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Somalia, Losing at Halftime

by Aman H.D. Obsiye
Wednesday, November 19, 2014

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In 2012, the world’s quintessential failed state, Somalia, began its return to statehood.  A new parliament and president were democratically selected and the international community overwhelmingly gave diplomatic recognition to the Somali Federal Government (SFG).  The last internationally recognized Somali government fell in January 1991.  The SFG is mandated to federate Somalia, write a new constitution, in which a national referendum shall be held, and hold democratic elections nationwide.  These are the basic goals encompassed in Vision 2016.  

1st Quarter

President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud assumed office in September 16, 2012 and selected Abdi Farah Shirdon as his initial Prime Minister.  Team Somalia’s performance during the first quarter delighted its spectators; it seemed that Somalia was on track to reclaim her proper position within the community of nations.  A construction boom in the capital, a return of her diaspora and refugee communities, and the game changing New Deal for Somalia conference, were all major highlights of the first quarter.  When it ended, Somalia looked like it was becoming the international community’s greatest comeback story, a transition from hopelessness to hopefulness.  But the game spiraled downwards soon as the second quarter began.  

2nd Quarter 

In November 2013, Yussar Abrar, a highly respected Somali-American banker, resigned from her short-lived post as Governor of Somalia’s Central Bank.  In her resignation letter, she states that she had "continuously been asked to sanction deals and transactions that would contradict my personal values and violate my fiduciary responsibility to the Somali people."  Her unwillingness to sell out the Somali people made her an overnight hero, but Somalis were not giving up on the SFG.  It was the first internationally recognized government in over two decades and was still viewed as Somalia’s best hope to statehood.    

A month later, Somalia’s parliament ousted Prime Minister Shirdon through a motion of no confidence, and it is widely believed that President Mohamud was behind it.  On December 21, 2013, Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed assumed the office of Prime Minister, and soon afterwards selected new members for the Council of Ministers.  In essence, Team Somalia’s coach called a time out to re-strategize and bring fresh legs onto the court.  Spectators were watching carefully to see if Team Somalia would bounce back and lead by halftime.  Sadly, that did not happen.

Throughout the second quarter, Somalia’s president and prime minister were engaged in political infighting.  The latest feud has left the SFG in an institutionally vegetated state.  Prime Minister Ahmed recently demoted his Minister of Justice, a strong ally of President Mohamud, and is now facing a motion of no confidence.  Various international actors have released statements trying to dissuade the SFG from further political infighting.  The United States, Somalia’s largest financial donor, has recently stated that it will cut aid to the nation if political disputes continue.  The US has also announced that it will no longer be sending a delegation to the upcoming High Level Partnership Forum on Somalia, to be held in Denmark next week.


The first half is now over and Team Somalia is losing.  The High Level Partnership Forum on Somalia is the half time show, where international actors will try to “maintain momentum towards a secure, stable and developed Somalia.”  Due to its lackluster performance in the second quarter, many are beginning to lose hope in the SFG.  In just two years, the SFG has had two prime ministers and three central bank governors.  Some see Somalia’s pendulum pivoting back to hopelessness, but there is still hope.  It is only halftime.

For the second half, Team Somalia should focus on completing three tasks so it may be victorious in its game of regaining statehood.  First, the SFG needs to develop definitive timetables to achieve its three main benchmarks: (1) federating Somalia, (2) drafting a constitution, and (3) conducting democratic elections.  The first two benchmarks should be completed within a year, followed by a set election date (e.g. September 24, 2016).  Second, a multi-tribal Somali National Army needs to be developed.  Somalia’s parliament uses a 4.5 tribal quota system to distribute power amongst the Somali tribes, and this same quota system can be used to ensure that Somalia’s new national army will be all inclusive.  Lastly, President Mohamud must pledge to the Somalis, and the international community, that the next prime minister he appoints shall remain in office until 2016.  If the Somali nation is to become stable, her political institutions must be stabilized.

As in every sport, the second half is the most important and determines if a team wins or loses.  To Team Somalia, know that the whole world is rooting for you, but most importantly, know that the Somalis, both in the Diaspora and on the Home-front, are relying on you to win our statehood back.

Aman H.D. Obsiye is a Juris Doctor graduate of the University of Minnesota Law School (class of 2014). Twitter: amanobsiye

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