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September 5, 2014
In addition to ongoing war against terrorist group Al Shabab, looming famine that would affect million people, and intense polarization engendered by the compulsory clan federalism, Somalia suffers many other ills. For background, I hypothesized in my article of June 2014 on the demotion of President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud by the International Troika administering Somalia- Envoys of IGAD, UN, and EU- after members of Somali parliament called for his immediate resignation that the ensuing political survival strategy of the President will ruin the future of Somalia. Now there are growing signs that the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) has lost the interest, will, and chance to secure ownership and leadership legitimacy as well as building institutions to effectively represent and defend the best interests of the Somali people, which are the necessary premises for getting national and international trust, respect, and support. The Foreign Minister of Somalia H. E. Dr. Abdirahman Duale Bayleh composed new song broadcasted by Universal TV on August 30, 2014, in which he bluntly defined Somalia as a project and its leader as “Mooge” (Somali word) translated into “absent-minded, ignorant, or confused.”
One of the many ills is the wrong customary approach of the federal government to act when addressing national problems without undertaking the constitutionally required policy development process to produce solutions and consensus translated into laws, regulations, and policy guidelines. Policy Development process is a critical mechanism for institutional building and governance to achieve defined goals and to evaluate performances of government institutions for accountability, efficiency, and effectiveness. Acting without policy development process would lead to failure and self-destruction which perpetuates the national tragedy.
It’s hard to find publications of official documents explaining and legitimizing the domestic and foreign activities of the federal government for public understanding, scrutiny, and transparency. Non-stop travels to abroad, pictures, seminars, and general speeches became its common means for citizens’ engagement and claims for accomplishment. The Federal Government circumvents to seek, honor, and encourage policy development process through genuine public participation and democratic parliamentary process for input, support, and approval.
There are many unexplained events that worried the public. For example, on 9 August 2014, the international troika on Somalia signed a letter in support of Puntland President Abdiweli Gas for his objection against the merger of Mudug and Galgudud regions for the formation of new federal member state. The letter, which divides the region of Mudug, unequivocally repeals articles of the Provisional Constitution and revokes the representation and leadership legitimacy of the FGS. It is prejudicial to the legitimacy and viability of the new federal member state. It undermines direct dialogue among Somalis for reconciliation, cohesion, and compromise. The final message of the letter is pep talk to the leaders of the federal government after being implicitly depicted as not quite honest partners. The FGS remains silent on this foreign interposition.
Well-armed secret service forces raided media properties, houses of members of parliament, politicians, and former government officials. There are accusations of human rights violations, suppression of freedom of expression, damaged or taken properties, and citizens tortured in detention. Despite parliamentary, public, and victims’ outcry for explanation and redress for the death, injury, and arrest of innocent civilians and arbitrary disarmament, the federal government first ignored and later issued threats for additional actions. Abuse of power feeds anarchy and hostility.
It is inconceivable that the leaders of the federal government shielded from the Somali security forces by foreign forces had the sense to deprive vulnerable private citizens and former government officials of the ability to defend themselves from Al Shabab and other personal threats. The fight against Al Shabab transmuted into persecution against suspected rivals of the federal government for harassment and intimidation. Government motivation has alarmed local leaders who expressed their complaint in public.
Additionally, clan federalism reinforces the need for clan armed forces. There are institutionalized clan forces in different regions. Therefore, arms in the hands of community members play the role of deterrence and tenuous but peaceful coexistence until the national government acquires the monopoly of use of force in Somalia.
Somalia, a failed state, needs disarmament, demobilization, and rehabilitation (DDR) program. But, in the absence of public confidence in federal government’s commitment to responsible politics and to the rule of law, the need to keep arms for self-defense has become a necessity. The FGS shoulders the responsibility for breeding public discontent, confusion, suspicion, and misgivings.
Contrary to the public denials of President Hassan on scheme to cede large section of Somalia’s territorial water to Kenya, the federal government submitted a petition on maritime border dispute with Kenya to the International Court of Justice. The content of the petition and other published documents confirm 100% the contentions of concerned Somalis who have been protesting about the Somali government’s corrupt, unwise, and irresponsible role in the conspiracy against Somali territorial water since the signing of 2009 Memorandum of Understanding in Nairobi between Kenya and Somalia, later annulled by the Somali parliament.
Given the facts in hand, the action of federal government seems reckless and deceptive because the federal government lacks “substantial or dominant sovereignty,” manifested in independent security, political and diplomatic power, as well as institutional capacity, discipline, and integrity, all critical to vigorously and confidently defend national interests at the international arena. The experience shows that the litigation of disputes covered by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLS) and other international laws is complex and insurmountable for countries like fragile Somalia. The three step process described in the petition is kind of “the devil is in the detail.” Kenya has high probability to get legitimization for what it took by force because abominably the principal culprits of this historical crime are in powerful positions to ensure the legitimization of their crime. Somali activists were right in their concern and contention and surely they will intensify their efforts to defend their annexed territory.
Many powerful countries did not sign the UNCLS. The federal government overlooked the opportunity to get relief of deferment and exoneration from any international litigation, claims, or datelines until Somalia exits from United Nations Security Council (UNSC) seizure and becomes credibly ready to defend its interests and fulfill its international obligations. As it is known, from 1991, Somalia as a failed (fragile, collapsed) state has been seized by the UNSC and Somalia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity remains under UNSC protection. The UNSC has authorized and supports the intervention of African Union forces from Kenya and other countries in Somalia to protect the federal government from Al Shabab attacks. In addition, UNSC sanctioned the multinational forces guarding the Somali coastline from piracy and other illegal activities. Somalia is under force majeure clause.
After the leaders of the federal government failed to rein in the unbridled judicial system that assumed judicial, political, legislative, and executive powers, Human Right Watch report of August 26 criticized the jurisdiction and quality of justice of federal government’s military court and called for suspension of the ongoing summary executions and court trials that violate the fundamental principles of justices. The misuse of judicial power did not only violate the Provisional Constitution, but it also subverted the fundamental aim of the Somali Compact, a partnership agreement between the federal government and the International community to rebuild the Somali State. The aim in the Somali Compact is “to restore the Somali people’s trust in the State and its ability to protect and serve their basic needs for inclusive, politics, security, justice, an economic foundation and revenue and services in full respect of human rights.” It is unfortunate that Somali leaders needed to be reminded about the fundamental rights of each citizen as detailed under articles 10 to 41 of the provisional constitution. In addition, the duties of the each citizen include patriotism and loyalty to the country, fostering national unity, knowledge, upholding, and defense of the constitution, defense of the territory of the FGS, promotion of accountability and rule of law, becoming a good taxpayer.
Rebuilding the Somali political system requires that the leaders of the federal government are conscious of the past history and the legacy of the civil war, and respect the provisions of the constitution and address the chaotic political disputes and social tensions in the society through a democratic process that can adequately reconcile the peculiarities and incongruities of domestic demands. The Federal Government needs to embrace the practice of rigorous policy development process and participatory system for transparency and accountability for the best interests of Somalia. The democratic aspirations of Somalis are effective participation in negotiations and decision making processes that ensure equality, fairness in resource and power distribution, and overall sense of justice, trust, and hope.
Mr. Mohamud Uluso