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The Grand Compromise

by Hussein Sheikh Ali (Damumaye)
Saturday, May 05, 2007


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The purpose of this paper is to seize the opportunity presented by the new developments in Somalia. The politics in Somalia has always been a zero-sum game in which the victor takes all and the vanquished can lick his wounds until another day. No real political solution to the intractable problems, made more so by the recent foreign interventions. Kicking out the Islamic Courts and installation of a weak Transitional Federal government with its anti terrorist mantra is a recipe for a disaster as long as they are seen as outcomes induced by outside forces. Any political changes effected through the barrel of gun can only exacerbate the already volatile situation. Being aware that the current government was produced by a peace process that was completely dominated by the warlords and the regional countries who were only pursuing specific outcomes, I propose all inclusive process with a genuine national reconciliation.


Most of the Somali society felt perplexed at the way the last peace talks been handled. The warlords had the privilege of selecting the delegates attending the peace talks, effectively barring members of civil society, therefore ensuring total control for the warlords. Many Somalis became disillusioned with the peace process losing any hope that a warlord dominated administration would herald a new dawn on their war-ravaged country. Since the formation of the TFG in 2004, hostilities returned as numerous unresolved or glossed over issues at the table came back to haunt with vengeance. As the people grew increasingly disappointed with this situation and lost faith in the government, they improvised their own solutions.


The North (Somaliland) and North-East (Puntland) of the country had for a number of years functioning regional administrations with relative peace and security compared to the chaotic South and Central Somalia. In Mogadishu, the capital, the business people, clan elders and Muslim Scholars decided to empower and unify the disparate clan-based-courts with a view to provide security to the city. Warlords wary that they might lose power and position tried to scupper the plan by announcing an Anti-Terrorism Alliance against the courts, and Washington is alleged to have egged on the warlords to fight the Islamists. The four months fighting that ensued saw the warlords routed and the last six months of 2006, people in the South witnessed an unprecedented period of calmness and tranquillity until that was shattered by Ethiopian guns, ostensibly paid for by the US. The mighty Ethiopian military forced the Islamic Courts militia to abandon power.


In Somalia Islam plays an important role in most people’s lives and governs nearly all aspects of their life. A wide range of social activities are regulated by Islamic tenets and principles. The trend of Islamization began with independence as a number of Islamic organisations were formed for the sole purpose of influencing government policies during the democratic period prior to the military takeover with a remarkable success. That brief democratic experiment demonstrated that a plurality of ideas can compete and hence militated against the employment of force as a means to achieve political ends. The way that political experience was abolished and the subsequent suspension of the constitution and the abrogation of civil liberties paved the way for a totalitarian regime alien to the culture and traditions of the Somali people. All political dissent was outlawed, the Muslim scholars becoming the first victims of the brutal regime.


As the regime became more unpopular, it resorted to extreme repressive measures to the extent of decimating whole communities. The implication for the future was bleak as the prospect for a peaceful change seemed remote and the only viable option remaining was by armed insurrections. It is beyond the scope of this paper to chronicle the way the regime met its end and the subsequent disintegration of the Somali society.




To avert the repeat of that terrible history and to prevent the degeneracy of political power into an oppressive machine in the hands of maniacs, we propose that instead of supporting one group against the wishes of the majority, the Somali society can be reconstituted on a new basis where all interest groups are represented in a new and innovative institutional arrangement.


To address the imbalance outlined above inherent in the existing TFG institutions, it is imperative to establish during the transitional period;


v     A second chamber with constitutional powers to revise legislation ensuring the compatibility of new laws to Somali culture, religion as well as the international human rights standards before becoming law. Members of the new house must be drawn entirely and exclusively from the civil society, such as the well known and widely respected scholars from various Islamic schools, traditional elders and prominent Somali personalities on regional basis rather than clan basis.


v     Executive members can be appointed from either houses or outside, in order to open the door for the talents and expertise needed for rebuilding and reconciliation.


Such a new constitutional change has the advantage of conferring legitimacy required for the effectiveness of the new administration. And we should all work together to achieve this goal.

Hussein Sheikh Ali

E-mail: [email protected]

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