While the security situation in Somalia remains precarious, the National Democratic Institute (NDI), with support from USAID/East Africa, is working with Somali leaders to strengthen the country’s transitional parliament and other government institutions as they work to support national reconciliation efforts.
A key event in this process was the peaceful January 31 election of President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and his selection of Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmake on February 13. NDI assisted Speaker Sheikh Adan Mohamed Nuur Madobe and other parliamentary officials to ensure the transparency of the election process and to assure citizens that all voting and counting was conducted in the presence of the entire Somali parliament as well as representatives of the media and Somali civil society.
This was an important step in carrying out the Djibouti Peace Agreement, signed by Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government, the Transitional Federal Parliament, and the Alliance for Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS) in December. The agreement called for the enlargement of parliament, the formation of a national unity government and the extension of transitional governance until 2011.
After the Somali parliament’s enlargement in January, NDI hosted an orientation for nearly 400 new members (MP). The session gave the MPs an opportunity to learn about the legislature’s role in Somalia’s transitional process through workshops, discussions and simulation activities. It also featured an introduction to election laws, constitutional referendums, census taking, and political party formation – all priorities for the transitional parliament.
The orientation also provided MPs with training on the legislature’s representative, lawmaking and oversight functions. During the parliamentary simulations, the MPs applied these functions to hypothetical Somali contexts, responding to problems that might be raised by constituents. They later reviewed an example of draft legislation that had been vetted and commented on by members of civil society and conducted a mock hearing during which they asked a “Minister of Finance” a series of questions about the annual budget. The orientation closed with a workshop on the role of the parliament in the budget process, including how MPs can manage their parliamentary budget and oversee the executive’s budgets.
USAID will continue its support to Somali government officials through NDI as NDI works to strengthen Somali institutions and improve parliament’s ability to legislate, conduct executive oversight, interact with constituents, and play a role in national reconciliation efforts.