Freedom in the World
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Freedom Rating (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Civil Liberties (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Political Rights (1 = best, 7 = worst)
As Ethiopian forces completed their withdrawal from the country in January 2009, Somalia’s transitional parliament was expanded to include opposition factions, and the new body elected moderate Islamist leader Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed as president. He formed a broader government that enjoyed international support and a moderate amount of domestic goodwill, but it struggled to impose its authority over more than a small portion of the country during the year. Meanwhile, its radical Islamist opponents, the Shabaab and Hizbul Islam, fought among themselves and alienated most Somalis with their brutal interpretation of Islamic law. A suicide bombing at a university graduation ceremony in December killed four cabinet ministers and several other officials, raising new doubts about the government’s ability to defend itself.
Somalia’s ongoing conflict and a chronic drought combined during the year to create what Refugees International described as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. More than 3 million people were in need of assistance, yet the UN World Food Programme had to scale back its operations due to the murder of two staff members in January and the reluctance of foreign donors to contribute money for food supplies that could be seized and exploited by Islamist militant groups.
Somalia is not an electoral democracy. The state has in many respects ceased to exist, and there is no governing authority with the ability to protect political rights and civil liberties. The TFG is recognized internationally, but its actual territorial control is minimal. The TFA, or parliament, was expanded in early 2009 following a 2008 agreement between the TFG and a wing of the opposition ARS. It now has 550 members, with 200 of the new seats allocated to the ARS and the remaining 75 to civil society groups. The TFA elects the president, choosing the moderate Islamist Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed in January after his predecessor resigned in late 2008. Sharif named Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke as prime minister in February. The TFG was given a five-year mandate when it was established in 2004, and a new constitution and national elections were supposed to follow. However, the TFA voted in January 2009 to extend the TFG’s mandate until 2011. The country has no effective political parties, and the political process is driven largely by clan loyalty.
The numerical ratings and status listed above do not reflect conditions in Somaliland, which is examined in a separate report.