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Is federal system suitable for Somalia?
Since 2004, the country has moved toward a federal system, not because it is inherently better, Mohamed said, but because, “Somali people don’t trust each other.” … It is the best form administration we can implement today in Somalia,” Mohamed Nurani Bakar, a member of parliament, told IRIN.Feb 5, 2014
Briefing: Can federalism work in Somalia?
Reportfrom The New Humanitarian
NAIROBI, 5 February 2014 (IRIN) – On paper, federalism appears to be central to today’s Somalia. “Federal Republic” is part of its official name. It is run by a “federal national government”. “Federal, sovereign and democratic” are the country’s defining characteristics, according to Article 1 of the 2012 provisional constitution, a document in which the word “federal” appears 710 times.
But in the wake of more than two decades of civil war and state collapse, Somalis disagree about whether federalism is a recipe for sustainable peace – and even whether such a system is practicable.
This briefing examines the issues.
What does federalism mean in Somalia?
Federalism is an ambiguous notion, involving relationships between central and peripheral power structures that vary widely from country to country.
In Somalia, the constitution outlines the connections between the central government and future “federal member states,” but the precise roles and responsibilities of each level of government are not specified.
Article 54 states: “The allocation of powers and resources shall be negotiated and agreed upon by the Federal Government and the Federal Member States” pending their creation, except in the areas of foreign affairs, national defense, citizenship and immigration, and monetary policy, which are all under the purview of the central government, based in the capital, Mogadishu.
The federal member states will be represented in parliament through the Federal State’s upper house of parliament, which has yet to be created.
“My own feeling is that the nature of Somali federalism remains far from agreed,” Michael Walls, senior lecturer at University College London and a leading expert on Somalia, told IRIN by email.
Is federalism new in Somalia?
“Somalia has tried many systems of governance since its independence,” Abdulkadir Suleiman Mohamed, a writer and political analyst, told IRIN. After independence, the country followed the British model of a parliamentary system, until the 1969 coup d’état, when the military government installed a “scientifically Socialist” state.
Since 2004, the country has moved toward a federal system, not because it is inherently better, Mohamed said, but because, “Somali people don’t trust each other.”
“Resource-sharing, power-sharing, political representation – all have been abused by certain people in the higher ranks of the government. Welfare services have never been delivered. Local constituents never received their share of national resources. So federalism was proposed a way forward in Somali politics,” he said.
Abdi Aynte, director of the Heritage Institute for Policy Studies (HIPS), agreed that Somalia has come to see federalism as a viable solution to restoring peace. “Due to the prolonged civil war and the resulting trust deficit, Somalis are yearning for local control of their politics. Decentralization, or any other form of federalism, is the answer to their quest,” he told IRIN by email.
“Federalism will disperse power among the states, and will thus reduce the concentration of power on central hands. It is the best form administration we can implement today in Somalia,” Mohamed Nurani Bakar, a member of parliament, told IRIN. The “unitary system of governance has brought us a lot of problems that are still with us today,” he said.
Who creates the federal member states?
The process of creating most federal states has been fraught with delays, contestation and confusion. Under the provisional constitution, all federal states must be built from among the 18 regions that existed prior to the civil war. “Two or more regions may merge to form a Federal Member State,” according to the constitution.
But an independent boundaries and federation commission, responsible for determining the number and boundaries of federal states, has yet to be formed by parliament’s lower house, leaving regions unsure of their legal status under the provisional constitution.
The commission was meant to be appointed 60 days after the new Council of Ministers was formed following the passage of the draft constitution in 2012, but that never happened.
“The creation of Federal Member States proved to be a very controversial issue during the constitutional conferences leading to this Draft Provisional Constitution,” noted a guidebook created by the UN Political Office for Somalia. For this reason, the constitution specified that the process of deciding federal member states will be carried out by the independent commission comprising representatives from all of Somalia and international experts.
Officially, no federal member states exist yet, and the government has until elections in 2016 to create them. It is widely expected that Puntland is the closest to achieving federal state status, and could be a model for other states. Jubaland and Galmudug also have state-building efforts underway, although there is a lot of in-fighting at the local level. Jubaland has two rival talks going on while Galmudug has three or four.
What’s the importance of Puntland?
Puntland has described itself as a semi-autonomous entity since 1998 with varying relations with Mogadishu. A recent presidential election, won by Abdiweli Gaas, seems to have put an end to a period of animosity.
Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud reacted in a statement: “I extend my personal congratulations to Abdiweli Mohammed Ali Gaas and I look forward to working closely with him as the government continues to build a federal Somalia.
“Puntland is a model for the rest of the country and what happens there matters very much.”
Gaas’s predecessor, Abdirahman Mohamed Faroole, “used the conflict/tension with Mogadishu to shore up his domestic – i.e., Puntland – support base, whereas Abdiweli Gaas draws his strongest support from international actors and many in Mogadishu,” said Walls.
“To that extent, I would expect the relationship between Puntland and Mogadishu to improve under Abdiweli’s presidency, and he did underline his desire to see such an improvement in his inauguration speech.”
“I do not think that a strongly centralized federal system is likely to be accepted by most Somalis,” he said, adding: “Puntland is therefore very important as an expression of what a loosely federated state might look like.”
What is happening in Jubaland?
There are two separate processes taking place in Jubaland. One is the Intergovernmental Authority on Development-brokered talks between a delegation led by the Ras Kamboni movement (a paramilitary group opposed to Al-Shabab) leader Ahmad Madobe, and the SFG. In August, they signed an agreement in Addis Ababa, creating a Juba Interim Administration led by Madobe that will be in place for two years.
The talks say that during this time, “subject to the constitutional process, a permanent Federal Member State will be established.” The crucial port of Kismayo and the airport will be managed by the national government during this time.
The formation of Jubaland in southern Somalia was initially met with opposition from Mogadishu, which accused a conference of stakeholders in February 2013 of being unconstitutional because it was “carried out without reference to the federal government.” Politicians in the Juba and Gedo regions, areas in the proposed borders, also protested that the Jubaland leadership would not be representative of all of the clans living in the region.
A separate bid to join regions in Jubaland is also progressing. The Baidoa conference is attempting to join together Lower Juba, Middle Juba, Lower Shabell, Bay, Bakool and Gedo. The conference has been ongoing for over a year, with some support from the federal government, despite the SFG having signed the Addis Agreement.
Tensions are running high between the rival state formation talks. Last week, reports emerged that troops from the African Union Mission in Somalia had attempted to take over the conference hall where the Baidoa conference was taking place, to stop the meeting.
Nicholas Kay, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Somalia, said that it was important that stakeholders continue to meet in Baidoa, noting that “nobody should risk taking steps that spoil peace-and-state-building processes.” He also asked that “all parties remain calm, committed to dialogue and support reconciliation efforts.”
Jubaland will have significant regional importance – the Kenyan government would view it as a vital buffer zone between Somalia and northern Kenya, offering protection against Al-Shabab. Ethiopia would also see it as a vital shield to its territory, provided Jubaland’s leadership was not sympathetic to the Ethiopian rebel group Ogaden National Liberation Front.
What are some of the other challenges facing federalism?
Civic education, distribution of resources between state and national governments, and the status of Mogadishu are also major challenges.
Aynte of HIPS recommends the creation of a body responsible for national civic education on federalism. Most people are not aware how diverse federalism is or the options available for decentralization. There also needs to be national dialogue on the role of national and local authorities in controlling revenues from natural resources, he believes.
“One area where there is real potential for revenue, the exploitation of natural resources, has been postponed to an unspecified time due to the controversy it has already raised between Puntland and the TFG [Transitional Federal Government – the former name for the SFG],” said Issa Mohamud Farah, director general of the Puntland Petroleum Minerals Agency. “In a country where agriculture is marginal, manufacturing is non-existent and the service sector is limited, the potential importance of revenue from petroleum and mineral resources is not to be underestimated.”
This is likely to be an area of conflict between the federal states and central government, which would want greater control of oil revenues, Farah believes.
Somalia President Mohamud also acknowledged that this is a major difficulty. “We don’t have resource-sharing, we don’t have revenue-sharing, we don’t have many, many more things to share,” he said at an event at London’s Chatham House in February 2013. “If we do not put those tools and instruments in place then federalism will create more problems.”
Third, the issue of the status of Mogadishu has yet to be discussed. It could occupy the place of a special city outside of the federal states system, like Washington, DC, or Canberra. Analysts believe that this debate will be likely to come to the fore once federal boundaries have been negotiated and delineated.
“In a post-conflict environment, the process of state-formation normally leads to conflict,” Aynte noted, indicating that to expect the system to work immediately would be naïve. “Federalism will continue to be a source of both harmony and contestation. And that’s to be expected. In the interim, it’s going to be difficult, but eventually it will work out.”
Are there any opponents to federalism?
Yes, some. Opponents of the federal project worry that it could lead to fragmentation and clan violence.
“Federalism is a destructive force for Somalia, and it will continue to remain one whose woes will haunt Somalia,” Abdulkadir Sheikh Ismail, former chairman of the parliamentary committee on constitutional affairs, told IRIN. If “regional state interests take prominence over the national interest, the common interest is lost as a result, and that could set a dangerous precedent,” he added.
Mohamed Hassan Haad, a well-known traditional elder, is also skeptical. “Somalis do not understand what federalism is. It does not serve the interest of Somali people and will remain an intractable problem in the long run. It is going to set one clan against the other,” he told IRIN. “Somalis have been fighting over clan and religious issues for two decades, and federalism is nothing but a new source or cycle of conflict over land and ownership.”
Asked about what he thought of federalism, 23-year-old Ayuub Suleiman Jama, who grew up experiencing years of clan clashes and religious fanaticism, responded without hesitation. “Division,” he said.
“The establishment of a federalism of the clan, rather than a regional one” is a serious risk, according to Marco Zoppi, a freelance political analyst. “The current distribution of the clan already lends itself to a phenomenon of this kind.”
Most people in Somalia, however, recognize that there has to be some form of power-sharing, and that is best done through a form of federalism. But Farah warned, “Without a strong commitment from the federal government, federalism will not flourish in Somalia.”
SOMALIA SPECIAL REPORT [20 articles] Share ===The challenges facing president Hassan Sheikh====Your request has been processed.You can now access the special report online and/or download it in PDF format
Taking office in September, 2012 and quickly winning the international community’s blessing, Somali president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud appointed a small cabinet composed of a majority of followers of the Islamic group Damul Jadid, which is close to the Moslem Brotherhood. As a result, he immediately found himself confronting the autonomy-minded designs of the former warlord, Ahmed Mohamed Islam, alias Madobe, the strongman of Jubaland State (Kismayo and its region) and a friend of Kenya. So apart from a number of superficial improvements (such as setting up new institutions, tightening security), Somalia is facing several risks: the Moslem Brotherhood’s influence on the president and the need to strike a delicate balance between the federal government and break-away regions. Not to mention the prospect – still quite far down the road – of developing Somalia’s oil potential, which is already reviving tension between the Mogadishu government and the autonomous administrations of Somaliland and Puntland – and with next-door Kenya.
(1 articles) THE INDIAN OCEAN NEWSLETTER n°1361 – 26/07/2013
Security companies mushrooming
The Canadian group Garda and the American company Bancroft, which works for Amisom, are by no means the only private security companies in Mogadishu. (…) [334 words]
Villa Somalia infiltrated by Damul Jadid sect(6 articles) THE INDIAN OCEAN NEWSLETTER n°1355 – 26/04/2013
Dissension in the Al Islah group
One of the two rival Al Islah factions has joined the Damul Jadid Islamic group that is highly influential in President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud’s entourage. (…) [318 words]
THE INDIAN OCEAN NEWSLETTER n°1354 – 12/04/2013
A reshuffle is already in the air
Just five months after it took up office in Mogadishu (>ION 1344) the Somalian government is already reaching the end of its tether and the idea of a ministerial reshuffle has been gathering steam over the last few weeks. (…) [216 words]
THE INDIAN OCEAN NEWSLETTER n°1348 – 18/01/2013
Former Speaker rocks the boat
The former Speaker of the Somalian Parliament Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden (Rahanweyn/Ashraaf) is still an influential political figure, even though he did not manage to make anything of his presidential ambitions last year. (…) [199 words]
THE INDIAN OCEAN NEWSLETTER n°1344 – 17/11/2012Spotlight on the new cabinet
A distinctive feature of the new cabinet that Parliament has just approved is that several ministers are ideologically close to Somalian President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. (…) [280 words]
THE INDIAN OCEAN NEWSLETTER n°1341 – 06/10/2012
President’s inner circle
Some members of several Islamic groups close to the Muslim Brotherhood make up the political entourage of the new Somalian President, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. (…) [322 words]
THE INDIAN OCEAN NEWSLETTER n°1341 – 06/10/2012Hassan Sheikh Mohamud
In order to get himself elected President of Somalia last month, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, a Hawiye/Abgal/Wa’isle, had the backing of several members of the Islamist organisation al-Islah(the reform), which is ideologically close to the Muslim Brotherhoodand plays an active role in civil society (see p. (…) [279 words]
Mogadishu against the creation of Jubaland(7 articles) THE INDIAN OCEAN NEWSLETTER n°1358 – 14/06/2013The King of Kismayo is already disputed
Kenya is taking a risky strategy in backing the head of Jubaland, Ahmed Mohamed Islam, better known as Madobe. His power is disputed by “minority” clans that could band together against him. (…) [269 words]
THE INDIAN OCEAN NEWSLETTER n°1357 – 06/06/2013Hassan Sheikh Mohamud sounds out Kenyatta
The recent visit to Kenya of Somalian presidentHassan Sheikh Mohamud was motivated in part by concern over the ambiguity of the Kenya authorities about Jubaland, the autonomous state in waiting in southern Somalia with its president, Ras Kamboni Brigadeleader Ahmed Mohamed Islam,better known asMadobe. (…) [211 words]
THE INDIAN OCEAN NEWSLETTER n°1352 – 15/03/2013The army’s new leaders
President Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud has wanted to replace the Somalian chief of the general army staff, General Abdiqadir Sheikh Ali Dini, for some time now, as he had been appointed to this post by his predecessor. (…) [238 words]
THE INDIAN OCEAN NEWSLETTER n°1347 – 04/01/2013Hassan Sheikh walking on a tightrope
President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud’s idea of a federal system driven by Mogadishu has already brought him difficulties. (…) [256 words]
THE INDIAN OCEAN NEWSLETTER n°1346 – 14/12/2012
The President’s men in Kismayo
After two weeks of deadlock, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was finally able to appoint the delegates to sit on the technical committee of the InterGovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) taking part in the Kismayo talks on the administration of this region (>see here). (…) [167 words]
THE INDIAN OCEAN NEWSLETTER n°1346 – 14/12/2012Delicate birth of Jubaland
Kenya and Ethiopia are still backing the plan to create a regional State of Jubaland around Kismayo. They would appear to have finally come to terms with the idea of a combined approach. (…) [268 words]
THE INDIAN OCEAN NEWSLETTER n°1342 – 20/10/2012New factors contributing to political risk
The civil war in Somalia has entered a new phase which is less favourable to the Al-Shabaabradical Islamists. However, Al-Shabab is still dangerous despite its recent military setbacks. New institutions are painstakingly and gradually setting up in Mogadishu. This apparent improvement hides new factors of potential conflict around the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood on the new President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, on the clan balance of a future administration of Kismayo and of the possible manipulation of federalism by local potentates. (…) [670 words] Oil a potential source of border conflicts(6 articles) THE INDIAN OCEAN NEWSLETTER n°1357 – 07/06/201An oil war in the offing
The Somalian government decided on June 7 to extend the country’s territorial waters to 200 nautical miles and chose a line lying at a right angle to its coast to mark the maritime boundary with Kenya. (…) [187 words]
AFRICA ENERGY INTELLIGENCE n°698 – 30/04/2013DNO puts money on Hargeisa
With only a single foothold in Africa up to now, the Norwegian firm is investing in Somaliland just as many companies start knocking on Mogadishu’s door. (…) [305 words]
THE INDIAN OCEAN NEWSLETTER n°1350 – 19/02/2013Ministry petroleum team set up
Somalian Minister of Natural Resources Abdirizak Omar Mohamedhas just set up his new oil team. On February 17, he officially appointed two foreign advisers who had already been working for his predecessor. (…) [244 words]
THE INDIAN OCEAN NEWSLETTER n°1350 – 15/02/2013Total wondering about block L22
After the Norwegian firm Statoil, which dropped block L26 because it was situated in a maritime zone whose boundaries were not clearly defined as being in Kenya or Somalia, now it is the turn of Totalto wonder about the conditions for working its offshore block L22. (…) [256 words]
THE INDIAN OCEAN NEWSLETTER n°1338 – 25/08/2012Last minute bids for oil
Just before the mandate of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) in Mogadishu came to an end, the outgoing oil minister, Abdulkadir Mohamed Diesow, who is close to the outgoing TFG President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed was contacted by two oil companies that wanted to take advantage of the situation to obtain search permits in Somalia. (…) [126 words]
THE INDIAN OCEAN NEWSLETTER n°1336 – 07/07/2012
From civil war to squabbling over oil
The prospect that conditions conducive to searching for oil in Somalia are returning has resulted in a variety of initiatives. And this despite the fact that the civil war against the Al Shabaab Islamists has not yet been won, even though they have been ousted from Mogadishu and are cornered in the south of the country. (…) [726 words]
Hassan Sheikh Mohamud | Damul Jadid | Moslem Brotherhood | Ahmed Mohamed | Madobe
- Ulussow, Mohamed Mohamuud https://www.pambazuka.org/governance/clan-federalism-tears-somalia-apart(accesseds November 14th, 2019)
- Afyare, Elmi: https://www.dohainstitute.org/en/lists/ACRPS-PDFDocumentLibrary/UPDATED_Somalia_Decentralization_Paper.pdf(Accesseds November 18, 2019)
John Kerry says Africa has “Natural Resources”, Therefore the US is a “Natural Partner”By Timothy Alexander Guzman
Fake and phony Chris DOWDEN
You feel like
know some rather annoying crows in the Somali port town of Berbera. Every morning, as I eat my breakfast by the beach, they swoop down and steal my bread, my jam, even my butter.
Then they fly back up to their perches on a tall metal fence. They look like sentries, their black feathers gleaming, beaks curved and sharp.
“The Russians brought those birds,” an elderly Somali tells me. He shows me the giant site of the old Soviet military base, the still-functioning runway they built during the Cold War to counter US influence in the Horn of Africa.
At more than 4km (2.5 miles) in length, it’s one of the longest on the continent.
Fast-forward nearly half a century and, once again, Berbera, now part of the self-declared republic of Somaliland, is full of chatter about military bases.
That is because a deal has just been struck for the United Arab Emirates to build a facility there. There is talk of MPs being bribed handsomely to accept it.
Some Somalis feel this is part of yet another effort to colonise their country. They have even started a social media campaign – #UAEHandsOffSomalia.
The Emirates already have a base in Eritrea, just up the coast, which is used to conduct war against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, a short way across the sea.
Image copyright Mary harper Image caption Turkish workers are a familiar sight in Somalia
Travel in the other direction and you hit a huge Turkish base stretching along the beach south of the Somali capital, Mogadishu. Engineers working on its final touches tell me it’s going to be Turkey’s largest overseas military training camp.
The base is just a small part of Turkey’s massive involvement in the country, which started in 2011 during the first famine of the 21st Century. Somalia is an eccentric choice for a gateway into Africa but, like other foreign powers, Turkey wants influence, prestige and economic gain.
It sometimes feels like Mogadishu is a Turkish colony. As soon as you land at the airport, red and white Turkish flags seem to outnumber the sky blue Somali ones.
Many of the staff at the glistening new Turkish-built terminal come from Turkey. They tell me they do not like living in Somalia – it is too hot and there are too many explosions.
- US troops to help fight against al-Shabab
- Frank Gardner: Maritime piracy threatens to return
- Somalia’s rocky road to democracy
- Somalia hopes for better future despite attacks
Talk to the United Nations and to what, in development jargon, are called Somalia’s “traditional donors” – in other words, the US and Europe – and they say, fairly diplomatically, that although they appreciate the efforts of the “newcomers”, there is a lack of co-ordination.
Too many countries are training too many different sections of the Somali security forces, which are already fractured and have a tendency to fight each other almost as much as they fight the local partners of al-Qaeda and so-called Islamic State.
I also get the sense that they are a tiny bit envious of all the kudos countries such as Turkey, Qatar and the UAE get for rebuilding Mogadishu and flying in supplies for people affected by the current drought.
Federal Republic of Somalia
- Population 15 million (UN, 2015)
- Area 637,657sq km (246,201 sq miles)
- Major languages Somali, Arabic, Italian, English
- Major religion Islam
- Life expectancy 55 years (men), 58 years (women)
- Currency Somali shilling
“They are small fry doing highly visible projects,” one Western diplomat tells me in his base inside the heavily protected international airport. “We do far more but we prefer not to shout about it.”
America in particular has good reason not to show off about its activities in Somalia, which include drone attacks and vast amounts of financial assistance.
Image copyright AFP Image caption The 1993 helicopter downings in Mogadishu shocked and angered the US
It cannot forget Black Hawk Down, when its troops withdrew in humiliation after a Somali militia shot down two of its helicopters in Mogadishu in 1993, dragging naked bodies of US servicemen through jeering crowds.
At times, Somalia seems like a vast international marketplace with foreign diplomats, private security companies and a few bold businessmen coming to ply their wares.
There is vast profit to be made in securing and rebuilding a broken country that has come top of the “failed states” list for several years in a row. Plus there’s oil, minerals, fish, livestock and a fabulously strategic location.
The regional powerhouse, Ethiopia, is not at all happy about Somalia’s new friends, especially those from the Gulf. It sees Egypt behind all of this, plotting reprisals for the giant dams Ethiopia is building, which Egypt fears may starve it of waters from the Nile.
Image copyright Mary harper Image caption Somalia is situated by globally important sea lanes
Pessimists see real danger in this geopolitical realignment. They fear a war, with Somalia and Eritrea, emboldened by their new Gulf allies, taking on Ethiopia. More conflict in an already volatile region would threaten the global economy. Most of Europe and Asia’s maritime trade, worth about $700bn (£550bn) a year, goes through the narrow Bab-el-Mandeb strait between Eritrea and Yemen.
The optimists see opportunity, with a thriving Red Sea zone opening up new economic partnerships and giving landlocked Ethiopia increased access to desperately needed ports.
Somalis are worried about unintended consequences. Just like the US, which in 1993 saw a well-meaning humanitarian effort turn into a humiliating nightmare, they say all this friendship from the Gulf is going to end in trouble.
“Look at the Taliban of tomorrow,” says a Somali friend, pointing towards neatly dressed children in the playground of a Saudi-funded school. “A new Cold War is being fought on our land, and one side, the West, doesn’t even know it.”
- May 18 2019
Gulf’s involvement in Horn of Africa: Lessons for African countries
Gulf’s involvement in Horn of Africa can be seen as both a boon and a curse.