The overwhelming approval of a Provisional Constitution for Somalia by the representative body convened for that purpose - a key step toward ending the Horn of Africa country's long transition to stable governance - was hailed today by United Nations officials.
"The Secretary-General welcomes the adoption," a spokesperson for Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told reporters at UN Headquarters in New York today. "He congratulates the delegates and the Somali leadership for this historic achievement and their commitment to ending the transition and to establishing new, representative political institutions in the country."
"Today is a day of celebration," the Secretary-General's Special Representative and head of the UN Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS), Augustine Mahiga, said in a statement.
"The adoption of the Provisional Constitution is an historic achievement as it completes one of the most important milestones towards ending the current transitional period and ushering in a new political future," he added.
After decades of warfare, Somalia has been undergoing a peace and national reconciliation process, with the country's Transitional Federal Institutions currently implementing the so-called Roadmap for the End of Transition in Somalia, devised in September last year, that spells out priority measures to be carried out before the current transitional governing arrangements end in 20 days' time.
The Provisional Constitution was a key part of the process - it will provide a legal framework governing the workings of the new Somali Federal Institutions after 20 August.
According to UNPOS, jubilant applause broke out at the National Constituent Assembly's (NCA) meeting in the capital, Mogadishu, today, when the text for the document was approved by 621 delegates, with 13 votes against and 11 abstentions. The NCA, made up in total of 825 delegates drawn from all Somali clans, had spent the past eight days of deliberations.
"The Constituent Assembly embodied the diversity of Somali society around the traditional clan system, and ensured inclusiveness by bringing together elders, religious leaders, women, youth, business people, intellectuals and the Diaspora," Mr. Mahiga said.
The voting took place despite suicide attacks on the NCA's meeting venue earlier this morning, which resulted in the deaths of several people. According to media reports, two suicide bombers blew themselves up at the gates of the venue, and the attempt follows a series of explosions in the capital, including roadside bombs and grenade attacks.
Mr. Mahiga noted that the Somali delegates "were not deterred" by the suicide bombings, which was foiled by security personnel consisting of Somali forces and the UN-backed African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). "I pay tribute to the Somali and AMISOM security personnel who ensured the safety of the delegates and the process," he said.
In his remarks to reporters, Mr. Ban's spokesperson said the UN chief condemned the suicide attacks, noting that "terrorism must not be allowed to roll back the important gains that have been made so far."
Until last year, most of Mogadishu, was, for several years, riven by a fluid frontline dividing the two sides - fighters belonging to the Al Shabaab militant group and troops belonging to the Somalia Government, with the latter supported by AMISOM.
Since the Al Shabaab withdrawal from the capital in August last year, the frontlines have been pushed back to the city's surrounding area. However, the use of roadside bombs, grenades and suicide bombers still take place. In addition, Government forces have been on an offensive against the Al Shabaab, which still controls parts of Somalia, primarily in its south-central regions.
While praising the Somali delegates for the vote today, both the Secretary-General and his envoy to Somalia emphasized that adoption of the Provisional Constitution is not the end of the process.
"It is an important step towards the creation of a better future for all Somalis," Mr. Ban's spokesperson said. "The Secretary-General encourages all stakeholders to undertake the last steps to end the transition peacefully, united, and with the best interest of the Somali people in mind."
"The constitution must now be implemented to become a living reality," Mr. Mahiga said. "For that to happen, the final steps to ending the transition must be taken including selecting a representative Parliament, and electing a Speaker, the President, and appointing an executive government."
In a statement released yesterday, the envoy said he looked forward to the emergence of the Parliament, but warned of "disturbing reports" of bribery and intimidation to secure seats in the new body.
"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 said.
Source: UN News Service