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Can the new Somalia President Really Deliver?

Ally Jamah
Tuesday February 21, 2017

New Somalia President Mohamed Abdulahi Farmaajo.
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The election of Mohamed Abdullahi "Farmajo" as the new Somalia President has unleashed hope not only among Somali nationals but also regional countries like Kenya keen to see law and order prevail in the war-torn nation.

However, the capacity of the new leader to implement his wide-ranging agendafor the country including restoring security may behampered by the structure of the Somali federal government itself as contained in Somalia’s Provisional Federal Constitution (2012). 

Executive authority to craft and implement government policies and programmes and make key top state  appointments lies not with the President but an unelected Prime Minister and his team of deputy prime minister (s), ministers, state ministers and deputy-ministers.
While the President is the head of state, it is  the Prime Minister who is the head of government, directing the day to day running of the  government.

This arrangement  may significantly impede Farmaajo’s ability to deliver on his mandate and leave  his supporters disappointed.
Farmaajo’s public perception as a performer in public officer emerged during his 8-month stint as PM between November 2010 and June 2011. At that time, his office had executive powers to determine and implement the agenda of his government.  But currently as President, he lacks those powers and his impact may thus be limited.

Interestingly, when asked about plans for his first 100 days, the new President seemed to recognize his limited powers, saying his job is to appoint a Prime Minister who will come up with the government programmes. 

Although the President has powers to appoint the PM, he does not control how the officer holder and his Ministers and deputy ministers  run the government. 

Through backroom deals and realpolitik, the President  usually cajoles or pressures the PM to do his bidding butrecent history this has its limits. The PM can only be dismissed by parliament not the President. The PM and Ministershave far-reaching powers including formulation and implementation of the overall government policy, preparation of annual budgets, drafting legislation, appointing and dismissing senior public officials among other key functions. 

It is thePM and not the President who has powers to appoint and dismiss Deputy PMs, Ministers and Deputy Ministers and to assign specific functions assigned to them. This makes the President’s role somewhat marginal in directing government programmes.

One would think that being the President’s appointee, the PM would beinfluenced easily by the President to fulfil his agenda, but the reality of recent Somali governments has been starkly different. 

The relationship between successive Somali Presidents and their PMs have been characterised by power struggles and public spats, as the PMs sought to assert their “independence”and fend off “interference” from the President keen to push his agenda and interests. 
These power struggles have resulted in frequent paralysis in the running of the government as the two offices engage in a battle of wits, resulting in waste of time and resources needed to rebuild the country.

These political battles have also resulted in  high turnover of PMs in the Somali Federal government with many of them hardly serving more than a year. 

Among the roles retained by the President in the Constitution  include declaring a state of emergency and war, serving as   Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, sign draft passed by the Federal Parliament, receive foreign diplomats and consuls among many others that are largely non-executive. 

It would therefore be wise for Somalia’s legislators to relook at the structure of the federal government to ensure that  the elected President has the actual executive powers to fulfil his mandate. 

Alternatively, the PM’s position should be subjected to competitive elections if it should retain the huge executive powers it currently wields. 
Failures of the federal government are always pinned on the President even though a significant portion of executive authority does not lie with him. 

Ally Jamah is a Journalist& Analyst based in Nairobi. Email: [email protected]

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