World Bulletin / News Desk
A political crisis that has produced Somalia's third prime minister in just over a year has delayed work to draw up a new constitution and steps needed to prepare for a referendum and election in 2016, U.N. envoy Nick Kay said on Wednesday.
Somalia is slowly recovering from two decades of conflict. A military campaign has driven rebels out of major strongholds and some refugees have begun returning home but efforts to rebuild the state have stalled.
"You are not going to have a lasting peace in Somalia without building a state," Kay, the U.N. special envoy to Somalia, told Reuters. "The delays caused by political infighting have affected progress."
The goal is to put a constitution to a referendum in March 2016 that will outline a new federal structure to help overcome the regional and clan rivalries that fuelled past fighting. A vote for a new president is due to follow in September 2016.
But a constitutional review commission has yet to start work, some regions in a new federal state have not been demarcated and an independent electoral commission has yet to be named.
"They have made progress but the timelines now are very tight," Kay said in Addis Ababa, where he was attending a summit of African Union leaders. "So they need encouraging to do more and more quickly."
President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud named his third prime minister, Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, in December after a row with the previous premier. Parliament then rejected Sharmarke's first cabinet, forcing him to name a new one this week.
Only when a new cabinet is in place can it name the election commission, which parliament must approve. Parliament is due to head into a recess on Feb. 5 and is not due to return until March, said Kay, threatening further delays.
Western and other donors, which have pledged billions of dollars for reconstruction, have urged politicians to set aside differences, fearing al Shabaab Islamist militants can exploit the vacuum.
Al Shabaab has been pushed out of major strongholds by an offensive launched last year by African peacekeepers and Somali troops. More of the country is now under government control but rebels still launch frequent gun and bomb attacks.
However, with more order in some areas, Kay said a U.N.-supported programme had so far helped about 1,000 Somali refugees return home from Kenya since late last year.