National Consultative Conference Opens in Mogadishu

A UN and AU-backed national conference opened in the Somali capital Mogadishu on Sunday, with keynote speeches delivered by TFG President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and Puntland President Abdirahman Mohamed Farol according to reports.

President Farole arrived in Mogadishu on Sunday, a day after a 25-member delegation of Puntland, including Cabinet ministers and parliamentarians.

The UN-backed Somalia National Consultative Conference, scheduled for 4 – 6 September 2011, aims to gather Somali stakeholders and to adopt the Roadmap document which details benchmarks for the TFG under one-year terms of the Kampala Accord of 9 June 2011.

The four discussion groups at the conference include: security, reconciliation, constitution and parliament reforms, and good governance, according to conference documents.

The conference consists of 100 delegates representing the TFG executive and parliamentary branches, Puntland state government, and local administrations of Galmudug and Ahlu Sunna militia.

UN’s Special Envoy to Somalia, Amb. Augustine Mahiga, announced at today’s conference in Mogadishu that the next conference series on Somali constitutional process shall take place in Garowe, capital of Puntland.

TFG Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali Gas gave a brief speech before introducing the TFG President, Sharif Sheikh Ahmed.

Sharif: Parliament reform needed

TFG President Sharif said the conference “aims to discuss Somali affairs, and to assess past and present directions.”

He particularly thanked President Farole and the Puntland delegation for attending this important conference, which President Sharif urged the delegates to conclude with a positive outcome for Somalia.

TFG President Sharif told the conference delegates that Somalia has suffered over 20 years of destruction and needs re-construction with international support.

“The recurrent droughts in Somalia need long-term solutions. 20 years of war has destroyed our national economy and there is great need for reconstruction,” said President Sharif.

The TFG leader spoke about the collapse of security and social services, particularly education and healthcare, due to the decades of war in Mogadishu and elsewhere. “When security is destroyed, livelihoods and public services are also destroyed,” he noted.

President Sharif admitted that the Somali parliament (TFP) needs to be reformed from its current bloated 550 seats: “The time has come to downsize and reform the 550-seat Transitional Federal Parliament (TFP),” said President Sharif.

He noted that Somalia is “undergoing historic times” while thanking AMISOM troop-contributing countries and the wider international community aiding Somalia.

Farole: ‘Mogadishu was destroyed by Somalis’

Puntland’s president Abdirahman Farole said the conference is important as it is the first national conference held inside Somalia in 20 years.

President Farole’s 17-minute speech delved in many topics including security, forgiveness and reconciliation, self-development, mutual trust and cooperation among Somali communities.

Farole spoke indirectly about the 1991 genocide, when Hawiye clan militias massacred Darod clan civilians and expelled Darod clans from Mogadishu immediately following the overthrow of the 21-year dictatorship of Gen. Barre.

“This is my third return to Mogadishu in 20 years. In 1991, in 2001, and today…these trips are 10 years apart. We are not holding anyone to account, but we all know horrendous crimes were committed. We [Puntland] came to Mogadishu today, if Somalis cannot produce successful outcome for this conference, then remember each man is free to make independent decisions,” President Farole warned.

Continuing he said: “We [Puntland] did not come to Mogadishu for games. You know where we came from. The President [Sharif] and the Prime Minister [Gas] visited us. We came from a land of development. The ugliness witnessed today in Mogadishu is not witnessed in Puntland. We left Mogadishu in 1991 as it was proud and beautiful, and it was said to be Africa most peaceful city, but today we travel in fear…Mogadishu was destroyed by Somalis.”

He spoke about the urgent need for “viable national institutions that deliver security and social services” and stressed the need to reform the 550-seat Somali parliament in Mogadishu, adding: “Without the will and commit of we Somalis, our neighboring countries and the wider supportive international community cannot restore our dignity and our nationhood.”

Farole was thankful to the international community’s support to Somalia, with particular thanks to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyib Erdogan, “whose visit to Mogadishu sent a strong message to the entire world.”

The Puntland leader highlighted his expectations for the conference outcome, including consensus on security issues, reinforcing federalism, completion of state formations, advancing national reconciliation and cooperation among Somali stakeholders.

Furthermore, President Farole pointed out that major obstacles to security and development in Somalia include conflict and poverty, tribalism and ignorance, extremism and piracy, protracted civil war, and “war profiteers” which the Puntland leader condemned.

Farole repeatedly urged Somalis to “forgive each other” and to “restore trust among our communities.” The president’s national speech cited examples of African countries who recovered from war, including Rwanda and Liberia.

President Farole appealed to the delegates to conclude “this historic conference with success for all Somalis.”

The conference in Mogadishu is scheduled to be concluded on Tuesday, with attendees from foreign governments and the international community.

African Union peacekeepers (AMISOM), and TFG security forces, are jointly guarding the conference delegates.