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Somali political process under threat: UN
Wednesday, August 01, 2012

War-torn Somalia's fragile transition process is at risk as the political elite uses intimidation and corruption in the choice of new lawmakers, the UN Special Representative for Somalia warned Wednesday.

The graft-riddled Western-backed government ends its mandate on August 20, with leaders due to select a new parliament and leadership, and vote on a new constitution for anarchic Somalia, in civil war for over two decades.

"There have been disturbing reports of undue influence from aspiring politicians in current and former positions," Augustine Mahiga warned, noting it included "exchange (of) and demands for favours, bribery and intimidation."

"We should not allow parliamentary seats to become commodities for sale or items for auction to the highest bidders at a time when we are seeking to reclaim the true stature of a dignified and respected Somali nation," he added.

Somalia has been without a stable central government since the ouster of former president Siad Barre in 1991.

Bowed down by repeated droughts and riven by over two decades of conflict, Somalia is torn between rival clans, Islamist insurgents and the government, which is propped up by a 17,000-strong African Union force.

A leaked UN report earlier this month accused the current government of "pervasive corruption" estimating as much as 70% of state revenues had been stolen or squandered.

Transitional institutions, including the presidency and the parliament, were set up in 2004 but must be replaced by permanent institutions by August 20.

A 135-member group of "Traditional Elders" -- selected by a UN-backed technical committee approved by clan leaders -- is due to select a new parliament, including a 225-member lower house with at least 68 women.

However, Mahiga said that pressure was being exerted to block women candidates, noting they "are often more vulnerable and have less resources making them easier to exclude and exploit."

"The people who are using intimidation and extortion tactics are known... It's inconceivable for the parliament to begin its new task on such a wrong footing," he added.

"The people responsible for this kind of undue influence or intimidation tactics will be categorised as spoilers."


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