IRIN Focus on the task facing the new transitional authority

Somalia’s newly-elected transitional authority will have to garner international and domestic support following the election in neighbouring Djibouti of an interim parliament, the Transitional National Assembly (TNA), and a new head of state, President Abdiqassim Salad Hassan.

The task, analysts told IRIN, would begin with the leaders who attended his inauguration in Arta, Djibouti, on Sunday - including the presidents of Yemen, Sudan and Eritrea, and the prime minister of Ethiopia, as well as other regional leaders.
Representatives from other African and Arab bodies, such as the Organisation of African Unity, also attended.

They said President Ismael Omar Guelleh of Djibouti had succeeded not only with the peace the talks, but also in obtaining the crucial commitment of key neighbouring states to bless Hassan’s inauguration. Over the past decade of civil war and anarchy in Somalia, 12 other attempts at peace talks failed. Most neighbouring states have at one time or another been criticised by Somali leaders for pursuing their own agenda in the failed state by shoring up different factions and pushing forward choice candidates for president. They said it was a triumph of regional diplomacy for Guelleh to retain the support of neighbouring governments from the Inter-governmental Authority on Development (IGAD). The talks were IGAD supported.

National acceptance in Somalia is the next biggest hurdle. All the main clans were represented in the Arta process, and most of the sub-clans.
But they said, the real test would be in terms of the reception they get in Somalia itself and how they manage to control the territory.

Diplomatic sources said Hassan believed it essential to take the situation in hand immediately and fly sometime this week to Baidoa - voted the transitional capital if needed - and Mogadishu, the historic capital, now ruined by years of civil war.

His arrival in Mogadishu would require a show of force from the business community and the Islamic Courts.
Combined, they have the greatest number of “technicals” (vehicles converted into gun carriages) and militia men. Already in the last couple of years, they have played a significant role in neutralising faction leaders. The once-powerful faction leaders, they said had no funds to pay their militia, and have instead had to rely on clan support. With most of the key clan elders throwing support behind the conference and the new president, this has been undercut.

As Hussein Aideed, based in south Mogadishu, has threatened to prevent Hassan arriving “by port or air”, he will have to enter Mogadishu from the north of the capital, where Aideed’s main rival, Ali Mahdi Mohamed, has thrown his support behind the new government. A stand-off, the analysts said, would also be a test of Hussein Aideed’s real standing: he has long enjoyed the description “powerful warlord” by the international community despite the fact his militia recently looted Aideed’s villa protesting lack of food and money.

Hassan will probably choose to stay at least one night to assert his position and demonstrate confidence. Before travelling, the new president must appoint at least a rudimentary staff structure. He has been given a secured and tightly protected villa in Arta by the Djibouti government, and from the first morning after his election has operated with full head of state protocol out of the house of Djibouti-tycoon, Ahmed Bore. Bore, whose villa stands next to the presidential palace in Djibouti, personally contributed to the US $5 million cost of the conference and was its financial organiser.

One of the most difficult tasks also cited is the appointment of a prime minister with personal calibre and sufficient cross-clan support to win a vote of confidence from the TNA. The dilemma revolves mainly around the two remaining clans without a top power-sharing post - the Dir and the Darod.
It is also crucially linked to the two self-declared administrations which boycotted the conference - Somaliland in the northwest, led by Mohamed Ibrahim Egal, and Puntland in the northeast, led by Colonel Abdullahi Yusuf. Both, the analysts said, needed to be wooed into a national government.

The choice of the prime ministerial appointment is also seen as essential to cool any post-election disappointments and maintain a consensual cross-clan balance. If the choice proves to be a poor one, it could quickly have an “unravelling effect”, said one observer. Although Abdullahi Yusuf threatened to detain clan elders and politicians attending the Arta conference, saying the election of a new authority would lead to war, messages of congratulations by clan representatives in Puntland were among the first to be faxed to the new president.

Egal, an elder statesman and former prime minister, refused to join the peace talks, saying it was up to the south to sort itself out and elect a leader. After initially detaining and threatening participants from Somaliland, he moderated his approach and said he would hold talks with a new authority. He has never categorically closed the door on possible future unification, but has pointed to the attendance in Arta of former officials from a regime that carried out a bombing campaign and human rights abuses in the northwest.

That President Hassan is said to enjoy a good relationship with Egal was one of his strong electoral points. But now, the analysts said, it was up to him to initiate a successful dialogue with the leader who has successfully run Somaliland since 1993, with all but official recognition from donors and aid agencies.

On 3 September, Hassan is expected to go to Saudi Arabia - a country Djibouti is forging close links with - and then later on to New York for the UN Millennium conference.

Once the new president has completed his first domestic and international circuit, he would have to implement the most difficult move of all - transferring the 245 elected TNA members to the chosen seat of government, and then securing funds for a government which, so far, has nothing in the bank.