Friday, September 06, 2013
The system of government remains the biggest political obstacle in
Somalia as key political players boycotted the government's current
national conference to discuss this country's political future,
according to Jaylani Mukhtar, a local academic based in capital
"I think Somalis do agree much about their future. But the issue of
federalism is what we will mark as the biggest political obstacle facing
the country, and the current conference will have much to debate about
it," Mukhtar told IPS.
On Sep. 2, the Somali Federal Government's five-day conference began
with an agenda to discuss key issues, which include implementing
federalism, reforming the constitution and conducting elections in 2016
when the government's term of office ends.
But representatives from many of this Horn of Africa's breakaway
states did not attend. The northeastern semi-autonomous state of
Puntland said it would not attend the conference and accused the Somali
government of "tampering" with the national constitution. It is a claim
denied by Somali parliament speaker Osman Jawari.
The breakaway republic of Somaliland, in the northwest of the
country, also did not send official representation to the conference.
Mohamed Jama, one of the organisers of the conference, said the
meeting was not meant to represent the regional states but had brought
together "experts and the national intelligentsia" to chart a pathway
for this country's political future.
"This was never meant to be a conference where various groups,
whether they be regional states or political factions, record their
stances, but a platform for Somalia experts, intelligentsia and the
general public to discuss and debate about the country's future
direction politically," Jama told IPS.
He said after deliberation and discussion on the various issues,
conference participants would present recommendations to the government.
But the exclusion of key players in the current debate is similar to
the previous government's handling of the issue of federalism, always a
divisive subject in Somalia.
The issue of giving member states autonomy over regional affairs, but
still holding them subject to the authority of the government, has been
praised by some as a solution to the two decades of civil conflict
here. Others say that such a political system could further escalate the
conflict by encouraging clan-based mini states.
Somalia's former and interim Transitional
Federal Government, which ended its mandate in August 2012, had agreed
with regional states and local factions in central and southern Somalia
that the country would adopt a federal system of government.
But Mukhtar said that the agreement had been among political leaders,
and the Somali people had not been given a chance to vote on it. He
said that it was a constitutional issue that was yet to be endorsed by
"The problem is that the issue was just a political agreement and not
a constitutional one because such an arrangement and how we implement
federalism will be decided by the people when given the chance to have
their say," Mukhtar said.
Ahmed Daahir, a political analyst from the northern Somalia town of
Bossaso, in Puntland, said federalism in Somalia could be a way to bring
the government to the people.
"We have been governed directly from Mogadishu for many years, since
independence actually, and that has brought destruction and state
collapse. So what the people are saying is let's empower citizens by
having federated states," Daahir told IPS.
The most recent breakaway state here is the semi-autonomous state of
Jubbaland in southern Somalia. In May, local militia known as Ras
Kamboni declared the three southern border provinces of Lower Jubba,
Middle Jubba and Gedo as the state of Jubbaland and elected their
leader, Ahmed Mohamed Islam, better known as Sheikh Madobe, as
The leaders argued that the constitution gave them the right to form
the state, but government officials said the new state was not inclusive
of all clans in the provinces and this could lead to bloodshed.
After Ethiopian mediation, the Somali government struck a deal with
the regional leaders to institute a two-year interim administration for
the breakaway state.
The agreement was seen as test of the government's leadership. But
the practicality of federalism in Somalia was rejected by many of the
clans in Jubbaland who were not represented in the peace talks. Many saw
the agreement as the government giving the leadership of the regions to
Ras Kamboni, thereby ignoring the rights of other clans in the area.
"The Addis Ababa Agreement has shown us that to some federalism means
a mini-state for one's clan within Somalia, even at the expense and
exclusion of others," Mukhtar said.
He said that other autonomous states have "organically grown" in
Somalia, such as the breakaway republic of Somaliland, and the
self-autonomous state of Puntland in the northeast. There are also the
breakaway states of Galmudug, as well as the Himin and Heeb states in
central Somalia. These states are also clan-based "in various degrees"
from being pure single-clan entities to being quasi multi-clan states.
As the debate rages at the national conference over the future
political make-up of the country, Daahir fears that it will further the
deep distrust among Somalis.
"What we need in Somalia more than anything now is real and genuine
reconciliation to heal the wounds of the past three decades then and
only then can we have meaning full discussion about the future of this
country," he said.