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Finalizing the Somali Federal Process

By Aman H.D. Obsiye
Tuesday, September 23, 2014

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In 2012, Somalia theoretically regained statehood with a new constitution serving as its people’s social contract.  The first article of the constitution states that “Somalia is a federal, sovereign, and democratic republic . . . .”  Provisional Fed. Const. June 12, 2012, art. 1, §1 (Som.) (emphasis added).  The great debacle is that Somali Federalism has yet to be properly discerned.  More precisely, the issues of federal delegated powers and reserved state powers have not been addressed.  Additionally, Somalia’s remaining provinces have not yet fully federated.  If Somalia is to complete her social contract by 2016, she must implement policies that will iron out the wrinkles of Somali Federalism.   

What differentiates federalism from other forms of government is the dual-sovereign notion of “vertical separation of powers.”  This notion disseminates governing powers between two main entities, the federal government and the state governments (i.e. Federal Member States), and each entity may not encroach upon the other entity’s governing powers.

In the United States, the federal government controls foreign affairs, national defense, and monetary policy, while the state governments control public health, safety (e.g. policing), and educational affairs.  The dual-sovereign concept encompasses two parallel entities, federal and state, governing in unison.  The Somali Federal Government (SFG) and the various federal member state governments have yet to properly negotiate what governing powers are delegated to the federal government and what powers are reserved for state governments.  Somalia’s social fabric is slowly being sown back together and the tenants of our vertical separation of powers must be codified.

Before this can happen, the complete federalization of Somalia must transpire.  Puntland is currently the only functioning federal member state, with Jubaland State, Southwest State and Central State, slowly emerging.  Benadir, Middle Shabelle and Hiiraan provinces are the only regions that have not yet federated, and legally speaking, all three provinces must merge to form the last remaining federal member state.  “Based on a voluntary decision, two or more regions may merge to form a Federal Member State.”  Provisional Fed. Const. June 12, 2012, art. 49, § 6 (Som.) (emphasis added).  For simplicity sake, let’s call the last remaining federal member state Benadir State.  This leaves Somalia with a five-state federation, plus Somaliland.  The five states are: (1) Puntland State, (2) Jubaland State, (3) Southwest State, (4) Central State, and (5) Benadir State.

The SFG and international community need to set a six-month benchmark for all federal member states to: (1) properly define their territorial confines and chose a state capitol, (2) select a head of state government, and (3) establish an administrative apparatus to govern their territory.  The remaining federal member states would be wise to transform their provinces into counties.  In America, we have a four-tier governmental structure: (a) federal-national government, (b) state governments, (c) county governments, and (d) municipal governments.  Somalia currently uses a three-tier governmental structure, but would benefit by adding a county governmental layer to its emerging federation.  For example, the Southwest State will have three counties: (1) Bay County, (2) Bakool County, and (3) Lower Shabelle County.  The emergence of county governments will help transition the merging provinces into full fledge states, and allow for a more representative form of state government.

After Somalia has completely federated, a Somali Federalism Conference must be held by mid-2015.  In 1787, America’s thirteen states met in Philadelphia for the Constitutional Convention (also known as the Federal Convention) to discuss how to form a more perfect union.  The United States Constitution was the brain-child of the convention.  The convention addressed the issues of federal delegated powers and reserved state powers, in addition to the tripartite system of government (Legislative, Executive, and Judicial branches).  Each state sent delegates to the convention to ensure its interest were properly represented, and these delegates returned to their respective states to lobby their citizens to vote in favor of the new US constitution in a national referendum. 

A similar convention must be held in Somalia to ensure Somalis, of all tribal and regional affiliations, that their interests are properly represented and that they have a say in their nation’s destiny.  Vision 2016 stipulates that Somalia should vote in a national referendum for a new constitution by 2016, as well as vote for a new parliament and president.  I ask the reader, without a 2015 Somali Federalism Conference can the Somali nation, and its international stake holders, really achieve Vision 2016?  I ask the reader, how else will Somalia form a more perfect union?


 Aman H.D. Obsiye
[email protected]
Twitter @amanobsiye


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