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War-ravaged country marks year of gains

August 22, 2013 - SOMALIA

On 22 Aug 2012 Somalia inaugurated its first parliament since 1991, and in the following month the members of parliament elected civic activist Hassan Sheikh Mohamud president in the first such vote on Somali soil since 1967. He beat the outgoing president, Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, in a run-off vote.

The event brought to an end the so-called transition period, which had started with the 2004 launch of a United Nations-backed interim government. Somalis had been without a functioning government since the overthrow of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991. The first anniversary of the landmark elections invites a status report on the country's new economic and political stability. The change has been described as a new dawn.

International commercial flights now land regularly at Mogadishu's refurbished airport, and Somalis are returning home, many as investors. The Christian Science Monitor notes that aid workers have ever-greater access to the millions of people still in grave need. Al Qaeda was on the run in 2012, according to the newspaper, pushed out of its major urban strongholds by African Union forces after four years in control of the country's south. The security concern is that hard line commanders of the Islamic militant organization Al Shabab are regrouping in the country's north. It asserts that the Somali government is going to have to show economic and political stability and dividends such as health and education to hold down potential support for Al Shabab if the insurgents made another run on the south.

The present state of affairs has been a long time coming. In Aug 2004 the country made its 14th attempt since 1991 to restore central government. Bitter divisions over where the parliament should sit stymied further attempts to stabilize it. Continuing attacks by insurgents complicated efforts at renewal. which, since 1991, has seen warlords, Islamist militants, and its neighbours variously involved in its affairs. (WRITTEN JAN 2013)

KEYWORDS: Somalia anniversary, first anniversary, election, elections, Somalia, Africa, Mogadishu, functioning government, new parliament, August 2012, first anniversary, presidentential election, parliamentary election, Al Shabab, Al Qaeda, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, Mohamed Siad Barre, war, war-torn, turmoil, economic stability, political stability, transitional government, building boom, airport, commercial flights, investors, Somalis, Somali investors

Somalia: welcoming recent gains (UN 31 Dec 2012)

Somalia timeline (BBC)

Possibilities for stability from Somalia to South China Sea (CS Monitor 27 Dec 2013)

Date written/update: 2013-08-22