Somalilandsun – Articles 60 and 72 of the Provisional Constitution of Somalia (PC) stipulate that every four years, the people of Somalia has the opportunity to elect 275 peoples’ deputies to the House of the People (HoP) plus 54 Federal Member States (FMS)’ deputies to the Upper House.(UH) of the Federal Parliament (FP). In accordance with the PC provisions, members of the HoP and UH are subject to the same election process and term limit.
As per article 89, the 329 members of the two houses of FP elect the president of the Republic. However, in 2012, only members of HoP elected President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud because FMS and UH didn’t exist. The PC recognizes the existence of Puntland and Somaliland as regions but not as FMS entities.
The next election of members of parliament and president was scheduled in August 2016. But after more than a year of assurances that election will take place on schedule, the federal government (FGS) declared on July 28, 2015, that there will not be “one person one vote election in 2016” because legitimate and credible election is impossible. The Somali people is still debating on the significance and implications of government’s failure to implement the expected election.
Preemptively, the UN Security Council has ruled out term extension for president and parliament and asked the federal government to submit an alternative election plan to renew the popular mandate of both institutions. Addressing the participants of the High Level Partnership Forum (HLPF) conference held in Mogadishu on July 29-30, 2015, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud underscored that, “The Leadership and visibility of the government in putting together the plans, managing the activities and reporting on results will be crucial.” This implies unfettered FGS dominance in electoral process as manifested particularly in GalMudug State formation process.
Somalia’s 2016 election fiasco originates from the incoherent and contradictory PC impossible to amend and from the negligence of the FGS to address those defects as priority. The Vision 2016 which focuses on constitutional review, formation of FMS, and political election in 2016 has been developed as a short version of PC.
In 2012, I dedicated time and energy to highlight the pitfalls and traps of the PC that will surely lead to unescapable failure of the FGS but the principal actors at the time – the Transitional Federal Government and the International Community- chose to inflate the import of ending the transition and ushering in a permanent national government expected to restore and enhance the sovereignty, effectiveness, and leadership of the Somali State. To the contrary, the government remained in transition and its legitimacy and sovereignty greatly undermined.
The hype of the United Nations Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS) on 2012 transitional political process deafened everyone and forced Somali and foreign critics and skeptics to keep quite. One of the foreign scholars who intensely wrote about Somalia’s plight and needs told me that he gave up Somalia because of the lackadaisical attitude of Somali leaders and intellectuals towards the interests, unity, and independence of their country and people. Today, the critics and skeptics are vindicated for their insightfulness about the crisis in the offing but they are also depressed by the faltering of the Somali Statebuilding.
Matt Bryden, expert on Somalia and Tres Thomas authored SAHAN report on “Somalia’s Troubled Transition: Vision 2016 Revisited,” published in May 2015. The report details the impossible realization of the government system envisaged in the PC described as “Escherian design.” It reaffirms 2012 observation which says, “Many observers acknowledge that the 2012 political transition was deeply flawed and marred by corruption.” The authors suggest an international community led political settlement to avoid looming political crisis in 2016 for lack of constitutional solution.
There are three major shortcomings in the report. The first one is the distorted attribution of the desire for federalism to the pre-civil war concentration of power and wealth in Mogadishu. The second one relates to silence of the report on Somaliland-Puntland-Khatumo conflagration. The third one is the elevation of FMS as political stakeholders while 4.5 clans represent national stakeholders. Nevertheless, the reading of the report should stimulate discussion on saving Somalia from permanent chaos, disintegration, and prolonged external intervention.
Hence, my attempt is to simply highlight some points made in the report. Making reference to certain articles of the PC, the authors find that the legislative acts of the HoP, including the approval of important Independent Federal Commissions, are unconstitutional since they lack the concurrent approval of the UH of FP and consent of the FMS. The authors ignore the suspension of many articles of the PC by the HoP with the advice and consent of the International Community as the first order of business in 2012.
The report supports the truth that “many Somalis are still deeply opposed to federalism as a system of governance for the country, believing that it will balkanize and permanently weaken the Somali State.” It offers explanations about why Somalis disagree on four critical principles: ownership, representation, boundaries, and allocation of power and resources. With regard to ownership, the federation process starts from the regions. However, it is not clear in the PC, who has the federation agency (power) within the regions. Thus, the role of federal government in the federation process oscillates between as a guest in Jubbaland to as a monopolistic in GalMudug and Hiran/Middle Shabelle regions. The federation is centered on the dominance of one clan over other clans in each FMS.
As of today, the issue of representation is unsettled at national and local levels. Large segment of the Somali population calls first and foremost national reconciliation which precedes State formation and political representation. In addition, the report asserts that “many of the 2012 legislators cannot credibly claim to speak for their putative constituents because their selection process was flowed and corrupt.” This characterization demeans the legitimacy of current Somali parliament. Similarly, the representation of FMS is not yet grounded in democratic governance because the state power is in the hands of single executive president who controls few towns.
Crisis of boundaries and demography as a basis for federalism, came to the front because of Puntland identity. The reports says, “Puntland’s territorial logic is based upon its self-identification with the Darod Harti clan family and therefore represents a clan based variation on the ethnic federalism paradigm that many Somalis reject as a basis for statebuilding.” This narrative precludes the Somali citizenship identity and civic duty. The persisting standoffs within and without SW6, SW3, Jubbaland, Puntland-Somaliland-Khatumo, and GalMudug are vivid examples of simmering danger for violence. The prediction is that many dormant socio-political grievances, conflicts, and religious factionalism will reemerge when Al Shabab power and influence wanes. The absence of trusted mediators and mechanism will exacerbate community and individual diversity and conflicts.
The report argues against political parties election in Somalia on the ground that it upsets the clan based 4.5 formula and encourages greater political influence by religious associations. It suggests more reflection to develop electoral system that unites the Somali society and ensures the peaceful existence of Somalia. The transition from 4.5 clan formula to democratic political system that rewards individual efforts and sacrifices requires Somali leadership deeply concerned about the equality, social justice, well-being, and culture of the Somali society and widespread civic education.
The suggested path for 2016 transition is quick completion of the formation of Shabelle Valley State, Benadir State, and regional parliaments and to allow the FMS to elect their representatives in the HoP and in the UH of the FP. As the report argues, the suggested path permits to overcome the hurdles of the PC and the difficult of building a consensus among the de facto established “Somali leaders forum.” Finally, it guarantees the goal that the two houses of the FP elect next president of Somalia. However, the current members of parliament subscribe to the view that representatives elected through “one person one vote system” can replace them.
By Mohamud M. Uluso