Somalia’s newly selected parliament will convene for its inauguration Monday under the protection of African Union troops at Mogadishu airport, the UN said, after lawmakers appealed for protection.
The parliament’s interim speaker Musa Hassan Abdallah issued an urgent request Monday to the UN Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS) requesting an “alternative place of safe haven” to meet, the UN said in a statement.
The fortified airport zone adjoins the base for the nearly 17,000-strong AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), which has propped up Somalia’s Western-backed leadership against attacks by the country’s Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab insurgents.
“In response to this request … UNPOS in coordination with AMISOM and in consultation with all the relevant stakeholders in the government, will facilitate the inauguration inside Mogadishu International Airport,” the UN office said.
The new parliament is expected to hold its inaugural session on the airport tarmac. The country’s transitional government ends its mandate on Monday after eight years of political infighting and rampant corruption, to be replaced by new lawmakers selected by a group of 135 traditional elders in a UN-backed process.
The outgoing legislature met in the war-damaged parliament building, but security concerns are high that the Shebab could try to attack the symbolic opening of the new administration.
Somalia has not had a stable central government since the 1991 ouster of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991, which sparked rounds of bloody civil war and two decades of chaos.
The new parliament was originally scheduled to elect a new president Monday, but lawmakers said the vote had been delayed.
Despite the new parliament convening at the airport, massive steps forward have been made recently in Somalia, with greatly improved security in the capital and members of the diaspora returning to invest in their war-ravaged homeland.
A military advance by AU, Somali and Ethiopian troops has driven the hardline Shebab insurgents from a string of key bases in recent months, but fighters have also staged a string of guerrilla attacks.
[image via Agence France-Presse]