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Somalia: Political Tug of War and Legitimacy of the Executive Office.

by Farhia Ali Abdi
Thursday, September 24, 2015

On August 12, 2015 members of the Somali Federal Parliament tabled an Impeachment Motion against the President of the Somali Federal Republic, H. E Hassan Sheikh Mohamud.  They issued a press release claiming that the decision to take this action was made, “after extensive consultation with members of parliament and various stakeholders. Having become acutely aware of the political, financial, moral and ethical dilemma the country was facing as a direct consequence of the poor leadership of the President and corrupt practices of his office, they had no choice but to pursue this course of action."  

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The parliamentarians are accusing the current president and his office of a number of serious constitutional violations that could (if found guilty) undermine the whole presidency. These accusations included, but are not limited to, the following:

·          Repeated usurpation of the Executive Authority of successive Prime Ministers, thus violating Article 97 of the Constitution which vests the Executive authority of the government in the Council of Ministers.

·         Engagement in a massive and shameless corruption during the past three years. The President and his cronies have signed international contracts with foreign companies without obtaining approval from parliament, and under dubious procurement processes. The latest example is the shady contract that the government signed with SOMA OIL AND GAS in 2013 without approval by parliament.

·         Gross human rights violations of citizens ranging from extra judicial executions, illegal detentions, torture and the forceful displacement of already internally displaced people (IDP) in order to convert the squatted land into Real Estate for a private fraudulent gain.

·         Failure to improve security by dominating security institutions and expending valuable security resources on the harassment and detentions of political dissidents and members of the media; instead of targeting these resources to real and actual threats to national security.

·         Continued interference with the independence of the constitutionally mandated national Independent Commissions as well as the Judiciary.

The parliamentarians believe, as the body that had constitutionally-mandated, “oversight of government institutions in a government that was based on constitutional foundations, it was incumbent upon them to introduce a modicum of accountability into these institutions. They believed that the motion constituted the beginning of a noble cause."

The merit of the accusation:

Since the creation of the first transitional Somali government in 2004, parliamentary motions were part of the genera of the disruptive and dysfunctional Somali politics that have become more frequent in recent years. There were Prime Ministers who lost their jobs under clouded motions in the last few years; as well as a presidential resignation in 2008 because of one such motion.These are very serious accusations that may have merit, and as the members of parliament correctly express, it is their duty to ‘oversee the government constitution’, and ensure that the laws of the land are functioning and are followed. However, one can argue these same parliamentarians, who are pursuing the president for political opportunism and corruption, have been a party to the same kind of mismanagement, opportunism, and indeed corruption. In fact, their negligence of ‘oversight of the constitution,’ lack of checks to balance the decision making of this government, and lack of respect for the constitution helped to create this situation that led to the current crisis with the President.

The irony of this situation is that while these are very serious and legitimate accusations; unfortunately, the very legislators behind the motion lack real political legitimacy in the eyes of Somali people. These parliamentarians are not elected by the people; and therefore, are not accountable for the people. Indeed, most of these members were not long ago very vocal and proudly waving their flags in favor of what was considered unconstitutional motions against recent dismissal of PMs.  This inability for our legislators to work together and work for the broader societal betterment of the Somali people is very much a product of the use of parliamentary practice for personal and private political and economic gain.

The question then remains: who are the Somali people to entrust with respects to the governmental affairs of their country?  Both legislative branches (executive office & parliament) have lost legitimacy in the eyes of the public and have little credibility with respects to serving the common interests and well-being of Somalis. Somali society are suffering from the consequences of the decisions made by very selfish and self-serving political elites, who neither seem to want to move this country forward nor, in fact, have the skills of leadership to do so. 

How to move forward?

I believe there is truth to the recent claims of corruption, lack of functioning government and perhaps wrong doing in the President’s office.  But, fortunately for the president and unfortunately for the Somali people, these parliamentarians are not the right people to claim any righteousness since they are also part of the broader problems. Nevertheless, there are political and constitutional foundations of such accusations, and they should be examined and addressed by competent authority in order to safeguard the constitution, leadership integrity, and public trust.

The house leader needs to enact due diligence and allow a proper procedure for this motion so that it is clear to the public the cause and effect of decisions made, and outcomes achieved. Whatever the motivation of the parliamentarians, the constitutionality of the accusation needs to be considered; it is not something that has been done in past in similar circumstances. Somalia has experienced serious misfortune in its history, including current foreign politics and the militarization of the country that have grossly undermined political stability in the country. In addition, Somali society has lost hope and trust in their leaders (and with good reason); however, I am hopeful that the Somali people will re-engage in their country’s affairs and take their country back from the corruption and mismanagement that has infested at all levels of government.

The political future of Somalia will be determined in 2016, hopefully for better. However, whichever way the political trajectory of Somalia goes, and whatever method of selection or election of the branches of government the Somali people choose, hopefully there will be a greater engagement and a new-dawn for Somalia’s future with new and fresh blood in the executive and legislators' offices. This country needs an opportunity to heal its past wounds and move forward to a brighter future. The Somali public needs to be the steward of their country and pay attention to what is happening in their  government and not to be preoccupied with clannish manipulations and political tug of wars in order to create a better narrative for the future of Somalia than the one that it is currently facing.

Farhia Ali Abdi
[email protected]

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