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Published On: Tue, Jul 14th, 2015

Somaliland: Federalism in Somalia is at a Crossroads

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Relations between the Somali Federal Government  and  Puntland  State is at an all-time low. According to Puntland Parliament the Constitutional Review Commission, Independent National Electoral Board, and Boundary and Federation Commission have been formed  in Mogadishu without consultation with federal states in contravention of  Article 111 of the Provisional Federal Constitution.  The article was included in the draft constitution to promote consensus-building among Somali political leaders at different levels.

Political and structural factors cause the failure of Somali political elite to cooperate. The political factor manifests itself in politicians’ reluctance to avoid accentuation of mistrust among clans and lack of commitment to resolving struggles for land and resources. The structural factor ranges from reluctance on the part of federal leaders to build on existing political capital in peaceful regions, and failure to honour agreements with the international community.

Somalia is like   a major corporation with  business units  ( federal states ) underperforming not because of weak products but because of a wrong corporate strategy.  In 2012 a change of leadership at the CEO level (presidency) was seen as conduit for recapitalising business units to recapture lost market share. Somalia’s partners ( investors)  organised a conference in 2013 to raise funds for Somalia under the New Deal  but its impact has been negligible; only Somaliland administration, praised for durable political processes, has benefited from the New Deal  under its Somaliland Compact.

Leaders of federal institutions ( presidency,  parliament and the  prime minster’s office) have not put their weight behind the Joint Financial Management Board  aimed at ensuring “transparency and accountability in the collection and efficient use of public revenues, as well as international development aid.”  The United Nations’ role in Somalia has been like that of a credit rating agency,   keeping Somalia’s partners updated on progress in security, transparency and elite cooperation in order not to lose  gains made since 2012. The UN Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea has  criticised the Somali federal government for corruption.  Allegations  about corruption within the Somali federal government dented   donors’ trust in federal leaders.
This has has implications for donor assistance for Somalia. Donors  face accusations from federal leaders for violating Somali sovereignty if they channel resources to federal states; if they channel resources through the federal government they will be accused of condoning corruption.  In such a situation it is Somali federal states like Puntland that suffer despite facilitating the end of the transition and committing to the common security framework for Somalia under a  federal government.The rift between the federal government and  federal states is yet another example about the difficulty of getting Somali political  classes  to cooperate on national development and  peace. Thefederal government, under President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, is  first fully recognised Somali government since 1991 but his leadership has been weakened by inability to leave the comfort zone of a clique  to rule as a national leader able to build consensus and prevent unnecessary political setbacks such as Glamudug-Puntland dispute and ongoing clashes in Lower Shabelle between “ Somali Army” and “ local forces” ( ciidaanka deegaanka).

Federal  institutions created after August 2012 opened up   reconstruction opportunities  for Somalia but  federal leaders have not been able to make better use of them. Once again Mogadishu  is becoming symbol for promoting underdevelopment and insecurity in periphery regions, making Somalia to be judged for failures by leaders in the capital.

Some regions that suffered  underdevelopment before 1991 and state collapse after 1991 pulled themselves up and created  relatively durable institutions to  introduce services  for people although elite power struggle  has cumulatively set Somalia back for quarter a century. It  takes the form of a political rift between people who want to see Mogadishu regain its privilege to subject periphery regions to reliance on resources from  institutionally underdeveloped  centre, and federal states keen on  never being affected by polarising politics in the capital. In his book of essays  Rashid Sheikh Abdullahi, the distinguished Somali essayist and literary critic,  convincingly argues  Somalis have no a tradition of tolerance. Intolerance is at the root of Somali political conflict. To have a viable state again Somalia needs to produce national leaders who do not thrive on inter-clan mistrust. Only then will any form of government- federal or centralised – begin to work for Somalis.

Liban Ahmadlibahm@icloud.com

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