Sunday, July 22, 2018
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The commotion surrounding Somalia’s transition

CDRC DIGEST: A monthly publication of the Centre for Dialogue, Research and Cooperation (CDRC)

Somalia’s presidential election, previously scheduled for December 2016, was postponed by a month and is now expected to take place in late January 2017. The Somali people, Regional States and the international community eagerly follow proceedings in Somalia and are optimistic about the successful completion of the election process. A smooth transition, marking an end to the continuous dismantling of institutions in the country, is what is hoped for. On the other hand, there are accusations that the process has been marred by corruption and unnecessary intervention from the National Leadership  Forum (NLF), which has triggered a reaction from the international community.

The international community based in Mogadishu issued a statement in December 2016 underscoring “that the integrity of the 2016 electoral process hangs in the balance. More delays and a failure to hold accountable those parties who have committed serious abuses and malpractices will compromise the  international community’s ability and willingness to engage with Somalia’s next federal government.”  In the meantime, there is a consensus among all stakeholders that these unfortunate delays in the elections should not be allowed to overshadow Somalia’s tremendous progress in security and political spheres or to compromise Somalia’s struggle to deal with the terrorist group Al-Shabaab and its affiliates. In this regard, the inauguration of the Federal Parliament is a leap in the right direction and a great step forward in the realization of the much anticipated smooth transition of power.

Of course, the composition of the Parliament and the personalities of those running for its leadership hint at the challenging times ahead in Somali politics. The Parliament is mainly composed of young politicians associated with the diaspora, Damul Jadiid (New Blood) affiliated Ministers who see challenges to their future reappointment, and sympathizers of Al-Shabaab and other groups. Shifting
alliances and counter-alliances between secularists and religiously motivated MPs, rich MPs and financially insecure ones, between religious groups (Salafists, Sufists and Wahabists,“reformists Islah and Damul Jadiid” and the die-hard Al-Itisam) and others are expected to inform its proceedings in  the immediate future.

… The current administrative arrangement at local levels expeditiously creates a situation whereby every major clan has at least one Regional State, in the process creating a sense of equity among the major clans. Representation at the federal level is also expected to follow this tacit arrangement. It would  be difficult to change this reality. For example, it appears that all along the Darood and the Hawiye clans have agreed that a representative from the Digil and Merfile clan will assume the post of Speaker of the Federal Parliament. The reelection of the incumbent Speaker of the Parliament, Professor Mohamed Osman Jawari, should be understood within this context. Moreover, the contests and the final outcomes related to the first and second Deputy Speakers’ positions are worth considering as well.

The Somalis  have ensured fair representation accommodative of clan-based interests in those elections. In the 4.5 power sharing arrangement the post for the Deputy Speaker is slotted for the minorities, for which Farah Sheikh Abdiqadir, one of the most powerful Somali politicians, has competed with his main rival Abdiweli Sheikh Ibrahim (Mudey) in two election rounds and graciously conceded defeat. What  brought this specific contest for the position of Deputy Speaker to the spotlight was the apparent friction between Farah Sheikh Abdiqadir and President Hassan, which presented the strong possibility that the former would block the re-election of the latter to the post of the Presidency. But now that  Farah has lost, the President will be breathing a big sigh of relief. This development significantly increases the prospect of his re-election.

At the same time, four contenders were running for the post of the second Deputy Speaker, members from the Dir clan exclusively dominating the line-up. After two rounds, Hon. Mahad Abdalla Awad was declared the winner, with a total of 174 votes compared to his main rival, Abdiqadir Sheikh Ali Baghdadi, who only scored 84.

Once again, these events ascertain Somali politicians’ acceptance of and adherence to the 4.5 formula, which was crafted during the Mbagathi Conference that established the TFG in 2004. Accordingly, positions are apportioned such that a representative from the Digil and Merifle clan assumes the position Speaker of the House, another one from the Minorities assumes the First Deputy Speaker and a representative of the Dir clan takes the post of second Deputy Speaker. Attempts to contravene this arrangement have failed thus far, indicating the viability of the system. Now the agenda for the new Parliament is to fix a timeline for the Presidential election, which is expected to be held towards the end of this month.

The posts of the President and the Prime Minister are to be shared between the Hawiye and the Darood clans, respectively, and this then allows the Dir/Issaq to take the Deputy Prime Minister position. And so it goes. This tacit understanding will continue to inform the power-sharing arrangement down to the lowest appointed echelon of the government bureaucracy. Every stakeholder involved in Somalia’s election procedures needs to understand this delicate arrangement of clan representations. Somalis at the leadership level and the incumbents should be allowed to negotiate a framework that will sustain the delicate balance.

Any effort to undermine this arrangement at the top of the pyramid would have serious security implications, with the potential to disrupt the stability of Somalia, with further implications for  the entire sub-region. One must also consider the political geography of the country, with its possible implications for the power-sharing arrangement. The Hawiye, for instance, who inhabit the areas around Mogadishu, harbor resentment based on the feeling that they have been subjugated by the Daroods (especially the Marehan, Ogaden and Dulbahante trio during the oppressive regime of Gen. Siad Barre) and believe now that it is their turn to govern.

Based on historic and current realities, allowing the Hawiye to keep the Presidency might be a wise move.

Read more: The commotion surrounding Somalia’s transition – DRC Digest Special Issue

Source: CDRC

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