AU welcomes progress in peace process

The African Union (AU) has welcomed recent progress made towards the reestablishment of a functioning government in Somalia and urged the international community to assist the country's national institutions once they are fully installed, the AU said in a statement sent on Thursday.

Delegates attending the Somali reconciliation conference in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, formed a transitional federal parliament in August. The 275 members of the assembly are due to elect the country's president on 10 October. The president will in turn appoint a prime minister, who will be required to form a government.

The AU’s Peace and Security Council (PSC), which met at the Pan-African body's headquarters in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, on 17 September urged members of the transitional federal parliament "to remain focused and to work for the early election of the president and the formation of the Transitional Federal Government", the statement added.

The AU denounced the activities of those who tried to undermine the peace process and urged them to desist from "any action that would, in any form, tend to compromise the welcome outcomes of the Somali National Reconciliation Conference". The AU was apparently referring to the recent outbreak of factional fighting near the southern Somalia port city of Kismayo.

The ouster of the regime of then Somali president Muhammad Siyad Barre in January 1991 sparked more than a decade of turmoil and lawlessness in the Horn of Africa country.

Meanwhile, the USAID-funded Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) has said that at least 1.3 million people in southern, central and northern Somalia will require emergency food assistance until early next year. Of this total, about 700,000 are struggling to recover from years of successive drought coupled with the effects of frequent outbreaks in factional fighting. The rest are internally displaced persons (IDPs) and destitute urban dwellers, FEWS NET said in an update released on 27 September.

Successive years of drought have undermined crop and livestock production, the two mainstays of the Somali economy. Household access to food has been further limited by market shocks, worsening terms of trade, weakened social support and recurrent civil insecurity, according to FEWS NET.

In the north, more than three years of severe drought have resulted in massive environmental degradation and livestock losses of up to 90 percent have led to a widespread collapse of the pastoral livelihood system. The problems have been compounded by the recent conflict around Las Anod town in Sool region, which could limit the movement of pastoralists for water and better grazing areas.

The central regions have also been hit hard by successive years of drought, poor rangeland resources, and recurrent clan conflicts. Drought in the neighboring Somali Region of Ethiopia has restricted an important traditional option for migration in search of better pasture.

According to the FEWS NET, households in the south, the country’s breadbasket, have been struggling with several seasons of below-normal cereal production and civil insecurity. In the Juba Valley Regions (Middle and Lower Juba), most of the districts suffered crop losses of between 60 to 80 percent this year.

"Of special concern in the south is the security situation. Increased conflict occurred during the second week of September around Kismayo, Badhadhe and Dhoble (Somali-Kenya border), worsening the already poor food security situation," according to FEWS NET. It said that about 40,000 mt of food aid and non-food items would be needed to help the newly displaced and previously food insecure populations.