by Abdulkadir M. Abow
Monday, December 21, 2015
Somalia's 4.5 Parliament during the swearing in ceremony at Aden Ade international airport in Mogadishu, Somalia, on August 20, 2012 (Photo PressTV)
Somalia, potentially very prosperous nation with a very resourceful and resilient people, was politically and economically failed state in the last quarter of a century. Even before then it was not able to develop a great deal due to injustices based on clan domination. After several attempts of reconciliation conferences in Djibouti and Kenya, which produced successive Interim Federal Governments, the Federal Government of Somalia was finally established inside the capital Mogadishu. That was one great step forward. After almost four difficult years, the mandate of the government will end mid 2016 and Somalia is at a difficult time, the question is will it take another step forward or risk falling back into more misery. The process and the final result of 2016 elections will decide wether Somalia will move forward or lose some or all the progress it achieved thus far. The process has started and from the beginning there were two opposing camps. A group led by the leaders of Puntland and Jubbaland who propose the parliament seats should be allocated based on regions and an opposing group led by Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden the leader of Southwest State of Somalia who prefers the current 4.5 clan power sharing formula. Evaluation of these two camps and wether there are other alternatives is what I will try explain in this short piece.
For a long time Somalia was ruled by successive corrupted civilian governments and military dictatorship, until at the end the military regime collapsed and brutal civil war erupted throughout the country. During the civilian governments it was very difficult to make any significant changes to the electoral districts or regional structures because parliament approval was needed, however during the military regime the number of regions grew from eight to eighteen. The creation of the eighteen regions was not based on anything other than clan oriented strategy and the beneficiaries were the clan of its architect. For instance, before the military regime, Gedo Region, major part of the current Jubbaland was part of Alta Juba.
Puntland president was straight from Galkacyo conflict to Mogadishu to participate National Consultative Forum to determine what method of election will be taken in 2016. He proposed one based on regional representation hoping that the inflated number of districts created after the establishment of Puntland will give him an edge over the other clans. His opposition of the establishment of Galmudug State, one that consists of Mudug and Galgaduud regions and his role in the recent unfortunate and unnecessary fighting in Galkacyo showed how important it is for him to maintain his clan territories. His rhetoric on moving from clannish 4.5 formula to one based in regions is not consistent with his all other clan oriented moves.
In the same camp with Puntland leader Mr. Abdiweli Gaas (Western educated, PhD in economics) is Sheikh Ahmed Mohamed Islam AKA Ahmed Madowe, former Islamic Court warlord who was installed to the throne of Jubbaland by a foreign power. What, other than clan affiliation, can possibly bring together those two personally and professionally different individuals in the same camp?
If one wants to know how the leader of Jubbaland will select future federal parliament members of the regions under his control, one should just see the current members of Jubbaland parliament. Even his supporters were embarrassed of his blatant disregard of the rights of local population for representation.
Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden, the leader of Southwest State came to the power in a manner that is not quite different from his Jubbaland counterpart. He managed to effectively sideline the elders of his clan who wanted an administration consisting of six regions that three of those were already incorporated in Jubbaland. Then, his closest allies – or what he thought – were Puntland and Jubbaland presidents. His understanding was, as the leader of the only state that his clan have, he will have greater power to select their future federal parliament members and as a result he will have big influence on the direction of the Somalia’s politics. Now, after they put forward different ball game, he realized 4.5 is the only way he can get a fair share of the parliament since he doesn’t have enough districts to negotiate let alone federal states. However, both his friends and foes will agree, despite his limited formal education, he is more skillful in Somali politics than the other two.
The proponents of the elections based on regions will paint the other camp as clannish who wants to continue the discriminatory practices of 4.5. The outcome of their regional method will be much worse in terms of representation of other clans. According to some estimation 80% of the seats of the parliament, if distributed based on region, under the current regional governments, will go to two clans because of the number of states they were able to create by any means necessary. As far as the “minority (0.5)” is concerned, under this proposal, their share will be reduced from the current 31 seats to a less than 10 seats. Therefore, it is effectively going backward.
Clan power sharing formula was necessary at one point, but making it for 4.5 was discriminatory and unfair. Simply wrong! Is there a way to improve it now? Definitely, it is incumbent on us to correct the apparent mistake and change it to a more fair number and hopefully use it one last time. To rectify the discriminatory effects of the 4.5 it would have been fair and perhaps wise to let a fine man or woman from the fifth group to lead the country. I am sure we all have in mind some deserving candidates.
One man one vote election based on political parties is the only way to get fair election outcome. In the absence of that, all other alternatives that are on the table are basically using different strategies to maximise clan representation in order to gain personal power. We have to make sure that the process is one collectively owned by the people and not by a few regional leaders. Most importantly, it has to be one that is practically fair regardless of the rhetoric. Changing 4.5 to a more reasonable 5 will be one step forward and it will rectify its effects. Other options that are put forward so far will swiftly take us two steps backward and their consequences will amount to a disastrous regression.
Abdulkadir M. Abow