Thursday, August 09, 2012
The renewal of interest by the international community since 2011 to end Somalia’s twenty year civil war and institutional decay has been welcomed in many political circles. On the security front, AMSIOM, along with the weak Somali army, has driven Al-shabaab out of many cities including the capital Mogadishu, heralding the return of relative peace in some areas in southern Somalia. On the political front, the international community, using disincentives such as sanction threats to spoilers, brought together key Somali stakeholders in Garowe in December, 2011 to sign what has become known as the Somalia Roadmap. The main goal of this political process is to end the transition and set up permanent government institutions after August 20, 2012. The Garowe signatories and the politically potent UN political office for Somalia (UNPOS) set this deadline for: (i) constituting a constituent assembly that would approve a provisional constitution; (ii) the nomination of a new and contracted parliament by recognized clan elders; and (iii) the election of a speaker and president. Understandably, hurdles were expected to emerge in the way of achieving these mountainous tasks within such short period. On top of that, the legitimacy of the entire process was questioned by many Somali intellectuals, provoking a discussion about the power and political legitimacy awarded to the six Garowe signatories by the international community.
However, the process has moved forward, but at slower pace than planned. The constituent assembly has been constituted and the provisional constitution has been approved. Currently, the selection of MPs by elders is underway. This process is, however, marred by controversy. Despite the clear guiding principle of the Roadmap which states that “Members of the new federal parliament will be nominated by recognized traditional elders”, the signatories are interfering in the selection process, intimidating and providing incentives to elders to influence the selection of MPs. The evidence of this interference can be discerned from: (i) the communiqué produced by the signatories on August 6, 2012 in which they have chosen elders who should represent the Dhulbahante clan, contravening the Roadmap; (ii) elders who are publicly (through the media) complaining about the interference of the signatories; and (iii) the frequent and unnecessary visits of the signatories to the meetings of the elders while other candidates are denied such access.
Why are the signatories interfering in the selection process?
Three of the signatories (the TFG president, speaker and prime minister) have declared their candidacy for the president. Hence, these politicians have vested interest in the process. In fact they are alleged to have been engaged in acts of corruption and manipulation with the clear intention to determine the outcome of the presidential election. Additionally, these politicians are using state resources including the state-owned media for their campaigns, abusing their power and creating a non-level playing field for other contenders
Why the elders are susceptible to political interference
The role of Somali traditional leaders in administering the Somali cultural affairs is well recognized. This role is solidified by their formal and tacit knowledge of the Somali culture and customary rules. However, when their role, is expanded into political realm, then the room for abuse and exploitation increases exponentially. The mere bureaucracy and governance tools elders are expected to employ in the selection process create political hazards. Moreover, as the case of Dhulbahante indicates, elders who are not representatives of their clans may be nominated by the signatories in an effort to enlist MPs who will vote for them.
While we acknowledge these shortcomings and vulnerability, we call upon to publicly name and shame politicians who are exerting undue influence in the selection process. The elders should be vigilant and exercise their authority in discharging their duty of ensuring smooth political transition. The international community, which is midwifing the process, should equally safeguard the selection process. Failing to protect the process will lead to the re-emergence of same old same old transitional institutions, only this time in a different name, “permanent government”.
Why the status quo shouldn’t be reproduced
The intention of ending the transition, as we understand it, is to create permanent government institutions, institutions that are competent enough to herald a new era of reconciliation and to rebuild the conflict-ridden nation of Somalia. The need for such institutions arose in response to the failure of the transitional government institutions in reconciliation, peace-building, governance, and service delivery. The current transitional government institutions are paralyzed, as the most recent UN monitoring group’s report states, by corruption, infighting and the public’s distrust in the integrity of the political leaders. Hence, recycling TFG institutions wouldn’t produce a change in governance. In fact if the international community does not salvage the situation, the prospect for a new cycle of youth radicalization, violence and turmoil cannot be ruled out. Without denying the perennial difficulties of prescribing solutions to the current complex political process, two options can be considered: a) the international community should safeguard the selection process to ensure the process is devoid of undue influence from politicians; and b) stakeholders and the international community should put pressure on interim leaders not to run for re-election this term. The latter option is commonly observed in transitions. The latest example is the Libyan interim leaders, who didn’t stand for re-election to safeguard the integrity of the transition.