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Somalia’s Looming Constitutional Crisis: Puntland & Central State

by Aman H.D. Obsiye
Friday, April 10, 2015

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Somalia’s President has recently announced that the capital city of the yet to be formed Central State shall be Dhusamareb (Dhusamareb serves as the capital of the Galguduud province).  There is some conflict concerning this announcement because some members of Central State prefer Adaado to be the capital (Adaado is a major city in Galguduud province).  While this may be a problem for the emerging Central State, it is minute compared to the looming constitutional crisis it faces. 

Central State, in theory, is an amalgamation of two provinces: Galguduud and Mudug.  Somalia’s Provisional Constitution currently states: “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.).  On its face, Central State seems to be following the constitutional provisions that govern the Somali Federal Government (SFG), but in reality, it may become an unconstitutional state. 

Puntland claims jurisdiction over northern Mudug province, specifically its districts of Galdogob, Galkayo, and Jariban (see: Constitution of the Regional Puntland State of Somalia, Article 6. Section 1.).  This leaves the remaining two districts of the Mudug province, Harardhere and Hobyo, within the jurisdictional confines of Central State.  Therefore, Central State will not be an amalgamation of two provinces, but rather one and a half of a province, which will disqualify it to be a Federal Member State under the Constitution.

Somali Federalism has now confronted its greatest quagmire.  The question that needs addressing is: What kind of federalism will Somalia have?  Somalia has two choices for its federalism: clan federalism or provincial federalism, the author prefers the latter choice.  If Mudug is split in two, with the northern half going to Puntland and the southern half to Central State, then clan federalism will become the official guiding star of Somali Federalism.  If Mudug remains intact, either joining Puntland in its entirety or Central State in its entirety, then provincial federalism will become the guiding star. 

If clan federalism prevails, then it is foreseeable that the Yugoslaviazation of Somalia can happen in the future.  Yugoslavia’s federation consisted of six ethnic Socialist Republics, which later disintegrated and vanished from the community of nations (hence the “Former Yugoslavia”).  Somalis are one ethnic group, but clan ties are so entrenched in Somali identity that clan identity can be considered their micro-ethnicity.  Somalia’s looming constitutional crises can be solved if Mudug, in its entirety, joins either Puntland or Central State, and the dangers of clan federalism will be assuaged.

In federal systems the federal constitution supersedes the regional constitutions.  In the United States we call this legal doctrine the Supremacy Clause, which implies that if disagreements occur between federal and state law, federal law holds supreme.  Somalia’s Constitution also incorporates this legal doctrine.  Provisional Fed. Const. June 12, 2012, art. 4, §1 (Som.).  Therefore, it is incumbent upon the SFG and Puntland government to respect the supreme law of the land, and disallow the division of Mudug province based on clan lines because it is illegal and sets deadly precedence.  It will serve as a great dishonor to the Somali nation and will be an ignoble attack on Soomaalinimo.

The only way to solve this looming constitutional crisis is to hold a referendum in Mudug province, where voters will have the choice to either join Puntland or Central State in its entirety.  It should be noted that only denizens of Mudug province should vote, and the choice must be made by the collective people of Mudug.  Another option is for Puntland to graciously relinquish its claims over northern Mudug and allow it to be an integral part of the emerging Central State.  It’s imperative to look at the grander picture, and put Somalia’s national interest before regional and tribal interest.           


Aman H.D. Obsiye is a Juris Doctor graduate of the University of Minnesota Law School.



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