The report explores state building in Somalia, and the challenges the country faces in moving ahead from a highly centralized unitary government to a federal system. The 1988 war against the Somali National Movement (SNM) in Northern Somalia and the 1991 ruinous civil war in South Somalia, which resulted in the death of thousands of innocent civilians and massive displacement of urban dwellers, (Kaptjein, 2013) have fundamentally altered the assumption that Somalia (one language, one ethnic, and a potentially unified culture) is a cohesive society because of its homogeneity. The civil war heightened clan animosity to the benefit of the country’s political elite who used it as a tool to manipulate the affairs of the nation.
1 Prior to the 1991 civil war and its impacts that followed, there was an ostensible believe in the concept of having strong central government. However, more than 22 years of clan factionalism, lack of transparency, nepotism and mistrust among Somalia’s disparate clan groupings, have cracked that assumption and eventually destroyed the very social contract that hitherto bound the Somali society together. Today, there is a persistent lack of confidence in centralism in favor of decentralization.
Yet, lack of clear understanding of how to apply and manage federalism to work in Somalia’s context is pitting different political factions against one another. A major source of political factionalism is the absence of consensus on the division of power and responsibilities between the federal central authority and regional entities as well as lack of coherent guidelines for implementing the principles of the provisional federal constitution. Both issues are contributing to a stalemate in not achieving a speedy recovery, and the “rebirth of sound public institutions in Somalia.
On September 10, 2012, Somalia formed a new government led by Hassan Sheik Mohamud which was elected by a clan-based proxy parliament to rebuild a federal state of Somalia from the ashes of the civil war. However, immediately after coming to the office with high expectations, and an overwhelming support across clans, this new Somali government had faced the challenging task of sorting out priorities, and even at times set out with the wrong priorities; for example, (1) its opposition to the prior agreed on Stabilization program by the preceding Federal Transitional Government, (2) its zeal to lobby for lifting the arms embargo without having a bottom up approach to building an inclusive national army, and (3) imposing handpicked regional administrators or potential regional state leaders are a few to mention.
By IHASA research team
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