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Ali M. Mohamed Aden: U.N. must support the 1961 Somali Constitution

Lewiston Sun Journal
Sunday, May 06, 2012

The draft national constitution under consideration for Somalia — one that is supported by the United Nations — would create further destabilization, which could result in that country's further descent into chaos.

Somali clans want peace and reinstitution of the 1961 Constitution. It is the most viable option to initiate a lasting peace and credible governance for all Somalis. The Somali Constitution was adopted in 1960 and ratified in 1961 after a nationwide election supported by all Somalis.

The majority of the Somali people believe that the draft constitution does not represent all Somalis, and they are concerned about the existence of the nation and its people who had suffered at the hands of the international community in the past when Somalia was divided into five colonies.

It is that fear that concerns all Somalis today. Also, the situation has created mistrust and suspicion among clans and sub-clans who fear their rivals might dominate the new government.

Somali people are not inclined to participate in this complex draft constitution, which is based on a federal system that is, itself, contrary to the original Constitution. The draft constitution is contrary to the social fabric of the Somali people and its governance. Somali people’s voices must be heeded and peaceful demonstrations through the country must be allowed.

Somalis need to replace the current Transitional Federal Government with a credible representative government based on the 1961 Constitution to establish a permanent government and avoid civil war at all cost.

According to the 1961 Constitution, there are eight regions, not to mention territories under Kenya and Ethiopia, that Somalia has legitimate claim to.

Analyses indicate one and one-half regions, plus two warring factions with no region under their control, are signatories to this draft constitution, while one major region abstained.

Can people in one and one-half regions draft a constitution for the other six and one-half regions without their consent? The minority would decide the fate of a nation of more than 10 million people.

The answer is simply "no," especially when more than two-thirds of Somalia is controlled by rebels who refused to participate in the process.

Failure is inevitable when so many Somalis are not engaged to participate in the process of forming a permanent government.

If the draft constitution is put forward, it will create a federal system that is not compatible for Somali society. It encourages divisions of a homogenous people and it will create a vicious clan rivalry that will lead to the formation of uncontrollable weak states that will find excuses to secede.

The international community is threatening — again — to further divide Somalia or partition it by imposing a hastily drafted constitution, but Somalis are not willing to take face value on the international community's promise because they feel they have been betrayed in the past.

The international community says the Somali people must determine the shape of their government. There is no quick fix to this and the U.N. must realize reinstituting the 1961 Constitution is the only viable option to avoid imminent chaos.

Somalis need to put their differences aside and demand a nationwide peace meeting in Mogadishu, where Somali stakeholders, including the rebels, engage in a serious debate on how to move forward to build a credible government.

Somali people cannot afford to miss this opportunity.

Late last month, the Center for Democracy and Political Reconciliation in Somalia hosted a teleconference in Lewiston which was attended by Somali expatriates now living in the United States. The group gathered to discuss their homeland's situation, the new constitution and ways to enhance and strengthen communications between expatriates and those living in Somalia. The goal of the group is to create unity among the voices risen against the draft constitution.

In 1992, the CDPRS suggested that the U.N. consider the United Somali Congress, the only party that had authority over the two warring factions, take the lead to resolve the conflict. The U.N. rejected our proposal.

Today we challenge the U.N. to facilitate a large and inclusive conference in Mogadishu, where all Somali factions are invited with no conditions attached in order to engage in serious dialogue and debate on reinstituting the original Constitution.

We equally demand the U.N. lift the arms embargo so that Somali people can defend themselves from rebels who refuse to participate and compromise.

The CDPRS has proposed the adoption of the 1961 Somali Constitution to the U.S. State Department for over a year. We are hopeful of its support.

Prof. Ali M. Mohamed Aden of Lewiston is director of the Center for Democracy and Political Reconciliation in Somalia.


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