Who is to blame for Somalia's "weak" federal system?


MOGADISHU, Somalia - Since 1991, Somalia has struggled to install a stable government especially after the disintegration of the military regime under the leadership of Siad Barre, a man who was accused of masterminding several crimes in the country.

For all this time, there have been deliberate efforts to revamp the administration of the country, including setting up workable plans that can help reinstate the much-needed peace and stability of the country, which has been a priority for most partners.

To make the transition period effective, the country adopted the federal systems, which give a number of regions both political and economic autonomy that makes governance easier. The autonomies are effective in countries with different segments, especially clans, races, and even economic ability.

Somalia has five states and the capital Mogadishu, which is in the Banadir region, and all have distinguished local governments that help in steering her development agenda. They include Jubaland, Puntland, Hirshabelle, Southwest, and Galmadug.

Jubaland was the second federal state of Somalia to be formed and has partly contributed to the current political stalemate, which is often blamed for the federal government. Ahmed Madobe is the first president of the state.

In one of his key addresses, former President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud defended federalism in Somalia, arguing that "it gives us a sense of belonging and helps us minimize conflicts". Sheikh Mohamud has often been hailed for promoting this governance style.

But he once complained that the "creation of Jubaland was badly thought and should have not happened at all". To him, federalism provides an opportunity for a smooth handing over of power from one generation to another in the fragile democracy.

Initially, Hassan Shiekh Mohamud, in his first two years at the helm, opposed the federal system, and this is why he was against the creation of Jubaland. But later on, he was the architect of the State of Hirshabelle and Galmudug.

But who is to blame for weak federalism?

Over the past few years, the federal system has faced a host of challenges in the country. Notably, sharing of resources and governance styles have been the topical issues that have often led to confusion, which threaten integration.

From disagreements on sharing of revenue to the divisions on how elections at the national level should be conducted, there is no doubt that federalism is facing a big test in Somalia, something which could define the future of the Horn of Africa nation.

Understandably, Jubaland President Ahmed Madobe and his Puntland counterpart Said Abdullahi Deni have often questioned the attitude of the federal government toward federal states. They have often accused outgoing President Farmajo of "weakening" the federal systems.

The Senate, whose main role is to represent the Federal States in this government, is less of a "toothless dog" with the Lower House making a number of decisions, including the recent term extension of Farmajo, which has since been rescinded.

But for Prof. Ali Warsame, the federal system is being sabotaged by a number of Somali nationals living in the West, whose aim is to push for centralism in the country. Centralism was the main reason for the chaos in Somalia, even leading to the secession of Somaliland.

"War against the federal system in Somalia is currently led by a team of Somalis living in the West with all its amenities, oblivious of the history of this country and unaware how far it has transformed for the last 30 years. Instead of trying to perfect the system, they're trashing it," he notes.

The professor in East Africa University now wants all actors to respect the constitution and implement some serious provisions for the sake of strengthening federalism, which he believes is the only right path to recovery in the war-torn nation.

"First, Somalia has a provisional constitution, not a fake constitution. It doesn't matter who funded it because the whole country is subsidized at the moment. Secondly, Somalia is a federal country and its name is 'Federal Republic of Somalia," he notes.

Farmajo factor

Over the last four years, the leadership of Farmajo has been questioned by his critics, with some accusing him of trying to impose centralism in the country by disregarding federalism, which governs the country.

Through his regime, Farmajo has been at loggerheads with Puntland and Jubaland, accusing the two states of undermining him. In return, there have been attempts to impose either parallel regional governments or friendly administrations.

Such efforts have yielded fruits in Hirshabelle, Southwest, and Galmadug where regional leaders are his close allies. At Banadir, the outgoing President also has the backing of Mayor Omar Filish, the de facto leader of the region.

But it's in Puntland and Jubaland has influence has significantly failed, often leading to clashes. For instance, the president is accused of imposing local administrations in Gedo, leading to his fallout with Madobe, but he has often blamed Kenya for his strained relationship with Jubaland.

Only Puntland and Jubaland are safe from possible penetration of dictatorship, which is seemingly cropping up in Somalia. But a number of South and Central politicians have now realized that the federal system it’s the only way you can use it in this country- in order to get the balance

Further, analysts believe that federalism has to some extent succeeded in taming a possible autocracy in Somalia, which largely depends on the international community for financial support among other necessities.

Farmajo is facing a tough internal resistance which forced him to rescind his decision to extend his term. Even as the country waits for make or break talks on May 20, the government still has a lot to do, especially in mending fences with mutineers, who accuse the president of authoritarianism.


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