Somali leaders adopted a roadmap designed to lead to elections within a year and end a string of fragile transition governments that have failed to bring peace to the anarchic Horn of Africa nation.
According to the road map, the aim is to hold polls by August 20 next year for members of a revamped federal parliament, local administrations and a president, after adopting a new constitution by July 1.
Somalia descended into chaos in 1991 after dictator Siad Barre was ousted. The first internationally backed transitional government was established in 2004, Reuters reports.
But seven years later, the latest government controls little territory outside the capital, al Qaeda-allied rebels hold sway in much of the south and centre, while other regions such as Puntland have established their own administrations.
“There is no doubt we are now in a transition period that we hope will lead to an end of the long running crisis in Somalia,” President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed said after signing the road map.
The U.N.-sponsored talks brought together senior members of the government, parliament, the semi-autonomous regions of Puntland and Galmudug, as well as some representatives from the pro-government militia Ahlu Sunna. They all signed the plan.
Also present were representatives from the United Nations, the African Union, Arab League and the east African bloc IGAD.
The Security Council has said that future support for the Somali government and parliament would be contingent on the successful implementation of the road map.
Augustine Mahiga, the U.N. secretary-general’s special envoy on Somalia, said ahead of the meeting that coming up with a new constitution to change the way lawmakers and presidents are elected would be crucial.
At the moment, presidents are elected by parliament, which is in turn made up of unelected lawmakers nominated according to a strict formula splitting power between Somalia’s major clans, undermining the credibility of transition governments.
All of the administrations formed since 2004 have been hobbled by bitter in-fighting and graft, and have failed to establish any effective government control of the country.
Besides coming up with a new constitution and reforming parliament, the roadmap lays out timetables for improving security in Mogadishu and other parts of southern Somalia, reaching out to political foes and tackling rampant graft.