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To Impeach or Not to Impeach: That is the Question

by Heikal I. Kenneded
Wednesday, August 19, 2015

It is becoming common tragedy in the Somali national conversation to observe the silly season of politics epitomized with the introduction of dangerous motions to overthrow either the prime minister or the president and incessantly edge the country in a mode of crisis. This week Somalia’s parliament announced plans to impeach President Hassan Sh. Mohamud in which more than ninety members of parliament (MPs) are the signatories of this latest impeachment, throwing the country into further political turmoil. The President is also alleged of plotting his retaliation with advisers and is adamant of finishing his dwindling term of no more than one year and claims this latest impeachment campaign is mainly hard pressed by elements who are not “working for the interest of the public and the greater Somalia nation.” Somalia's top donor countries are also reportedly scrambling a way to ease these tensions before the entire peace process and country rebuilding is thrown into fire that might have the potential to dampen the upcoming elections on 2016. The President who in the recent past organized a vote of no-confidence against his last two sitting Prime Ministers accusing them of incompetence, now the same disconcerting forces are against his seat, deepening a political crisis in his fledging government.

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Though most of the people do not believe Somalia’s parliamentarians would go through with this risky impeachment process and put the country's recent relative political stability in jeopardy and rather hope this latest impeachment is another political expedient to distract attention from gearing the country towards the targeted countrywide elections on 2016. However, the Somali MPs’ anger has grown consistently over the last few years due to corruption allegations and other egregious trespassing of the law by the President’s office. The MPs spearheading the impeachment motion claim President Hassan Sheikh’s government did little to improve the lives of the Somali people during his tenure in office, not to mention that the President has shown a lack of respect for the country’s institution and its internal workings. There are also rumors of blatant corruption and accusations of embezzling state funds that plagued President Hassan’s government since its inception 2012, despite constant budget shortfalls and lack of stipend payments of the country’s police and armed forces. The final straw for many has been the fact that the President has personally involved his political capital in the elections of regional administrations, which represents a clear violation of the President’s oath to obey, uphold, observe and maintain the Constitution.  As of late, The President does not seem to have a solid support base in parliament as in the past and it seems he and his supporters have underestimated the level of discontent within the MPs in the parliament and he might be losing what tenuous political support he had in the recent past.

Since the fall of the Siyad Barre dictatorship regime, succeeding Somali governments became notorious with conflicts between presidents and their prime ministers that constantly created gridlock in ensuing governments. However, the only time that impeachment has been used in Somalia before was President Abudullahi Yusuf in 2008, after he was accused of blocking the country’s political reconciliation process. Under Somalia’s constitution, an impeachment vote requires a two-thirds majority of the 275 members of the national assembly, which will not be easy in order coalesce a huge number of opponents against President Hassan Sheikh’s power. Not to mention, the lack of a viable Constitutional Court that decides whether the President is guilty of the alleged misconducts he is charged with. The bigger immediate concern is losing track of the country’s Vision 2016 - hold democratic elections.

President Hassan allegedly criticized the MPs spearheading the latest impeachment motion for risking the stability of the country because they were unhappy about the fact that certain privileges, including losing ministerial cabinet positions, had not been met. The President has adamantly indicated that he will not allow himself to be forced from power and urged the MPs behind the impeachment to put the stability of the country first. Though it would be wise for the President to acknowledge his shortcomings and reconcile with the opposition in the parliament in order to peacefully finish his dwindling term.

In the end, lack of a strong judiciary system to reach a final decision about the impeachment motion lodged against the President in order to determine whether the president has subverted the constitution or is guilty of gross misconduct and thus may form the basis of the impeachment, will defeat the purpose of going forward with this motion. But this clearly diagnoses a deeper problem for Somalia to legitimately govern itself and responsibly be part of the world community, instead of becoming the quintessential banana republic. Thus, impeachment of the President is no panacea to the country’s daunting problems to overcome in the near future, including social, economic and security challenges and in the end will hurt the country’s image and imperil the few gains in the past. Though it provides a robust indication that Somalia has forever passed the era of one-man rule and the President rather needs the advice and consent of the parliament.

Finally, on top of the chilling security challenges posed by the Al-Shabaab terrorist group and the fragile social and political institutions in the country, to impeach the head of the government poses the risk of ever pushing the country on the edge of a cliff and therefore the MPs fronting this risky motion need to be careful what they wish for, lest it comes true. The drive to impeach the President in less than a year before the 2016 elections will only add an insult to injury and worsen the country’s growing political deadlock.

Heikal I. Kenneded
[email protected]
Washington D.C.

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