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Last Updated: Feb 11, 2014 - 5:11:05 AM
Somalia: Face-Off Over Jubbaland

By: Dr. Michael A. Weinstein

The opening move in the political battle for the south of Somalia was made by Puntland’s government in an October 8 press release “welcoming” the nomination of Abdi Farah Shirdon as prime minister of the Federal Republic of Somalia. After promising that Puntland would cooperate with the new government, it issued a stern warning to that government that Puntland expected certain conditions to be met, among them: “Implementation and completion of the federal system of government in Somalia; Support for the ongoing formation of the remaining Federated States, such as Jubbland State, a new state in the Digil and Mirifle community lands, and other Federated States of Somalia.”

On October 26, Puntland’s president, Abdirahman Mohamed Farole, was more specific in his address at Eid-ul-Adha ceremonies in Garowe, appealing to the new national government “to promote national reconciliation and state-building processes, such as the formation of Jubbland.” He added that negotiations for a new government for the Jubba and Gedo regions were being “conducted in an inclusive manner among local communities.”

The Sunatimes website noted with regard to Farole’s remarks: “This is the first time in post-transition Somalia that two separate states or factions have shown solidarity and made a bid to reconcile the divisions that sprouted during the civil war.”

Puntland has made its move and is was ready to wage its fight for its vision of a decentralized federalism in which the constituent states are co-equal or perhaps even greater in power than the federal government is . Now everything depends on whether the Jubba and Gedo regions will combine according to the model of a state exemplified by Puntland’s autonomy, or will follow a model of a more centralized federalism in which the constituent states are subordinate in power to the national government.

The stakes are high; they concern the form of political organization that a Somali state will take. The Farole administration knows that and is acting accordingly. If a Jubbaland state modeled on Puntland comes into being, Puntland’s vision for Somalia is very likely to be achieved. Farole has taken a stand.

The new national government is predictably in favor of a more centralized federalism, but it lacks the developed vision that Puntland has. It is trying to establish itself, has very little power, and has recently suffered its first bout of the kind of in-fighting that plagued its predecessor, the Transitional Federal Government (T.F.G.).

The in-fighting occurred over Shirdon’s appointment on November 4 of a small cabinet of ten ministers that awakened opposition from sub-clans that were not included in it.

Anticipating a tussle, Parliament, on November 3, passed its first motion to alter the new Provisional Federal Constitution, revoking Article 67, which allows the president to dissolve Parliament “if the Lower House fails to approve the Council of Ministers and the government program.”

By November 8, opposition to Shirdon’s cabinet surfaced in Parliament when 30 MPs sent a statement to the parliamentary speaker, Mohamed Osman Jawari, that they rejected the “incomplete” cabinet list, which did not honor the 4.5 system of clan representation, and that they would not participate in a vote of confidence on it, because it would be unconstitutional to do so. As reported by Garoweonline, one of the statement’s signers was former T.F.G. constitution minister, Abdirahman Hoosh.

By November 9, the situation looked serious enough to United Nations special representative for Somalia, Augustine Mahiga, for him to “call on the Parliament to move expeditiously to ensure that Somalia has a duly endorsed Council of Ministers as soon as possible. A transparent, participatory and comprehensive hearing is in the national interest. We must move quickly.”

On November 10, Jawari announced that the vote in Parliament on Shirdon’s cabinet list, scheduled for November 9, had been postponed, and that no date had been set for a future vote.

Despite the first skirmishes of in-fighting in the new national government, its president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, attempted to assert authority in the south by sending an official delegation to Ksmayo to investigate stocks of charcoal, the export of which are banned by the U.N., a prohibition that local interests, Kenya, and African organizations are trying to have lifted.

When the delegation arrived on November 7, it was promptly expelled from Ksmayo on the grounds that it had come unannounced. Garoweonline reported that the expulsion was actually based on the inclusion in the delegation of associates of former warlords from the south, and on opposition to the national government “interfering in the local process to establish Jubbaland administration.” Hassan had taken the position that the national government should form the administration of a state in the south.

On November 9, Garoweonline reported that demonstrations against national government “interference” in the formation of a southern regional state being forwarded locally with the support of the Horn of Africa sub-regional organization, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (I.G.A.D.) had taken place across the southern territories. The spokesman for the national government armed forces in the Jubba regions, Mahamed Farah, told B.B.C.: “Jubbaland communities and Somali government forces in Jubbland will not accept Mogadishu to appoint an administration for Jubbaland regions, as this violates the Somali Federal Constitution.”

On November 10, members of the technical committee consisting of representatives of groups that had been negotiating in Kenya on the formation of the Jubbaland state, and representatives of I.G.A.D., arrived in Kismayo to prepare for a convention to inaugurate Jubbaland. Speaking for the Ras Kamboni group, which is the strongest domestic political-military faction in the Jubba regions, Abdinasir Serar told Garoweonline that he did not know how much time the state-formation process would take.

Meanwhile, another delegation from the technical committee was in Mogadishu meeting with Hassan to persuade him to back the Jubbaland process. Garoweonline reported on sources that said that “Hassan exchanged heated words with the committee members and demanded that IGAD stop supporting the process,” repeating that the administration should be nominated by the national government.

The struggle over the form of Somalia’s political organization has begun. The political battle for the south is underway. The proponents of decentralized federalism – Puntland, I.G.A.D., Kenya, and local factions in the south, represented by prominent leaders such as Ras Kamboni’s Ahmed Madobe and the Azania  group’s Mohamed  Abdi Gandhi – have the advantage over a weak national government that has not yet found its footing.

Report Drafted By: Dr. Michael A. Weinstein, Professor of Political Science, Purdue University in Chicago

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