Somalia: Implementation of Federalism now is Premature

Articol-(Rajonews) It is a common knowledge that we Somalis have contrasting perceptions and positions about the best ways and means of reconstructing our collapsed state and reunifying our fragmented nation and achieve a final political settlement. These political differences revolving on federal system and decentralised unitary system of government have been heightened following the endorsement of the Provisional Federal Constitution (PFC) by National Assembly whose members were partly nominated by incumbent leaders and/or traditional elders, that awaits approval by a popular referendum in four years time from the date of its passage. This led me to share some thoughts with my compatriots about these diverse political understandings and wishes and the formidable challenges on our way before any of our political desires are fulfilled. At the end I will make some recommendations.

On the one hand, one set of Somali political elites argue and put forward a proposition for federal system of government to rule out a return of a centralised authoritarian unitary system of government which in the past had partly to do with our current turmoil. Soon after the establishment the new government, which is now 4 months and 27days old if counted from the President’s election, or 3 months and 17 days if counted from the approval of Council of Ministers by Parliament; this pro-federal camp began to push the agenda of the implementation of a federal system oblivious of the absence of the required legal and institutional framework and operational mechanisms and human and resources for the huge tasks for implementation of federalism in country entails.

On the other hand, another set of Somali political elites argue that federalism is alien system of government that has no socio-cultural, economic, and political basis and attributes in our society which warrant its application. They also express concern that federalism is not only a recipe for further division for our already civil war-torn and fragmented nation into quarrelling clannish enclaves but that it may potentially forestall the restoration of our national state.  Part of this anti-federal camp subscribes to the centralised unitary system of government strong enough to reunify the divided country by any means while another part advocates for a sort of decentralised government devolving some powers and resources to the regions short of federalism.

In actual fact, the existence of the PFC does not automatically give us a federal system. It should be plainly obvious for any rational and honest Somali with adequate education and knowledge about Somali social and political situation that implementation of federalism is now quite premature due to our current conditions and absence of the required legal and institutional framework, mechanisms and human and materials as outlined below.

  1. Impressive Start of the New Somali Government

The new regular Somali government has been making impressive record in terms of setting out right political departure and mission, policy plans and activities as enunciated in the President’s Six Pillars Policy for the reconstruction of the country and high profile diplomatic moves during this very brief period which apparently yielded positive and substantive achievements. However, it is a newly-born government still with the marks which needs an extended period of consolidation and nursing process from all of us until it runs and kicks and performs capably its real task of rebuilding national institutions which function properly.

  1. Inadequate Basic Government institutions

But understandably the Government’s institution-building plan has yet to begin as it needs enough time and human and material resources to rebuild the state pillar institutions like security forces, judiciary, and civil service – the limbs that any government exercises and fulfils its responsibility and duty and above all the redesigning of a form and system of government such as decentralisation and federalism.

  1. Government’s Political  Strategic Plan and  Legal and Institutional Framework

So, it is imperative for the government, if not already done, to set out its strategic plan for the country’s decentralised political form of government, limits of division of powers and resources between the national state and the sub-national components, required legal and institutional framework and related operational mechanisms to put to rest the current political controversy described above surrounding the type of form of government that suits and our nation needs. For example, preparing and putting in place the following regulatory arrangements which are indispensible before the implementation of decentralised or federal system begins:-

  1.  Enacting of a law for implementation of federalism by the Parliament on Government’s proposal;
  2.   Instituting of Implementation Authority (of ministerial level) that directs and oversees the process;
  3.  Appointing of Implementation Commission with its operational mechanisms;
  4.  Determining the limits of the transfer of functions, powers and resources from the central     government and to the sub-national governments – whether it will be deconcentration, delegation or   devolution of powers?
  5.  Appointing Consensus and Boundary Commission with its whole mechanism in mapping out and    identifying regional/district/village communities’ population, needs, land, resources, sub-cultures,    etc;
  6.  Organising and preparing adequate task force made up of experts and skilled personnel  trained in    government systems especially for the implementation of decentralised unitary and federalised    systems;
  7.  Putting in place the financial resources for the implementation of the process (budget);
  8.  Mechanism for capacity-building and mobilising the required human and material resources for    running national governments and sub-national units immediately implementation of federalism, etc.;
  9.  Mechanism for citizens’ and communities’ education in raising their awareness and knowledge about   their civic duty and constitutional rights and responsibilities in the planning and decision-making of the   the process of reshaping their country’s political system to ensure internal and grassroots democracy,   transparency and accountability at every level;
  10.  Enacting the Law and mechanism for Intergovernmental relationships (between the national and    sub-national governments); and
  11.  Timetable of the Implementation of the process of decentralised or federal process.
  1. Insecure Conditions

The Somali Government, Amisom and Ethiopian forces have not yet completed the Security Stabilisation Plan although they have done remarkable and commendable contribution in restoring peace and security in the capital Mogadishu and adjacent regions and achieved much in dislodging the militant Al-Shabab group from most of the main towns in south/central regions. But this militant group still occupies some cities and vast countryside of south/central regions while liberated towns are often subjected besieging and raiding by the same militants thus disrupting the security and cutting off these towns from the countryside. This precarious security situation is not only conducive to the implementation of a normal administration of whatever form but is another major challenge.  In these circumstances, the local people cannot chance to participate in free and credible selection/election for the formation of local or regional administrations unless the whole areas (regions, districts and countryside) are cleared of Al-Shabab control and the people’s security fears and obstacles on their way are removed.

  1. IGAD Plan

Another complicating challenge to regional administrations is the IGAD plan and certain external forces on the ground that insist to have a role in the formation of regional administrations (e.g. Jubbland) which are not only obviously inclined to take sides in securing their convenient policies but encroaching on the sovereign right the Somali state has over its land and people and the establishment of any entity under its national jurisdiction. This is also contrary to the principles of free and fair selection or election of regional or district governing institutions much less implementation of a federal of a system.

Therefore at this stage of time and even in the immediate term the implementation of federalism is premature until the required legal and institutional framework, mechanisms and human and material resources are put in place. The Somali Government should therefore be beware to succumbing to the impatient demands of some of our compatriots however well-intentioned, for example, in Jubbaland and Bay/Bakol, etc. Such eventuality will undoubtedly give rise to ungovernable chaotic situation that may be very difficult for us to reverse. Instead provisional administrations can be set up to lead the stabilisation war effort in removing Al-Shabab’s remaining control and influence from these regions and the entire country.  Thereafter, the legal and institutional framework, mechanisms and resources can be made ready for the process of the implementation of decentralisation or Federalism to start as envisaged by the PFC.

Of course, Somali regions like Puntland formed a pro-federal regional state but that preceded the establishment of the present permanent Somali Central Government and such entities are obliged to wait for the legal regulatory framework for the federalisation process. From now on this central government has a sovereign right to lead and oversee the formation of any regional and district administration and entire process of reshaping the country’s political form and system of government – be federal or decentralised unitary state. We all must cooperate with the government while it direct this process and sufficiently consults with and allows meaningful participation to the real stakeholder social sections of the Somali people and the already formed pro-federal sub-national units (e.g. Puntland) otherwise we will for sure relapse into the stateless status we have been in the last 22 years.

My views and suggestions may be construed by someone as a biased against some Somali people or federalism but I assure for my compatriots that is not the case but just frankly explaining and reminding to both the government and our people the difficulties lying before us in rebuilding of our central state institutions and implementing a decentralised or federal form of government while the required said conditions and technicalities are not ready – legal and institutional framework, operational mechanism, and human and material resources.

  1. Recommendations

In the light of above, I would like to make these recommendations for the Somali Central Government, regional administrations and Somali people at large as well as the brotherly concerned IGAD countries and wider international community countries:-

To the Somali Central Government:

  1.  to start, if done already, as soon as possible the process of making the legal and institutional framework   and  operational mechanisms for the implementation of the Provisional Federal Constitution (PFC) as    indicated above;
  2.  to support and oversee the regions to form their provisional regional and district administrations which   will take care of security and services of the people until the implementations of PFC is begin; and
  3.  To organise and hold a National Peace and Reconciliation Conference for the Somali people where    genuine stakeholders (existing regional administrations, traditional titled leaders and elders, religious   leaders, CS and Diaspora representatives, etc) are invited to discus on and address the outstanding issues   of civil war, get reconciled and agree on a national accord for the way forward for the PFC implement-   tation.

To the Somali people and regional administrations:

  1. To be patient and behave in a responsible and rational way at this crucial time when our central  government got a permanent and recognised status and to fully cooperate with it to get consolidated  and  functioning effectively, this is patriotic duty;
  2. To give the Government enough time to prepare and put in place the legal and institutional   framework and operational mechanisms and conducive conditions required for the implementation  of  the PFC;
  3. Regions newly dislodged from Al-Shabab control should also be patient and wait the  Government   to prepare and put in place the required conditions and legal and institutional frameworks for the  implementation of the PFC, meantime they can form their provisional administrations with the  support and overnight of the Government;
  4. Regions which have pro-federal regional administrations also ought to cooperate with the Government to  work and put in place the required legal and institutional regulatory framework for the  implementation of the PFC; and
  5. Somalis inside and outside the control ought to fully support and cooperate with our nascent  central  government to be reconstructed and consolidated to function well otherwise we may relapse back  into  the failed state we have been for the last two decades.

To the International Community:-

  1. To continue actively and robustly the recognition and assistance you started to give to the Somali  Government and will you win the hearts and minds of the Somali people as well as their lasting gratitude;
  2. Brotherly IGAD countries overall deserve commendation and gratitude of the Somali government and  people in helping them achieve peace and security though still precarious and the Security Stabilisation  Plan is incomplete; and
  3. IGAD also ought to respect the sovereignty of the Somali State, especially at this stage when it is new  and  fragile and its consolidation can be easily disrupted by any encroachment on its sovereignty such as the  IGAD Plan insisting on to have a role in the formation of Jubbaland administration which IGAD would  best  be advised to refrain from playing this role while your security concerns can be accommodated by the  Somali Government and people in a new spirit and era of peaceful and durable relationship.

Omar Salad – BSC – Commentator of Somali social and Political affairs, he can be reached at

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