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Crucial constitutional meeting kicks off in Mogadishu

Monday, May 07, 2012

MOGADISHU, May 6 (Xinhua) -- Major conference for Somalia top traditional elders and aimed at selecting an assembly that will adopt the newly drafted constitution and a new parliament continue for the second day running.

The gathering brings together 135 key traditional elders who will decide the 825-members constitution assembly expected to debate the new constitution and adopt it in two weeks time, Somali government said.

Somalia's top leaders, including president Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, and Speaker of parliament Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adam attended Saturday's opening ceremony.

The meeting of the Somali traditional leaders in Mogadishu marks major step in implementing the roadmap for the ending of the transitional period in August when a new permanent government is expected to assume power.

"The conference signifies the commitment of the signatories of the Roadmap, especially in the agreement to end the transitional period in time," Somali government said in a statement.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Somalia President Ahmed welcomed the elders who he said "will lead the nation to a national unity". The Somali leader also expressed appreciation to the donors that supported Somalia throughout the transitional periods that extended to almost a decade.

Others leaders urged the elders "to agree on all common national interests", adding that a lot were expected of the elders.

The Somali governments explicated its achievements over the last several months and avowed that it will finalize the necessary benchmarks of the Roadmap before the end of the current transitional period in August.

"The government considers this conference a great milestone, converging key traditional elders and completing the draft constitution, which brings the outstanding benchmarks in the Roadmap to few activities before August 20, 2012," a government statement said.

The Prime Minister, Abdiwali Mohamed Ali, emphasized the improvements his government made so far in the security field that made it possible for the government to host a major conference.

Attending the conference as observers were the Somali civil society groups who stated their commitments to support the traditional elders in "embodying not only the interests of civil society groups, but also the larger society as well".

Armed opposition group of Al-Shabaab who are not part of the process, have threatened to derail the meeting and vowed to target elders who take part in the UN-backed gathering in Mogadishu.

Security was tightened in and around the conference venue as well as throughout the Somali capital Mogadishu during and prior to the gathering of the traditional elders who came from all of Somalia's regions and clans.

The Somali government sponsored meeting is expected to continue for two weeks before the opening of the first meeting of the constituent assembly that will vote on the newly drafted constitution.


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