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New parliament grapples with Somaliland and Puntland

The leader of the Somali Transitional National Assembly (TNA), Mohamed Abshire, has announced that the issues of Somaliland and Puntland will be raised and "given due consideration" in the forthcoming debate of the provisional parliament. Abshire told a press conference held on Thursday there were two schools of thought on how to deal with the northern breakaway regional authorities.

"One group says that we must first set up the new Somali authority and then contact Somaliland and Puntland," he said. But another group in the TNA advocates involvement of the northern authorities in the Arta process, by "consulting with Somaliland and Puntland and asking them for advice on how to build a national government".

Abshire, as the eldest member, leads the Somali assembly that was inaugurated last Sunday, after more than three months of clan-based negotiations at Arta.

He said he agreed with the second option, and warned against the "danger of producing a fait accompli". "I am of the opinion that a strong delegation of TNA members and clan elders should be sent to the northwest to consult with the senate and government of Mohamed Ibrahim Egal [in Somaliland]", declared Mohamed Abshire

. Abshire - a one time a fellow-detainee of Egal's under the regime of former president Mohamed Siad Barre - said he considered the leader of the self-declared state of Somaliland "one of the few historic statesmen of Somalia" still involved in politics. "It is our duty to remind Egal that he was one of the Somali leaders who came to southern Somalia" in a move to create a united Somalia in the 1960s, Abshire said.

He added it was "our turn" to go and ask advice from the north on how to create a new Somalia. The issue of Puntland was "less difficult" because the region had declared autonomy, but remained in the fold of a Somalia state, he pointed out.

Abshire himself is a veteran Puntland politician, and rival to administration leader Colonel Abdullahi Yusuf. Abdullahi Yusuf has strongly opposed the Djibouti-hosted peace process, declaring it would lead to a new round of civil war. Mohamed Abshire also told the press that the TNA had set up an 11-member task committee in charge of finalising the international regulations of the parliament that are to be adopted next Saturday.

After the regulations are established, the TNA is expected to elect a speaker, a president and a prime minister. Abshire warned that the elections would be "a complex co-option process which must take into account the clan-based balance" on which the entire Arta process has been based. So far, more than 200 deputies out of a total of 145 have been fielded by the various clans ( Darod, Dir, Hawyie and Digil-Mirifle); a minority grouping; and a caucus of 100 women who are to elect the 25 female TNA representatives. The president of Djibouti Ismail Omar Guelleh has been given 20 seats to distribute - as a mediating tool - and has reportedly already fielded five nominees.

 


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