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The Welcome Evolution of the Somali Parliament

By Heikal I. Kenneded

Friday February 6, 2015


Somalia's new Prime Minister, Omar A. Sharmarke will soon try again to get a confirmation for his new Cabinet in place after the parliament rejected his first lineup amid political turmoil. The Prime Minister complemented in his new Cabinet with several members of the parliament in order to appease them and get the necessary votes for confirmation. Yet, to most MPs the new Cabinet of mostly political novices seems suspicious because they believe the “real” Cabinet is in the kitchen and it’s made up of Dam-Jadid advisors of the President who are planning a political coup, unlike anything Somalia has ever witnessed before in its political history. Perhaps, in the face of these legislators uniting into viable political caucuses (Kutlad), we are witnessing the rebirth of an effective Somali parliament that might positively influence the political course of Somalia’s trudge towards democracy.

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This is certainly a breath of fresh air in the dawn of Somali politics that might restore the credibility and reliability of a viable political system that has been destroyed by decades of dictatorship and civil war in the country. In fact, Somali MPs working together in political caucuses will benefit the country in propelling towards a more democratic government accountable to the rules and regulations in the constitution rather than being corrupted by the ruling party. Further incentives for coalescing in political blocks in the parliament include enforcing much-needed oversight to growing bilateral and multinational agreements in a country emerging from protracted civil war and predisposed to foreign exploitations.  

Further, the word on the streets of Mogadishu is that most MPs who are opposed to the confirmation of the new Cabinet are apprehensive that the President might eventually abuse a small loophole offered by the constitution, which allows the Prime Minister to reshuffle his cabinet (in line with article 100 of the Provisional Somali Federal Constitution), and then replace them with anyone else without the parliament’s sanctioning. Through this loophole the President might reappoint his closest allies, including Farah Abdulkadir, Abdikarim Ghuled and Abdullahi Sanbaloshe, which doesn’t sit well with many MPs who consider them as personas non-grata since they were solely behind the “illegal” no-confidence motions against the last two prime ministers. Yet at least one BIG thing is new: there are now two major MP blocks or (kutlad) coalitions united for political purposes rather than the retrograde tribal blocks in the past that lacked a sense of national unity.

President Hassan Sheikh who at many times demanded the necessity of allowing Somali politics to naturally evolve without any outside interference, now that he’s on the receiving end of such rude awakening of internal implosion, he is reportedly in an incognito territory and doesn’t know how outmaneuver the new “kutlad” lawmaker coalition blocks trying to thwart his Dam-Jadid party’s long-term ambitions to dominate Somali politics in the future. This time around, President Hassan Sheikh is shocked to learn the hard way that the parliament has evolved and outgrown of his divide-and-rule with bribes, as it is reluctant approving the nominations of those closest to him bent on gearing the country in the wrong direction. Ironically, the alleged vote-buying of the MPs in the past has now the unintended consequence of hastening the political maturity of these legislators to unite in coalition blocks.

Now that the parliament is causing much angst to the President and his new Prime Minister, and the old “corrupt” ways of bribing the MPs has finally backfired, the President’s closest “Dam-Jadid” allies are found flat-footed and scrambling to pull new tricks out of their sleeves in order to achieve their long-term ambitious plan to sweep the upcoming elections in 2016. Most Somalis disapprove the constant political infighting between the president and his appointed prime ministers and now the parliament is joining in the political squabble, which could only mean that the road to 2016 national elections is paved with thorns and Somalia is set for a rough ride. Nevertheless, if Somalia is to become a true democracy, it cannot afford a one-party rule that bribes the rest into submission.

Finally, I’m not lost on the risk this latest political maneuver by the legislators could easily unravel the painstaking humanitarian, political and security progress made in the past three years in a country still hovering on the edge. Regardless, this is a transformational moment for the legislators who were many times accused of being bribed and undermined in order buy their votes. Those arguing that the legislators’ approval of the new cabinet of ministers outweighs of their grievances and other misgivings are undermining their role in the government’s check and balances system to limit powers over the other branches of government and could only become a welcome renaissance.

Heikal I. Kenneded

Washington D.C.

[email protected]



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