Constitutional Conference Opens in Puntland Capital

Garowe — A well-organized event attended by the top leaders of Somalia opened Wednesday in the capital of Puntland State, in northern Somalia, Radio Garowe reports.

The event marking the opening of the Somali National Consultative Constitutional Conference in Garowe was attended by TFG President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, TFG Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali Gas, TFP Speaker Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden, Puntland President Abdirahman Mohamed Farole and Vice President Abdisamad Ali Shire, and Galmudug leader Mohamed Ahmed Alin.

Representatives from pro-government Ahlu Sunna group, based in central Somalia, were also present as signatories of the Roadmap adopted by TFG, TFP, Puntland, Galmudug and Ahlu Sunna.

Foreign dignitaries included UN Special Envoy to Somalia, Augustine Mahiga, and his deputy, Mr. Christian Manahl.

Puntland government forces have secured Garowe airport, where the delegations from Mogadishu, Galkayo and Nairobi have flown in since Monday.

The conference is being held at the conference hall of Puntland State University in Garowe.

Abdirahman Farole, Puntland’s leader, offered the opening remarks and his speech focused on efforts to restore Somalia’s dignity.

President Farole welcomed all the delegations to Puntland State and thanked the conference organizers and participants.

“Today is a historic day. The Somali people are waiting for us to deliver a meaningful outcome for this important conference,” said Puntland’s leader. He urged parliamentary reforms to be implemented, in accordance with the Roadmap timeline, in order to end the transition by 20 August 2012.

President Farole emphasized the importance for federalism in Somalia, saying: “Federalism, as ordained by the Transitional Federal Charter, is a pre-condition for the renaissance of the long-awaited Third Republic of Somalia.”

The Puntland leader talked about the political developments in Puntland State, saying that Puntland was advancing towards a multi-party political system.

President Farole praised the African Union peacekeeping force (AMISOM) in Mogadishu and called on the AU and the UN Security Council to approve the deployment of AMISOM peacekeepers in Galkayo, Puntland State.

Further, Puntland’s leader once again welcomed the Kenyan Army’s intervention in Jubba regions of southern Somalia, while commending the visit to Mogadishu earlier this month by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon.

On piracy, President Farole announced today that the Puntland Government is planning to resume a training program for the Puntland Maritime Police Force.

Resuming the training program is “in line with the TFG-Puntland Cooperation Agreement of 29 August 2011, which called for the establishment of a Somali Marine Force,” said President Farole, adding: “The formation of the PMPF is in direct response to multiple U.N. Security Council Resolutions and urgent calls from the international community, calling on Somali authorities to build security and law enforcement institutions to address the piracy problem.”

UN Special Envoy

Ambassador Mahiga, the UN Special Envoy to Somalia, offered brief remarks and delivered a message from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon.

“The Secretary-General has a message for Somalia: 1) implement the Roadmap; and 2) complete the Federal Constitution,” said Ambassador Mahiga, who announced that he would fly to Addis Ababa and return to Garowe tomorrow.

“The Secretary-General has delegated me to attend a meeting in Addis Ababa where discussions are focused on expanding AMISOM forces to areas outside of Mogadishu,” said Ambassador Mahiga.

TFG Prime Minister

Somalia’s Prime Minister, Dr. Abdiweli Mohamed Ali Gas, offered a prepared statement in both Somali and English languages.

He expressed his thanks to the government and people of Puntland State for hosting the conference and for taking full responsibility for the security.

Prime Minister Gas stressed the importance of federalism in Somalia and urged all Somalis to work out differences peacefully and lawfully.

The TFG Prime Minister highlighted the Roadmap as a document that leads towards ending the transitional period on time, in August 2012. He expressed hope that the conference will produce a positive outcome for Somalia.

“The Somali people are expecting us to agree to a Constitution. This is the time to act,” said the TFG Prime Minister.

TFP Speaker

Parliament Speaker Sharif Hassan thanked the people of Puntland State who welcomed the delegations and thanked the Puntland Government for hosting the conference.

The Speaker’s speech focused on forgiveness and tolerance. He urged Somalis to forgive each other and to work together towards saving Somalia.

“Our country has suffered and continues to suffer. We must work together to save our people,” said the Parliament Speaker.

He underlined that the Somali stakeholders are committed to implementing the Roadmap.

TFG President Sharif

The TFG President, Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, thanked the people and government of Puntland State for hosting the conference.

“I am very proud of Puntland State for maintaining security. I am happy to take part of this conference,” said the TFG leader.

He spoke about federalism, saying: “Somalia undergone different phases. In our current phase, federalism is a must. The debate could be ‘what type of federal system.’ The conference delegates will debate such issues.”

Continuing, he said: “Security, political and social developments must run parallel to each other. We can see the light of hope. This is the time to continue our efforts and to strengthen our unity.”

TFG President Sharif spoke about the renewed dispute in the TFP, as dissident MPs stormed into parliament hall in Mogadishu earlier Wednesday. “It is unfortunate that disputes continue to emerge, as our plan is to move forward. Somalia needs a constitution because there can be no government without a constitution.”

TFP Speaker Sharif Hassan and TFG Prime Minister Gas stood next to TFG President Sharif as he delivered his speech, in a sign of solidarity among the leaders from Mogadishu.

The Somali Constitutional Conference was delayed a number of times but has opened in Garowe. The Conference is slated for Dec. 21 – 23, 2011, and organizers hope the outcome will lead to the emergence of an agreed-upon Somali Federal Constitution, in order for the transitional period to end by 20 August 2012.

In September 2011, the Roadmap was formally adopted at the National Consultative Conference in Mogadishu, attended by the Somali stakeholders who signed the Roadmap.

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