Saturday, July 21, 2018
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Can Somali sovereignty and unity be saved? Analysis and recommendations

By Hassan A. Keynan

Somalia has been blighted by decades of strife and seemingly endless political instability and chaos. The reasons for this tragic state of affairs are many, complex, multi-dimensional and immensely variegated. A complete and comprehensive investigation of what went wrong and why would not possible in this brief account. However, a few factors warrant particular attention.

First, the 2000 Arta Charter that introduced the 4.5 power-sharing formula, the 2004 Nairobi Charter that promulgated the federal system, and the Provisional Constitution (PC) that was adopted in Mogadishu in 2012, were all political and legal documents that were initiated, negotiated and rolled out in ways and under circumstances characterized by haste, secrecy, manipulation, and excessive control by external actors. In fact, all were crafted outside Somalia, under the sponsorship and patronage of foreign countries, including some with longstanding strategic and geopolitical ambitions in the country.

The Somali people had not been invited. Nor had they been able to effect direct participation on their own initiative. More importantly, these frameworks are fraught with concepts and principles that are contradictory, and at times, conflicting. Members of the Federal Parliament have repeatedly spoken about the fundamental flaws in the Provisional Constitution. Many have pointed out that the inadequacies and contradictions in the PC are so many and so deep that at least 50% of the document ought to be overhauled so as to make it workable. Some have argued that key articles of the PC have been tampered with.

Second, efforts and projects aimed at completing the PC have been going on for more than six years. This was the principal responsibility tasked with President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and his administration, and they spectacularly failed. The current President and his team are already in their second year; and it seems unlikely that they would be successful. Even if President Farmaajo’s administration manages to tackle this difficult issue, it is not clear if it would make any difference in solving the deepening political crises facing the country.

Third, the complex and messy situation the country is in presently is not one that can be adequately managed or overcome with the help of the PC and/or the half-baked initiatives and policies put forward by the Federal Government. The Provisional Constitution proffers beautiful words and loft ideals imagining a nation and people that are free, united, and sovereign. And the Federal Government seems to be hell-bent on drawing its legitimacy and the legality of its powers and authority solely on the basis of these imaginary notions. However, the hard truth is that the magical words in the PC and the raft of powers and privileges it bestows on federal constitutional bodies and office bearers are in actual reality a mirage.

Somalia is in the throes of an unprecedented scramble rarely, and probably never, witnessed in the history of post-colonial Africa. The new scramble for Somalia involves a wide range of competitors: Internal and external, national and international, old and new, traditional and modern, state and non-state, local and diaspora, religious and secular, African and Arab. They include:

  • The Federal Government of Somalia (FGS).
  • Somaliland, which has chartered and pursued its own path with a measure of credibility and success.
  • Five Federal Member States (FMS) with huge variations in stability, governance, and economy.
  • Two armed religious groups, Al-Shabab (AS) and Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama (ASWJ).
  • The Banadir Region.
  • Four clan families and half.
  • Ubiquitous and nimble diaspora Somalis in search of opportunity and fortune.
  • More than 20,000 foreign soldiers.
  • Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and United Arab Emirates.
  • Kenya and Ethiopia both of which harbor long-standing and well-known agendas in Somalia.
  • The international community with its own sequestered enclave inside the International Airport in the Capital.

The Federal Government is probably the weakest in terms of the resources and capabilities it can mobilize and effectively deploy in defense of the territory it claims to control and the unity and sovereignty of the nation. Yet, the FGS insists that it is the only national legitimate authority in the land; and that any action or transaction implemented across the country without its consent and approval is illegal. This type of calculation is unrealistic as it flies in the face realities on the ground, or even common sense. The President, Prime Minister, or Speaker of Parliament cannot visit Berbera or Hargeisa; and their authority and directives do not reach or get meaningfully implemented there and much of the territories under the control of the FMS and AS. They cannot even control the Capital or freely move on its roads. Recently, the executives of the Federal Member States (FMS) claimed that they control 90 percent of the country while the FGS has effective jurisdiction on only 10 percent.  This speaks volumes about the multiplicity of challenges and debilitating constraints with which the FGS is saddled.

How, then, a country confronting such lethal afflictions be salvaged? Is it realistically possible to save its sovereignty and unity? These are questions for which there are not easy, definitive answers. At the same time, if there is will, patience and courage, it is quite possible to crack the conundrum.

Read more: Can Somali sovereignty and unity be saved

Hassan A. Keynan


Mr. Keynan is an author, poet and former UNESCO Sr. staff.

Somali version: Ma la badbaadin karaa qarannimada iyo midnimada Soomaaliya

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