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Horn of Africa: Politics and Government

Volume 488: debated on Tuesday 24 February 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the current political situation in (a) Somalia, (b) Ethiopia and (c) the surrounding region; and if he will make a statement. (254116)

The Somali Parliament expanded its number of seats by 275 during the latest round of talks in Djibouti in the last week of January. Over 150 new Members of Parliament (MPs) were sworn in. The MPs elected a new President, Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, on 31 January 2009, who will lead the Somali Government. It is too early to assess whether this development will help to produce the broad-based Government Somalia needs, although the expansion of Parliament is in itself a positive development.

We are working with the Ethiopian Government to ensure political space is maintained ahead of the Ethiopian national elections next year. Our current concerns focus around the passing of a law regulating non-governmental organisation social advocacy, and the re-arrest of the opposition politician Birtukan Midekssa.

We welcomed the completion of Ethiopia's mission in Somalia, and its withdrawal.

The UN Security Council (UNSC) recently passed a resolution condemning Eritrea for its incursion into Djibouti in June 2008. We will continue to monitor the dispute, paying particular attention to the deadline set by the UNSC for Eritrea to take action to engage on and resolve the dispute with Djibouti.

In relation to the Ethiopia-Eritrea border dispute, while there has been no recent fighting, a resolution of the underlying problem currently appears unlikely.