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Last Updated: Feb 11, 2014 - 5:11:05 AM
Somalia: The Structural Weakness of the Provisional Government

By: Dr. Michael A. Weinstein

Closed-source intelligence provides the basis for explaining the lack of progress that “Somalia’s” new provisional federal government (p.f.g.) has thusfar made in establishing effective governance.

A source from Mogadishu reports on the relations between the Western “donor”-powers/United Nations/AMISOM and the p.f.g.; and a source from the West reports on the relations within the p.f.g. and between the p.f.g. and other Somali political factions. Taken together, the sources describe the weakness of the p.f.g. that is responsible for the government’s ineffectiveness. The analysis that can be derived from the intelligence centers on a fundamental problem of power distribution faced by the p.f.g. that renders it incapable of effective action; that is, lack of progress by the p.f.g. is not due to defects in leadership, but to its position in a configuration of power that defines the conjuncture of actors with interests in Somalia.

The following discussion will begin with the analysis and then employ the intelligence to illustrate it.

The p.f.g. Pulled Apart

The great mistake of many Somali intellectuals and activists, when they criticize the p.f.g., and argue that its president, Hassan sh. Mohamoud, is incompetent, non-inclusive, or power-hungry, is to isolate the p.f.g., taking it out of its context in a power configuration. Any or all of the accusations against Hassan might or might not be true, but they might not have a decisive impact on the p.f.g.’s (in)effectiveness, if the p.f.g. has already been rendered ineffective by other more important factors.

The p.f.g. is a weak actor in a power configuration in which it is pulled by the proxy-chain presided over by the “donor”-powers, which hold the purse strings and bankroll AMISOM, and pulled into the fragmented clan, local, and regional conflicts of Somali politics. A government that cannot support itself and cannot exert control over the territory that it is supposed to govern can be called a “permanent” government for the purposes of international convenience, but it is sovereign only in a restricted legal sense and not I actuality.

How can a government provide security and deliver services if it depends on external actors to finance it and those actors are not giving it the resources to perform its basic functions? How can a government govern if its authority is actively disputed within its supposed territory and the very form of its political system has not been determined? The p.f.g. is financially starved from without and contested from within. What can it be expected to do? Political outcomes in “Somalia” are not under the p.f.g.’s control, but are resultants of the play between external actors, the p.f.g., and domestic factions. Critics of Hassan and the p.f.g. should ask themselves if any leader could be effective in such a power distribution. It is the easiest thing to blame leadership as a deflection from the unwillingness or inability to address more serious and less tractable structural conditions, which is not, of course, to say that Hassan is a strong leader.

The p.f.g. is like Gulliver in Jonathon Swift’s novel, confronting both Brobdingnagian giants and Lilliputian dwarfs – and both are equally destructive.

The Pull from Without

The intelligence from Mogadishu provides an inside look at the tensions and struggles between the “donor”-powers/UN and the p.f.g.

The source reports on a meeting in Mogadishu between the “donor”-powers/UN and the p.f.g. over control of the funds that the “donor”-powers are preparing to give to the p.f.g. The meeting ended without resolution because the p.f.g. demanded that it control the aid, and the “donor”-powers said that the aid would not be forthcoming unless the p.f.g. availed itself of “donor”-power “expertise.” The U.N.’s deputy special representative, Peter de Clercq, is reported to have said that the p.f.g. could not work “side by side” with the “donor”-powers and would need outside “expertise” for the next twenty years.

According to the source, the “donor”-powers’ position has led to outside N.G.O.s flooding into and setting up shop in Mogadishu with the aim of getting contracts for projects covering the normal functioning of government. Meanwhile, the p.f.g. has been financially starved, a condition that will persist at least until the tug of war between the “donor”-powers and p.f.g. ends; and probably beyond then.

The source reports that parliamentary speaker, Mohamed sh. Osman Jawari, has complained that money has not been provided to pay the salaries of members of parliament. The speaker has stated the problem succinctly: “We can’t do anything without money.” Expressing his frustration, Jawari wonders how it will be possible for the p.f.g. to “compromise” with the “donor”-powers.

The source adds that Somalia’s central bank is unable to function effectively because it does not have the $110,000.00 to pay for essential software and does not even have machines for identifying counterfeit money or even for counting bills.

The tensions between the “donor”-powers and the p.f.g. came out in the open on December 23 when p.f.g. minister for social affairs, Maryan Qasim Aweys, held a press conference, reported by Garoweonline, at which she said: “The Somali Federal Government wants to see new changes and expects all international agencies to present their plans and consult with the Somali Federal Government prior to aid operations in the country.” Henceforth, said the minister, aid agencies would operate under the oversight of the p.f.g. and would be required to “match the expectations designed by the Somali Federal Government.”

Given the source’s assessment, it is not likely that the p.f.g.’s demands will be met by the “donor”-powers/UN. Minister Qasim’s statement is part of the tug of war and shows that the struggle is getting out of hand. The p.f.g. is attempting to resist the pull from the “donor”-powers to make it a trusteeship entity. Aside from any other interests that the “donor”-powers have, they do not trust the p.f.g. with their money because they do not consider it to be competent and resistant to corruption. Similar tensions hobbled preceding Somali transitional administrations; nothing has changed for the new “permanent”/provisional government.

The Pull From Within

As the p.f.g. attempts to secure funds and some control over their use, the Western source reports that “local issues are keeping the president busy.” In particular, according to the source, the administration of the south (Gedo and the Jubba regions) is viewed as a “life and death” issue by Hassan.

The p.f.g. has taken the position that any administration for the southern regions should be approved by the p.f.g., whereas the factions in the south that are participating in the process of forming a “Jubbaland” state, under the aegis of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (I.G.A.D.), insist on setting up the administration themselves.

In the conflict over the south, Kenya, which occupies the southern regions, backs the I.G.A.D. process and the Somali factions involved in it, setting up a confrontation between the p.f.g. and Kenya.

When, after delays due to the disagreement over the southern regions, Hassan met with Kenya’s president, Mwai Kibaki, in Nairobi in December, 2012, the communiqe that resulted from the talks did not make any mention of the Jubbaland issue, which means that the political outcome in the south has not yet been determined, and that it will continue to absorb Hassan’s efforts and attention.

It makes sense for Hassan to consider “Jubbaland” a “life and death” issue. What happens politically in the south is likely to set the pattern for relations between a future Somali national government and the regional states with which it shares power. In the present case, it is a question of the role of the national government in the selection of officials in the regional-state governments. Beyond that is control over security forces and disposition of natural resources, and foreign agreements that the regional-states make. Whatever his motives might be in countering the Jubbaland initiative, the objective effect of Hassan’s resistance is to bring to the fore the essential question of state-structure: What kind of federalism will Somalia have (if it ever does have an actual permanent government)?

That said, concentration of effort on working out basic political organization takes away attention from normal governing, and exerts an internal pull on the p.f.g. That pull has become even stronger by opposition to Hassan and the p.f.g. by factions-interests that feel they have been excluded from the government, particularly sub-clans of major clan families that say that they have not received a fair share of power and positions. The opposition to Hassan has been publicly reported and is confirmed by the Western source, who reports that sub-clan resentments have bred an atmosphere of “unspoken suspicion” in government, parliament, and other political actors. Here, as in the case of “Jubbaland,” the problem is basic: Who is represented and with what relative power? Normally functioning governments do not have to address that question.

It is quite possible that conflicts will break out in parliament, and between parliament and government, as they did in previous transitional administrations, that are actuated by the representation question. The same conditions are present as held in the past. Indeed, Shabelle Media reported on December 24 that physical fighting occurred in parliament during debates on the budget and the number of foreign embassies Somalia should have, and that the meeting was adjourned due to disorder. Garoweonline reported that on December 26 parliament reconvened and rejected the 2013 budget proposed by the p.f.g. by a vote of 70-54-39. At issue was the demand by some parliamentarians that the pay for security forces be increased.

The “Jubbaland” affair and the representation dispute illustrate the weakness of the p.f.g. from within, a deficit of domestic support in a fragmented political situation.


The p.f.g. is being pulled apart by the “donor”-power proxy-chain that deprives it of adequate resources in an attempt to exert control; and domestic factions outside it that contest its authority and divert it from performing the normal functions of government. In the power configuration that characterizes the present situation, the p.f.g. loses legitimacy and is incapable of mobilizing support. That has been the case for previous transitional governments in Somalia and it remains so.

Whatever flaws the p.f.g. might have and whatever defects in leadership the p.f.g. might show pale in significance next to the constraints on it imposed by the “donor”-powers and the factionalized domestic opposition. It is likely that the structural problem in power distribution will not be overcome.

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

©2012 All rights reserved. Users may download and print extracts of content from this article for their own personal and non-commercial use only. Rebublication or redistribution of this report, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of  Garowe Online.

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