To replace the fragile and flailing transitional body

Somalia's disparate leaders have agreed on the basic structure of a new Parliament and government to replace the fragile transitional body that has failed to bring peace to the war-torn country. Constant infighting, rampant corruption and bloody attacks by Islamist al-Shebaab insurgents undermined the unelected Transitional Federal Government (TFG), whose Western-backed mandate ends in August.

Somalia's President, the Presidents of the breakaway Puntland and Galmudug regions, and the commander of the powerful anti-Shebaab militia Ahlu Sunna Wal Jamaa signed the deal under U.N. auspices. The accord proposes a parliamentary system for anarchic Somalia, with both Puntland and Galmudug recognised as states within a federal system.

A 225-member Lower House — at least 30 per cent women — will be nominated by “traditional elders assisted by prominent civil society members,” reads the agreement, released late on Saturday after a three-day meeting.

An Upper House of 54 members will also be nominated, drawn from the different regions and clans of the fragmented country. The agreement is the latest among more than a dozen attempts to resolve Somalia's more than two decade-old civil war, with the country split between rival factions and pirate gangs who hijack ships far across the Indian Ocean.

Al-Qaeda allied Shebaab fighters, who control large parts of central and southern Somalia where they are battling African Union-backed government forces as well as Kenyan and Ethiopian troops, condemned the deal.

“The agreement is treason because it is part of a master plan of the international community to send Somalia back to colonisation,” Shebaab spokesman Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage told reporters.

Somalia has been without an effective central government since 1991, and the leadership in the capital Mogadishu is propped up by a 10,000-strong AU force from Uganda, Burundi and Djibouti.

In addition, a 1,000-member National Constituent Assembly will be nominated by agreement signatories “assisted by traditional leaders and civil society” groups, and must too include at least 30 per cent women.

“To ensure trust in the federal Parliament, members must be patriotic, honest and of good standing in Somali society,” the agreement reads, noting that anyone guilty of “serious crime or crimes against humanity” will be barred.

“They must respect and uphold the rights of all Somalis and demonstrate tolerance towards all,” says the deal, signed in the northern town of Garowe.

Assembly members will be selected from a “cross-section of society” including representatives from the youth, businesses, diaspora, religious and traditional leaders and “existing and emerging regional administrations.”

A third of Somalia's population need emergency aid and mortality rates remain among the highest in the world, the United Nations warns.

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