The United Nations facilitated the formation of Somalia's Transitional Federal Government (TFG) through negotiations than began some 10 years ago. The government is buttressed by AMISOM, troops deployed by the African Union to keep the Islamic militant group, al-Shabab, at bay. It's a conditional deal: the TFG is expected to implement reforms leading to elections by Aug 20. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited in December to take stock and remind TGF leaders of the deadline.
As an intended boost for the reform effort and to morale, the United Nations is moving its Political Office for Somalia to Mogadishu in January from its present location in neighboring Kenya.
Ban met with Somali transitional President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali to remind them of the Aug 20 deadline and to stress that all parties must move ahead quickly with key reforms - to the constitution, parliament, security agencies and the presidency - ahead of democratic elections. The transitional leaders have been warned that they will lose vital international support if they do not meet the deadline.
Rashid Abdi, senior Somalia researcher with the International Crisis Group, warns that infighting between politicians and a self-serving policy agenda could see al-Shabaab or clan warlords return.
Somalia's civil war dates from 1991 with the overthrow of then-President Mohamed Siad Barre. The current conflict sees clashes between AMISOM and al-Shabab, which wants to impose strict Islamic law in Somalia.
Ban's visit was the first to Somalia of a UN secretary-general since 1993.
Date written/update: 2012-08-20