UN Envoy: Somalia Entering 'Critical Stage'

Augustine P. Mahiga, the Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary-General for Somalia, told the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) on Tuesday that strife-torn Somalia was entering its "most critical stage" as the end of its transitional governing period approaches in August.

"As Somalia faces the greatest opportunity to end the transition, after so much investment by the international community and well-wishing Somalis, we must complete the tasks at hand," Mahiga said in his briefing to the Council.

Urging the international community to boost their efforts to help the East African country through its peace and national reconciliation process, Mahiga said: "We must provide timely logistical and financial support to enable us to complete the implementation of the roadmap before August this year, as well as strengthen international cooperation and coordination."

Currently, Somalia's Transitional Federal Institutions (TFIs) are in the process of implementing a roadmap, devised in September last, that charts out priority measures to be carried out before mandate for the current transitional governing arrangements expires on August 20.

Noting that there are a number of challenges for completing the roadmap's implementation, Mahiga warned that lack of time and unavailability of resources could have a negative effect on the transition process in the coming months.

"The lack of funding for implementing the roadmap in the remaining three months is of serious concern to all of us, including the Transitional Federal Government (TFG). The Constituent Assembly is almost grinding to a halt for lack of funding," he said.

He also warned against forces working to undermine the peace priocess. "We must deal with these elements before they succeed in undermining the peace process," Mahiga said, adding that an upcoming conference on Somalia to be hosted by Turkey next month would help define elements of the African country's post-August strategy.

Under the roadmap, the 100-member National Constituent Assembly as well as the new Parliament will be selected by a group known as the Traditional Elders representing the full spectrum of Somali society. The Assembly is tasked with drafting a new Constitution.

In a statement issued later on Tuesday, the UNSC welcomed the progress made so far in the implementation of the roadmap and reaffirmed their commitment to support the process. It also urged the TFIs and all other signatories of the roadmap to redouble their efforts to complete the roadmap tasks, with the participation of women and civil society, and voiced concern over the role of those opposing the political transition process.

Somalia has been without a functioning government since the fall of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre's government in 1991. Currently, the weak U.N.-backed interim government set up in 2004 is trying to enforce its authority in the country with the help of African Union (AU) peacekeepers.

AU peacekeepers and forces loyal to the interim government have managed to take control of capital Mogadishu and adjoining areas in recent months. Despite the setbacks, Islamist militant outfits still control large areas in southern Somalia where they enforce strict Islamic laws or Sharia.

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