Somalia: Ugly Clan Federalism Sparks Fresh Turmoil
The formation of federal Member States (FMS) without legal and political consensus sparks fresh political and social turmoil in all regions of Somalia. It is unequivocally clear that the federal system based on clan ownership of territory has become major obstacle to national reconciliation, peacebuilding, and statebuilding in Somalia. It polluted the notion of state, citizenship, and Islamic values and intensified clan rivalry and vanity within the Somali society everywhere.
In a meeting held at Chatham House on May 9, 2014, Ambassador Nicholas Kay, Head of UN Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) revealed for the first time that “Federalism should be seen as structuring Somalia along strictly clan lines. There will always be minorities in each state and each state must ensure it is inclusive.” He added that “At the time of his arrival, federalism was a hot topic and it remains so today.” No Somali citizen wants and deserves to be considered a minority in any part of Somalia. UNSOM preempted genuine debate on the options of decentralization system of governance including the clan federal system as prescribed in the provisional constitution. Instead UNSOM, EU, and IGAD have ordered implementation of “forced federalism.”
In an interview with VOA, President Hassan made the surprising argument that the ongoing formation of federal states is a kind of “temporary structure” and the debate over the real federal states has to wait until legal instruments are passed by parliament. This is contrary to the way government should work, which is obligated to act in accordance with constitution, laws, and regulations. The President’s argument makes the federal government lawless.
In an interview with Aljazeera correspondent, Prime Minister Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed justified federalism as follows: “Federalism is inherent in Somali culture. Somalis have always been independent minded and through centuries have wanted to manage their own affairs.” PM Abdiweli Sheikh seems confused about the difference between individual freedom and clan federalism based on territory ownership.
Leaders of Puntland State (Harti Darod Enclave) brushed aside the need for a serious debate over the pros and cons of federalism for national reconciliation, unity, and prosperity. The clan demarcation line established within the Galkaio Town symbolizes the underlying clan hatreds inherent in clan federalism. Mogadishu residents removed the civil war Green Line for reconciliation.
There are made-up excuses to not seriously deal with the real problem of Somalia which is the lack of a national government that enjoys the support and confidence of the majority of Somalis. The accusation that there is a “centralist” government in Mogadishu, when the federal government protected by foreign forces does not have existence outside Mogadishu is red herring. The continuous clashes between Somaliland and Puntland are also evidence for the unsettled existence of both entities.
The claim that clan federalism heals civil war grievances and mistrusts, advances reconciliation, or adequately responds to the secession stance of Somaliland, or promotes democratic system of governance and national integration for socio economic development and political stability is indefensible. It is like saying that the divorce between wife and husband leads to reconciliation.
Somali Commentators argue that Puntland and Somaliland use 3.5 clan formulas for political power sharing- the three Mohamud Salebaans in Puntland and Others, and the three moms (Habars) of Isaaq and Others in Somaliland. For example, Cadceed.Com Website and AllSanaag Website report many complaints about the clan discriminations perpetrated in Somaliland and Puntland. The Khatumo State seceded from Puntland for similar reasons. The International Crisis Group (ICG) issued a gloomy report in December 2013 on the clan tensions destroying Puntland.
The quarrels between the federal government and regional states are not based on legal and public policy disagreements. They are instigated by clan perceived entitlements and political maneuvering. On August 1, 2014, President Abdiweli Mohamed Ali Gas of Puntland delivered speech that spells the vision of de facto independent regional state despite repeated lip service assertion for united Somalia. This is part of the political dishonesty that plagues Somalia. Professor Said S. Samatar’s latest article titled “Confessions of a New Convert to Geri Koombo Clan-Family” describes the hypocrisies Somalis are engaged under clan mantle. The present posture is that “my clan is good/right while your clan is bad/wrong.”
On July, 30, 2014, President Hassan announced the formation of the third Federal Member State (FMS) by merging Mudug and Galgudud regions which I dub (the Unity State) at the signing of another unconstitutional document by four members of the Council of Ministers and representatives of three organizations (Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama (ASWJ), Galmudug State, and Himan and Heeb State). This latest announcement follows the disputed Jubbaland and Southwest States formed in different processes and guarantors. The leaders of Puntland strongly opposed this third regional State.
As usual, US, AU, UN, EU, and IGAD issued press releases of support for the new FMS. However, the press release of the United States contains an important paragraph that deserves close attention. It says that “the United States remains a committed partner to the government and citizens of Somalia and will continue to support Somalia’s path towards a peaceful, stable, and prosperous future.” This could hopefully mean that the United States is attempting to move away from clan restructuring process underway in Somalia.
All processes used to form the Federal States have undermined the sovereignty and political independence of the federal government, usurped the responsibilities of the federal parliament, and legitimized political dishonesty and disregard of the rule of law. They abolished the right of the Somali citizens to challenge the unconstitutionality and harmful consequences of the clan based States.
Nepotism, injustices, economic and financial mismanagement, rampant corruption, and abuse of political power, have caused the total collapse of the Somali State. The fight against those negative clan influences in the public sphere of Somalia is fundamental for rebuilding the Somali State. There are tested legal systems, public administration practices, and economic policies that guarantee regional autonomy or decentralization of state power while strengthening the leadership authority of the central government for national unity and harmony. The path for Somalia’s recovery starts and ends with patriotic conscience, respect and defense of the rule of law and Islamic values rather than in clan rivalry and discrimination disapproved by Almighty Allah.
The Somali society enjoys unique culture that has less to share with Germany, Switzerland, or United States of America in terms of the latters’ choices for different federal systems of governance suitable for them. Somalia needs a system of governance that counters clan ills.
The litigation over the federal and local governments’ democratic performances with respect to the rule of law would make sense after the establishment of shared central government that exercises power all over Somalia through integrated governance structures. Then, the current temporary clan formula of 4.5 or 3.5 in Puntland and Somaliland will be replaced by a transparent and well administered electoral political system. Clan federalism weakens national identity, unity, and reliance.
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