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Somali politicians and world leaders met in Istanbul May 31, 2012, initiating a two day conference that attempts to end the two decades of anarchy in Somalia. The conference is to discuss the end of the transitional/interim, UN-backed government that is due to end in August 2012. This is the second of two conferences held this year about Somalia’s instability, the first being held in London.
The conference is being held in Istanbul, Turkey because of the aid and influence Turkey has given to Somalia in the past year. However, some Somali politicians are unhappy with how Turkey has handled the conference because the Somali officials were not consulted about who to invite to the conference.
Turkey’s influence in Somalia began after the devastating drought in Somalia in 2010 when Turkey first increased its aid to the country. According to the BBC, where other countries tried and failed to help Somalia, Turkey has actually brought about significant change; they have built roads, schools, and hospitals. Turkey was also one of the first countries to begin having commercial flights to Mogadishu again, starting last year. During the famine and drought in 2010 Prime Minister Erdogan was the first leader from outside of Africa to visit Somalia in almost 20 years.
On 23 May 2012, Somali officials from many disparate groups signed a document that will enable the transition from the interim government of Somalia to a stable and lasting one. The transition period is three months, meaning that the new government will be elected on 20 August 2012. Because of this early deadline and upcoming significant change, the peace conference is occurring at a perfect time to discuss Somalia’s future.
The main topic of discussion for this conference is the upcoming elections and the incoming government. Other issues discussed are a common international policy toward Somalia and economic issues such as energy, water, and roads. This conference agenda differs slightly from that of the one held earlier in the year in London which discussed terrorism and piracy more than Somalia’s future. This change in topics gives some hope for the possible stability of the Republic of Somalia.
Somalia is still plagued by the existence of al-Shabab, the al-Qaeda backed terrorist group which controls most of the Southern region of Somalia. In fact, the Somali government until very recently only had control of the capital, Mogadishu. However, very recent activity from Somali and African Union troops has allowed for the liberation of two strategic cities, Afgoye and Afmadow, from al-Shabab.
The last stronghold for al-Shabab is the port city of Kismayo where much of Somalia’s piracy calls home. The hope is that the port city will be taken by 20 August 2012 for the incoming government and to widen the electorate.
Image Courtesy of Foreign and Commonwealth Office