Somalia: Parliament Sworn in Despite UN Criticism over Flawed Election

MOGADISHU, SOMALIA - DECEMBER 27: Members of Parliament take part in the oath-taking ceremony after the General elections in Mogadishu, Somalia on December 27, 2016. (Photo by Sadaq Mohamed /Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Sadaq Mohamed /Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The new parliament of Somalia — made up of some 283 lawmakers — has been inaugurated despite concerns voiced by the United Nations and other international bodies over election irregularities linked to some candidates, in addition to violence, corruption, and intimidation that allegedly marred the integrity of the electoral process in the African country.

Somali lawmakers are expected to select the country’s president in a yet-to-be-determined date, notes the Associated Press (AP) and other news outlets.

Nevertheless, Voice of America (VOA), citing a Somali official who spoke on condition of anonymity, reports that the presidential election vote “likely will be Jan. 24.”

The reported number of lawmakers who have been sworn in varies.

Some news outlets, such as Voice of America (VOA), and Abdikarim Haji Abdi, the chief secretary of Somalia’s federal parliament, report that 281 MPs took office during a ceremony on Tuesday, while organizations such as the UN and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) say 283 have been sworn in.

In a joint press statement released Tuesday, the UN, African Union, European Union, Intergovernmental Authority on Development, Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States, express “grave concern” over change “that contravenes the African country’s constitutional electoral processes.”

Nevertheless, the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia, via Twitter, congratulated the new MPs after they took their oaths of office, saying it is a testament that Somalia “is moving forward,” adding that it is “a positive step in the electoral process.”

The outgoing parliamentary speaker Mohamed Osman Jawari lauded Tuesday’s inauguration of the African nation’s 10th parliament as “a milestone in the history of Somalia.”

Moreover, Omar Mohamed Abdulle, chairman of the Somali Federal Indirect Electoral Implementation Team (FIEIT), “hailed the inauguration as a testimony to Somalia’s ability to hold elections.”

“Somalia is moving forward and Somali people are maturing,” declared re-elected MP Mohamud Hayir Ibrahim, referring to this year’s electoral process.

However, the joint statement by the UN and other international entities highlighted a number of “egregious cases of abuse” such as “men who have taken parliamentary seats reserved for women and “the NLF’s [National Leadership Forum ] decision to revoke all disqualifications of candidates made by the country’s electoral bodies for allegedly committing abuses and malpractices.”

The move by the NLF, described by the Los Angeles Times as a group of federal and state leaders in Somalia, “contravenes the Federal Government’s solemn commitment to respect the rule of law” and amounts to a “blanket amnesty for some of the most blatant irregularities witnessed during this electoral process,” continued the statement.

“If these candidates are allowed to take their seats in Somalia’s tenth parliament, it will bring into question the NLF’s expressed commitment to the principles of accountability and credibility that underpin the entire process,” the LA Times added.

The UN has urged the Somali government to redo the “flawed” ballots conducted for some MP seats in October and November, highlighting the irregularities.

“International partners are calling for a re-run for those parliamentary seats whose outcomes were influenced by violence, corruption, intimidation, an unauthorized substitution of electoral college delegates, or a failure to set aside one in three seats for women,” pointed out the UN Somalia mission.

“Currently, Somalia’s Provisional Constitution allows for 54 seats in the Upper House of its parliament,” explained the UN. “Elections have already been held, but according to a communiqué issued on 24 December, the NLF has decided to add seats.”

The LA Times points out that the NLF “abruptly breached Somalia’s Constitution by increasing the number of upper house seats from 54 to 75.”

Nevertheless, AMISOM notes that of the 283 members of parliament it claims have been sworn in, only 41 became senators in the Upper House, while the remaining 242 will be members of the House of the People.

Geeska Afrika acknowledges that some of the Upper House seats remain unfilled, noting that “once all the remaining seats are filled, the parliament will have a total complement of 347 legislators.”

According to the joint statement from the UN and other international bodies, the international community believes the integrity of the 2016 voting process in Somalia is hanging in the balance.

“More delays and a failure to hold accountable those parties who have committed serious abuses and malpractices will compromise the international community’s ability and willingness to engage with Somalia’s next federal government,” warned the statement.