Reading all of the comments on my three previous blogs has clearly reminded me (as if I needed reminding) that Somalis around the globe love political debate. That is why I am so glad that this blog is beginning to provide a forum for a large number of people to express their views.

Those views have been wide-ranging and usually heartfelt. And if you have left a comment so far you are probably aware that someone has to approve your comments before they are actually posted. You may also have noticed that so far almost every comment has been approved. The only ones that we haven’t approved were those that used highly offensive language or were deeply insulting or abusive to others. I am pleased to say that very few have fallen into this category so far, while the debate about values, systems and society has been vibrant and generally respectful of others’ views.

Talking about values, systems and society, in as open a way as possible, is a key part of participating in the political process. And the political process is one of the subjects that will be discussed by the international community and Somalis at the London Conference. Because now is a critical time. Here’s my take on why:

The UK and the international community continues to support the Djibouti Peace Process and continues to work closely with the Transitional Federal Institutions (TFIs) to bring an end to the transition. The TFIs have until August 2012 to complete the transitional tasks. That the TFG and regional entities have agreed a comprehensive programme of work – the Roadmap – is welcome; as is the fact that they decided in Garowe, as part of the Garowe Principles, to hold a Constituent Assembly.

To be successful in helping take Somalia out of conflict, the Garowe process needs to be representative, and mechanisms should be found to ensure that all communities in Somalia, including those in the south, are represented in the discussion. This is about placing the Somali people at the heart of the process – in short, what you might call ‘Garowe-Plus’.

Time is tight. Experience suggests that such a process is fraught with difficulty. What should such a process look like? Well, for me, the by-words of any political process need to be ‘representative’, ‘participatory’, ‘bottom-up’. Even then, though, a number of questions remain – such as who and how to select participants? It will be for Somalis to decide on the key questions, such as whether the state should be federal or centralised, whether to have a Presidential or Cabinet system of government,  and what its constitutional responsibilities should be. In taking forward this important debate, the international community has a role to play to help ensure that the process is representative.

What do you think of progress on the Roadmap? What should follow the Transition? Who should have a say and why – a small group or a broad national dialogue? Tell me what you think below, or on Facebook or Twitter.

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