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Somalia: The Legal and Constitutional Context of the Garowe Agreement.

by Mohamoud Abdi
Monday, May 25, 2015

There is nothing more likely to start disagreement among people or countries than an agreement. E. B. White

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The agreement between President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and the Presidents of Puntland, Southwest and Jubaland States of Somalia, which was signed in Garowe on 2 May 2015, has attracted a scathing criticism from various quarters. The two issues in this agreement that caused reactions were the stationing of 3000 troops of the Somali National Army (SNA) in Puntland, and the exclusion of delegates from the Mudug region of Puntland from the conference for the formation of a Central State which is still ongoing in Cadado.

Somaliland cried foul over the 3000 troops of the SNA in Puntland; it considered the positioning of such a large force on its border with Puntland an act of aggression. It is worth noting that Somaliland and Puntland have “territorial dispute”. Somaliland’s claim that the SNA poses a threat to its territory cannot be taken seriously given that it is engaged in serious dialogue with the Federal Government since May 2013. It is also clear that the resolution of the Somaliland case is not high on the agenda of the Federal Government.

However, the issue that caused serious reaction was the agreement that delegates from north Mudug region of Puntland would not be allowed, excluded from participating in the conference for the establishment of the Central Federal State of Somalia, which is held in Cadado, south Mudug. Most of the negative reaction came from individuals who hail from the central regions and who would like the whole Mudug region to come under their control.

One such criticism came from Abdirahman Hosh Jibril, the former Minister of Constitutional Affairs in the last transitional government and a member of Somali Parliament. In a recent article, the former Minister attacked the agreement as both “illegal and unconstitutional” and called for it “the ill thought out agreement, and not only be damned but also ignored”. His argument was that preventing the citizens of north Mudug from travelling violated their right of movement and of association, both guaranteed by the constitution. The Minister, while technically correct, was misrepresenting the facts; he knew well (or ought to have known) that the issue was not on the rights of movement or association of individuals, which is never in doubt, but rather on the political representation of the people of north Mudug by self-appointed individuals.

The position of Puntland has been acknowledged by agreements (see below) signed by various stakeholders in Somalia, including the Federal Government, the Federal Parliament and the regional administrations, and witnessed by the representatives of the various international bodies in Somalia.

First: The Second Somali National Consultative Constitutional Conference which was held in Mogadishu on 17 February 2012 recognized Puntland as a “founding federal state that was in existence before the adoption of the Transitional Federal Charter”, the forerunner of the current Draft Constitution. Abdirahman Jibril Hosh was the Minister for Constitutional Affairs when this document was agreed and signed by the highest political leaders of the country including President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, the Speaker of the Transitional Parliament Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden and the leaders of Puntland, Abdirahman Mohamed Mohamud, Galmudug (Mohamed Ahmed Alim, and Ahlu-Sunna Wal Jamaaca, Khalid Abdulkadir Moallim Nur, and witnessed by Augustine Mahiga, the United Nations Representative in Somalia.

Furthermore, Abdirahman Jibril Hosh was still the Minister of Constitutionals Affairs when the current draft constitution was signed and adopted on August 1, 2012. The draft constitution, which is the source of the legitimacy of the current Federal institutions in Somalia, which provisionally also exempts Puntland State from some of its provisions until a future date. For instance, Article 142 of the Draft Constitution states that “the Federal Member States existing prior to the provisional adoption of this Provisional Constitution by a National Constituent Assembly shall retain and exercise powers endowed by their own State Commission”. If Abdirahman Jabril Hosh as a Constitutional Minister had had any reservation about the February 2012 agreement or Article 142 of the Constitution, he did not raise it at the time.

Second: On July 30, 2014, the creation of the Federal State of Central Region comprising Mudug and Galgudud was announced in Mogadishu. The agreement, which was signed by the leaders of various groups in the central regions (Puntland was not represented) and witnessed by representatives of the international community, did not clarify Mudug region, since a good portion of Mudug is already part of Puntland. Some of the signatories argued that the agreement stipulates, and the Draft Constitution affirms, that the Central State would comprise Mudug and Galguduud as two whole regions. Both President Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud and Prime Minister Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed later clarified that the Central State would not involve areas under Puntland control. The representatives of the International stakeholders in Somalia confirmed the agreement excluded Puntland areas from the proposed Central State.

Third: On 14 October 2014, again the Federal Government and Puntland signed another agreement which stated that “The Federal Government and Puntland State agreed that the regional administration that the government is establishing in the central regions will comprise the region of Galgudud and South Mudug. In the same way, the rest of Mudug remain part of Puntland State”, thus removing any residual ambiguity. It was signed by the federal government and regional government of Puntland and once again witnessed by the international representatives.

These agreements are legal and binding on those who signed them and those who currently occupy their offices, unless the former Minister believes that agreements reached by the Somali leaders are not worth the papers on which they are written.

It is lamentable that Somalia fell from a regional power with a military might and became a country with no weight or influence. The price for this self-inflicted damage was the fragmentation of the one of the few countries in the world that is truly homogenous and the creation of deep mistrust that made the recreation of the unitary system of governance not only umpossible but even undesirable . The federal system that has been adopted to weld together these fragments and it is now irreversible, despite the continuous effort of some vested interests to unravel it.

Puntland is a member state of Federal Somalia and the agreements it reached with the various stakeholders in Somalia are within the framework of the constitution and, therefore, legally binding. Puntland plays a fundamental role in the stability and development of Somalia. It is a refuge for the Somali people displaced from the south of the country by conflicts or looking for a better life. Every Somali is free to travel and live in Puntland without prejudice. Some of the major businesses in Puntland are owned by people who have been displaced from the south during the twenty five years of conflict and instability in Somalia. They are all respected members of the society.

It never crossed my mind or those of my generation or older that one day we shall witness inter-regional “territorial disputes” replacing the territorial disputes with neighbouring countries. The internal harmony that existed among the people for centuries is replaced by mistrust and conflict, and the argument on the boundary between Puntland and Central State is a reflection of the lost trust. Conflicts are resolved through building of trust and step by step removal of barriers.

After all, Somalia is a nation of one people, one tribe. It is incumbent upon the leaders as well as the people to build the present for themselves and the future for their children. As President Aden Abdulle Osman said on July 1, 1964, when he addressed the nation on the fourth anniversary of the independence “Our sons and sons of our sons will inherit whatever we are able to leave to them, be it good or evil. Fifty years later, it is up to the Somali people to mend their broken nation and leave a legacy that is worth remembering.

Mohamoud Abdi
[email protected]

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