two decade-old civil war, with the country split between rival factions and pirate gangs who hijack ships far across the Indian Ocean.

In addition, a 1,000-member upper house -- the National Constituent Assembly -- will be nominated by agreement signatories "assisted by traditional leaders and civil society" groups. The upper house too must include at least 30 percent women.

"To ensure trust in the federal parliament, members must be patriotic, honest and of good standing in Somalia society," the agreement reads, noting that anyone guilty of "serious crime or crimes against humanity" will be barred.

"They must respect and uphold the rights of all Somalis and demonstrate tolerance towards all," says the deal, signed in the northern town of Garowe.

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