The future of Somalia remains uncertain because of, among others, the mismatch between the political choice, structure, and direction articulated in the Provisional Constitution which is grounded in the Islamic values and in the concept of political and economic liberalism and the Somali leaders’ contemptable actions and behaviors motivated by personal interests, self-preservation, and self-aggrandizement. With the exception of late President Adan Abdulle Osman (PUH) and few others, the Somali leaders failed to strive to adhere to the best of their ability to the letter and spirit of the constitutionally adopted political system of governance.
by Mohamud M Uluso
Thursday, July 23, 2015
Democracy and Good Governance are set of principles and concepts to be practiced by state leaders for promoting the security, stability, harmony, and prosperity of their people in the face of complex challenges from diversity and difference in religion, individual greed and ambition, opinions, and clan rivalries. State fragility arises or persists when the actions and behaviors of the leaders are in clear violations of the objectives and requirement of good governance principles.
Incidentally, during the Italian trusteeship administration in the Southern regions of Somalia, the Italian Governors observed the basic principles of UN Charter - respect of human rights and individual freedom, justice, equality, fairness, political, economic, social, and institutional development and admonished Italian officials accused of fascist behaviors. Most importantly, they sought the trust of the local population in order to implement their responsibilities. The mutual trust between the local population and the Italian administration facilitated the successful completion of necessary institutions and legal instruments for the transfer of power to the elected Somali leaders. Apparently, the four Italian administrators exercised prudence and moral behavior in fulfilling their mandates.
Fortunately, upon independence, the first Somali parliament elected H.E Adan Abdulle Osman (Adan Adde) (PUH) as the first President of the Somali Republic. He consciously focused on the consolidation of the nascent State by strictly adhering to the letter and spirit of the constitution, rule of law, the principles of good governance, and desisting from engaging not only in illegal and unethical behavior but in any legitimate action that can be remotely misconstrued. He strenuously defended the sovereignty, independence, and unity of Somalia and respected and managed well the separation of powers and responsibilities between government branches but demanded accountability and transparency. He guided and controlled government performance through administrative procedures and directives. Independent newspapers and political oppositions scrutinized and criticized government policies and actions without fear of retribution.
President Adan remained above abuse of power, government patronage, nepotism, corruption, and injustice. His integrity and rectitude constituted an example of morality to others.
The exemplary leadership of President Adan paved the way for the emergence of democratic Somali State that gained admirable role in the domestic and international arena. He refused to buy votes for his reelection. After seven years in power, he made the first and last historical democratic transfer of power to his successor, late President Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke. His seven year rule has been marked as the era of vibrant democracy and good governance in Somalia.
After the assassination of President Abdirashid Ai Sharmarke (PUH) in 1969, the military took over the political power, suspended the constitution, dissolved the elected parliament, banned political parties, nationalized the economy, and curtailed civil liberties. Although the military dictatorship implemented memorable programs, it definitely bankrupted the entire political, security, economic, and social fabric, which precipitated the total disintegration of the Somali State in January 1991. The civil war that ensued for political power struggle between rival clans left behind destruction, alienation, and animosity among Somali communities.
Somalia returned to the precolonial fragmentation. As Somalis are seen as poor, anarchic, tribal, arrogant, corrupt, and selfish, who need external help to come together for forming a statehood, Western powers have started to cajole Somalis to unite and experiment a new form of clan based self-government.
In 1995, on the questionable premise that the collapsed centralized unity government caused Somalia’s civil war and the reconstruction of Somalia is only possible on clan power-sharing, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the European Union (EU) funded the report on “A study of Decentralized Political Structure for Somalia: A Menu of Options.” The study defined first the term “Somalia” as the one “formerly known the Somali Republic” and suggested three territory based models of decentralized system of governance: confederation, a federation, and a decentralized unitary state; and one community based model: consociationalism.
The report was bolstered by a position paper of the foreign Ministry of Ethiopia in 1998 and one year later by an article published by Matt Bryden, expert on Somalia, under the title, “New Hope for Somalia? Building Block Approach.” The tentatively identified Building Blocks in terms of kinship were six territories-northwestern, northeastern, central, Bay-Bakol, Jubba, and Benadir (Mogadishu). In the article, Matt Bryden predicted that “a future Somali state might thus resemble a patchwork of semi-autonomous territories defined in whole or in part by clan affiliation...” Today Somalia is facing the specter of final partition upon the emergence of the patchwork semi-autonomous territories without central authority.
Two UN Security Council Resolutions have serious implication about democracy and good governance in Somalia. Somalia is under Chapter VII and the UN Security Council Resolution 1744 (2007) has authorized the deployment of the African Union forces in Somalia (AMISOM) for peace enforcement. The mandate of AMISOM forces to provide protection to the Federal government of Somalia has significant implications on the exercise of democracy and good governance in Somalia.
Similarly, the wide ranging mandates of Resolution 2102 (2013) which has established the UN Mission for Somalia (UNSOM) could limit and hinder the promotion of democracy and good governance in Somalia. For example, one of UNSOM mandates concerns the development of federal system, constitutional review and subsequent referendum, and the preparations for election in 2016. UNSOM supports and works with the federal government that marginalizes many stakeholders of these tasks.
Democracy, elections and Good Governance
After decades of political and security instability, military coupe d’états, personal rule and electoral frauds which led to State fragility, African states adopted African Charter on Democracy, Elections, and Governance which entered into force on February 15, 2012. The Provisional Constitution of Somalia incorporates most of the obligations stipulated in it.
The Charter enjoins each African state the supremacy of the constitution and rule of law as the foundations for a democratic government. There is no democracy where there are no media freedom and free speech, political opposition forces, civil society organizations that control and limit the power of the state, effective and efficient independent judicial system, and free and fair elections.
The Charter stipulates the establishment of Independent and impartial national electoral bodies responsible for the management of elections. It requires African states to promote democratic culture of respect, compromise, consensus, and tolerance. The tasks of good governance are equitable allocation of the nation’s wealth and natural resources, improvement of public service delivery, combat against corruption, development of private sector through laws and regulations, establishment of accountable, efficient and effective public administration, transparency in public finance management, prevention of crimes, an efficient, fair, and effective tax system.
Fake democracy and governance fuel abuse of power, corruption, and conflict and can’t create a stable Somali State. The flagrant incompatibility between the democratic values, principles, and rights enshrined in the provisional constitution and the anti-democratic decision making political process of Somali government institutions corrodes public trust and sets in social disenfranchisement. Somali Government has to avoid factionalism, self-preservation tactics, demagoguery, and misrepresentation of reality and has to faithfully and practically adhere to the values and principles of democracy and good governance for hopeful future. UN and AU should not back fake democracy and bad governance in Somalia.
Mohamud M Uluso