Election Talks Or Federalism In Question

The ongoing election talks have shown that Somalia is still a country with a long way to go to extricate itself from the consequences of the chaos generated by the collapse of the state during the Civil War.

Indeed, although Somalia emerged from the failed state status in 2009, from the transitional government in 2012, the agreed federalism, which is included in the constitution still in progress, is still misunderstood and an ongoing source of friction between regions and the federal government .

Post-civil war Somalia is under construction as all institutions have all been destroyed. Its democracy before 1969 was based on a centralized state model, and the current federal system, born out of the numerous conferences that followed the civil war, is subject to a balance of power between the central government and regional administrations.

It means that the road is going to be long and tortuous before everyone is on the same page. And it is surely not negotiations over the elections, the venue, the current polarized political atmosphere and undue pressure from representatives of Western countries that will solve the problem.

As Somalia is a country with a parliamentary system, the management of the country rests on the shoulders of MPs and Senators. A debate on the foundations of federalism and the distribution of powers is necessary so that there are no longer any disputes over jurisdictions and that a constitutional court is set up to settle any conflicts between the regions and the central administration.

The current showdown, which in principle should be limited to the electoral process, immediately demonstrated the root of the problem through the stonewalling of the leaders of Puntland and Jubaland, regions who are angry with the current government for seeking to permanently and irreversibly alter the status quo inherited from the previous administration.

This status quo, which the dissenting leaders, in this case Said Deni and Ahmed Madobe, want to preserve, is a system where regions are autonomous entities from an economic, financial, military and foreign policy point of view. Virtually any region can do what it wants, how it wants and when it wants without any say from the central government.

Unlike his predecessor, Hassan Sheikh Mahamud, this concept of federalism is not to the liking of the administration of President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, whose government, in recent years, has stepped up unifying actions of the state that are not appreciated by Puntland, Jubaland and Somaliland.

For instance, Farmajo’s government stop the stranglehold of the Arab Emirates on the security of the country and the special relations they maintains with the regions, not to mention their meddling in national political affairs. The Farmajo administration also expelled the Emirati instructors, controlled the flow of illegal money from the Emirates and is still working on keeping them at bay .

The government has maintained the same attitude towards Kenya with whom Somalia cut all diplomatic relations in November 2020. Kenya not only claims part of the Somali Sea but has troops in the south of the country, protecting Ahmed Madobe, the Jubaland leader.

Moreover, Farmajo expanded the army ranks to prepare the country’s security for post-AMISOM and formed a new regional military alliance with Ethiopia and Eritrea.

On the internal affairs side, he took over air traffic from Somaliland, passed laws that control the elections of regional leaders, thus facilitating the installation of favorable candidates in the regions and blocking the way for others like Mukhtar Robow, ex-Al-Shabab fighter, in 2018 from being elected in the Southeast region.

Ahmed Madobe, the leader of Jubaland, refused to comply and passed his own electoral laws under the protection of the Kenyan military, and thus avoiding being ousted by federal government troops.

It goes without saying that with this expansion of federal power, Said Deni, the ruler of Puntland, is quite anxious about his unabated dealings with the Emirates or about his re-election in two years. Since he succeeded in September 2020 in persuading Farmajo and the Parliament to hold indirect election, which a step back from previously ratified direct election, he has believed he could drive him out of Villa Somalia as well.

Deni and Madobe made sure elections are delayed up until the end of Farmajo’s mandate on February 7th and then used arguments delegitimizing him afterwards. However, President Farmajo intends to stand again in the next election and does not want to give satisfaction to the two rebel leaders and their supporters within the “Union of Presidential Candidates”.

It is no longer a secret that these opponents have the support of foreign countries including Kenya and the Arab Emirates which are very hostile to Farmajo’s administration. It is also well known that certain representatives of the international community based in Mogadishu prevent the current government, whose mandate officially expired on February 7th, from doing anything other than negotiating ad infinitum with recalcitrant leaders.

The collapse of the election talks announced by the government on April 7th demonstrates the government’s exasperation at the intransigence of the two regional leaders and the pressure from a population weary of these fruitless and endless talks.

Now, if Puntland and Jubaland leaders are unwilling to live up to the agreement on the indirect election model that they advocated, signed, and lobbied the Parliament to ratify, the government has still several options at its disposal.

The first is to return to the Parliament for the abrogation of the September 17th agreement with the regions and to go back to the model of direct election already debated and voted on by this assembly; the second is to go ahead with the regions (Galmudug, Hirshabelle, Southwest and Benadir) which respect the letter and the spirit of the agreements made on these indirect elections which are prone to corruption and vote buying.

The letter sent to the UN Security Council on April 9 was an indication that the government was sticking to the spirit of the September 17, 2020 agreement and the recommendations of the Baidoa technical committee on February 15 and 16, but at the same time affirmed its will to move forward with the elections with or without Puntland and Jubaland.

The next few days will be decisive for Somalia and the building a Somali democracy that meets the aspirations of the people and that strengthens national unity and confidence in state institutions.

Somalia is a parliamentary democracy where the parliament has the final say in the direction of the country. One needs to understand that talks on the elections between the federal government and the member regions of this federation are in principle not a condition without which there would be no federal elections.

Somalia has matured since the civil war and unruly regions, corrupt politicians, insecurity, and hopeless population are all disappearing.

AbdiQani Badar

AbdiQani Badar is a historian, political commentator and avid writer. He has written extensively on Somali issues and historical events.