The Hague, the Netherlands – On 4 November 2014, the Dutch AWEPA Section hosted an expert meeting focused on the Somali legislative institutions. The meeting was chaired by Hon. Marit Maij, Member of the Dutch House of Representatives and Chair of the Dutch AWEPA Section.
In this closed-doors meeting, the main topic of discussion was AWEPA’s involvement with legislative bodies in Somalia, an involvement which dates back to 2002 when the organisation carried out a feasibility study of the then Transitional Assembly, at the request of the European Union. Since then, and with support from both the EU and the Netherlands, AWEPA has been increasingly assisting the Somali legislative institutions to perform their functions through its capacity building projects, deployed by AWEPA in the parliaments in Mogadishu, South-Central Somalia, Puntland and Somaliland, with the support of the AWEPA office in Nairobi and of the headquarters in Amsterdam, which also provides strategic guidance.
The meeting started with an address made by Somali’s Ambassador to Belgium and the EU, H.E. Ali Saïd Faqi, who shared his insights of the positive and hopeful developments in the country.
Subsequently Dutch-Somali Ms. Ayaan Abukar, Political Scientist and Legal Expert, who has been working in Somalia and the Netherlands, presented a brief overview of the current political context of Somalia, highlighted the challenges and developments and gave an overview of the situation of refugees. She spoke about the Somali Federal Government’s Vision 2016 aimed at a review of the provisional constitution, a completion of the federal system and fair and free elections in 2016.
With regards to the preparations for the elections, the process is not on track and therefore alternative plans would need to be looked at. In addition, Ms. Abukar raised the importance of strengthening the participation of women in the political decision-making processes, which is currently very limited.
Mr. Chris Kaija-Kwamya, AWEPA Programme Coordinator Somalia, provided an overview of AWEPA’s capacity building programme with the Somali legislative institutions, which includes capacitating the parliamentarians in their roles, enhancing the effectiveness of parliamentary committees and support in drafting motions on topical issues. Mr. Kaija noted that AWEPA’s intervention has contributed to the very capable and committed leadership of the House of the People nowadays.
Political Coordinator for the AWEPA Somalia programme, Dr. Jan Nico Scholten complemented the positive words by Ambassador’s Ali Saïd and the other presenters by stating that there is more perspective for the AWEPA programme than there ever was in the last 15 years. This includes the improved and more structured attention to the position of women MPs for which AWEPA in the meantime developed a special programme.
In relation to the attention to the position of women Hon. Roelof van Laar, Dutch MP and party spokesperson for development cooperation, pointed out the increased attention of this important issue by the Dutch government. Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Ms. Ploumen indicated that from 2015 onwards no programme will be supported without a gender component, followed by the establishment of a special gender equality task force.
Ms. Marit Maij mentioned in her concluding remarks the importance of the population to remain involved in politics in order to achieve a genuine participative democracy.
A few observations on Somali’s political context by Ms. Ayaan Abukar:
What are the expectations for Vision 2016?
The Somali government is working on the implementation of vision 2016 framework. The three foundational elements of the government’s strategy are:
· Constitutional review and implementation
· Completion of the federal system
· Democratization, including elections in 2016
Important steps have been taken by the government in the process of implementing the ‘Vision 2016 Framework. However, key commissions have still to be nominated, such as the National Independent Electoral Commission and the Boundaries and Federation Commission. Also further steps should be taken to be all set to deliver the constitutional referendum and conduct an inclusive electoral process in 2016, such as the legislation on political party formation and voter registration.
Which are the main priorities of the House of the People for the coming period?
The Somali Federal Parliament plays a very important role in realising the 2016 framework. It has to pass key legislation in a short period and it needs to be involved in the process of reviewing the provisional constitution.
Which are the most significant challenges as a parliamentarian in Somalia and how are these challenges addressed?
· Lack of financial resources and human capital of the Parliament
· Security is a challenge. The targeted killing of a large number of MP’s is a great concern
· Continued political instability
The international community and the Somali government are working very closely to address these issues. Capacity Building programmes are offered by various institutions and organizations, including AWEPA.
What is the role of MPs in the restoration of peace, reconciliation and unity amongst the Somalis?
The federal parliament plays a major role in laying the foundation of the new State. Their legislative role as well as their role in drafting and reviewing the constitution is very important for all institutions. In addition, they play an important role in supporting the on-going political processes and reconciliation. It is their duty to ensure that the process is inclusive and fair with respect for human rights and gender equality.
For the past two decades, Somalia was widely considered a so called failed state. After the overthrow of President Siad Barre in 1991 by opposing clans, years of anarchy followed. This plunged the country into a period of lawlessness and clan warfare. Several transitional governments were set up since then, all of them ineffective and unsuccessful at stabilizing the country. It was not until August 2012, when a new internationally-backed National Federal Government and Parliament was installed, that the country began to enjoy a measure of stability. Many developments have taken place since then.