Somali president committed to more inclusive vote in 2016

Photo Courtesy of UN Photo/Kim Haughton

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The president of Somalia has said he is committed to holding elections on time next summer, before his current term runs out in August 2016, and wants a more inclusive voting process than in the past.

In Somalia’s last election in 2012, members of parliament were chosen by elders from their communities and those lawmakers then picked Hassan Sheikh Mohamud as president.

Somalia has been struggling to rebuild after two decades of war and chaos and is still battling an Islamist insurgency.

Diplomats say delays in writing a new constitution, registering voters and other groundwork mean an earlier goal of holding a one-person-one-vote poll looks unrealistic.

“One thing I can assure, there will not be an extension, and the next government will be brought by Somali citizens,” Mohamud told a news conference in Mogadishu on Sunday. “We are not pursuing an extension of the mandate.

“Right now, what we are pursuing is, we want the next parliament to have more legitimacy,” he said.

He said it was possible “millions” of Somalis would participate.

U.N. envoy to Somalia Nick Kay told Reuters last week one option would be to expand the number of people choosing the president to include elders, civil society, women’s groups and others, but added it was it was up to Somalis to decide.

Many Somalis have come home from abroad as a semblance of peace returns to some areas. Kenya hosts 335,000 in its Dadaab refugee camp, near the Somalia border.

“If we don’t prepare the ground for the returnees, then it won’t be feasible,” the president said, when asked about the possible return of refugees from Kenya.

He said refugees depended on education, health and other services in Dadaab that were lacking in Somalia.

“At least some level of that care needs to be available in Somalia. Otherwise, when they home here, they see the situation, they will go back,” he said.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, said during a visit to Dadaab last week the U.N. agency had identified three areas of Somalia that might be safe enough to return to, but said the process must be voluntary.

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