Federal project in Somalia blur


By Abdirashid M. Dahir 

It’s no wonder that Somalia’s federalism project has risked exacerbating political if not armed tensions among rival factions.

The political endeavor of Somalia federalism is to reconcile unity and clannish diversity by preserving interests of all Somali clans from the tip of the horn to the fertile hinterland sharing border with neighboring Kenya, accommodating minorities, especially long-despised communities and promoting marginalized identities within a much anticipated political force in a country ravaged by a two-decade old conflict.  

Somalis don’t want the federal government to facilitate decisive central action and leave states impotent-but we need to carefully review the constitutional legalities that have been tampered with, sans the prior consent of key stakeholders including Puntland [roadmap signatory].

Albeit external pressure, the process has tended to be ham-fisted by particular groups without acting on citizens through more legitimate governance as of today.

In truth, some states have ensured areas of genuine autonomy. However, a supreme Provisional Federal Constitution [PFC) that was not unilaterally amendable in the interest of the national government, and at the expense of federal states could be a solution, even in the long run.

The current umpire, the federal parliament is deeply embroiled in infighting, yet a more representative chamber can be a robust law-making institution in the next government.

In Somalia, disputing leaders are reluctant in facilitating collaboration in critical areas where responsibilities are either shared or inevitably overlap. For instance, experts might have critiqued our federalization process on two grounds:

First, like unresolved wrangle between Puntland and Galmudug, rise of territorial disputes and lack of proper channels to mediate in conflict, shunning final solution for referendum and secondly, failure to delegate powers to federal member states and interim regional administrations.

Perhaps, disenfranchisement continues to grow wide within and between clans in every constituent unit. Jubaland, indeed took concrete steps to address the grievances of some clans with the allocation of more seats for underrepresented communities in Lower Jubba, Middle Jubba and Gedo regions.

To understand how federal system can operate in war-torn Somalia, it’s necessary to examine not only the ongoing project’s constitutional law but also its political practices such as a strong disposition to democratic procedures and open political bargaining.

Somalia federalism is the product of devolution from a previously centralized regime and the focus must be borders delineating federal states and interim regional administrations.

We only have Supreme Court which serves as final adjudicator for all laws including the constitution and the other specialist constitutional court for constitution interpretation is out of touch. Besides, it is worth drawing special attention to federal and regional policies as well as inclusiveness for all major groups within the federation.

I strongly believe that federalism is panacea for internal strives, and acknowledge the existence of serious difficulties that need to be overcome with sense of decisiveness and mutual concessions. Somalia’s political leadership needs to respect constitutional norms and structures, and exercise the spirit of tolerance and compromise to avoid putting the federal project in blur and jeopardy.

In a frank manner, federal political structure can be sustained and prosper with appropriately designed institutions in the perplexing post-conflict situation of Somalia.

Abdirashid M. Dahir is a blogger. Follow him on twitter @somaliajunkie 

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