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Somalia: Is Federalism the only Remaining National Option?

By Dr. Yusuf   O.  Al-Azhari

Many qualified authentic Somalis could argue on whether Federalism is the right option for our country in this period of deep decomposition, agony and antagonism of our Nation which dearth any system of Governance to be re-institutionalize for the past two decades which deeply depleted National values and the integrity of Somalia as a Nation.

Gazing back on the marathon like Politics that Somalia went through since independence, leaves no other option but to adopt and try a Federal modus; as it is the only remaining political paradigm that has not been assayed by Somalis. To be sincere to ourselves and to the Somali people we should not shun aside factual rueful episodes that our country envisaged in the past fifty years of sovereignty.

At independence Somalia was handed over the Parliamentary model Democracy by its aggrandizer under carefully prepared Constitution which was put to popular referendum and was approved. After nine years of self Democratic Governance the Military took over the country by a coup d’état, imposing a totalitarian imperious system of Governance. Soon after a short period the reigning military regime, introduced the adoption of scientific socialism to be the Political menu of Somalia which was forcefully imposed for twenty one years till its collapse in 1991. The worst contrite that eventually pulverized the close brotherly relationship among the Somalis was the anarchy and warlordism that followed the failed unitary system of Governance. That means in span of thirty years Somalia has gone through Democracy, Dictatorship, Communism and Anarchy which all failed and rather fuelled hostility among the one brotherly Nation; a phenomenon that is considered now, antediluvian model of politics by the Somali Nation.

Subsequently, the short lived petulant Islamic Court which was not politically well scrutinized and was more of religious emotional group sentiments, which seemed

to lack deep sense of solid political approach appeared on the horizon whose leaders are disengaged into several antagonistic factions to day. Moreover since the collapse of the State Institution and for the last two decades the parliamentary system is being tried with the assistance of the International Communities and friendly countries which could not be sustained till now.

The blood shade, looting, rape and public mutilation that erupted in Somalia

have created a deep sense of lack of confidence and insecurity among the various Clans which necessitates the adoption of a new Political vision that could treat the trauma of the atrocities that occurred among the various Clans; if the country’s unity is to be salvaged and brotherly confidence have to be restored.

We are all aware of the various systems of Governance which has a long history stretching from when human being commenced to form groups and tribes which was the precursor of modern nationalist governments. The Federal system has evolved over time, with legislators correcting the anomalies through trial and errors.  Federal system is one of the healthiest political models of modern Governance which is used by people living together in communities; and to sustain themselves, they have to establish a clear political structure that could make vital decisions on matters concerning their community and their daily life as a whole.

Federalism was prompted as a result of power domination by Centralized National Government which restricted any sharing of power and resources to the regions on equitable manner. As a result a Federal power sharing system with a clear definition of the distribution of power and resources between States and the National Central Government, to achieving enhancement of welfare goals for its citizens, while maintaining collective sovereign unity has been initiated.

Federal system is simply, a democratic equitable policy procedure which allows sharing through cooperation and involves the division of power between a central government entity and local State governments. Division of political power between center and states, of a federal democratic nation, bequeath most vital authorities related to National security, stability, major foreign policy and minting of financial notes to the Central Government, with states sharing subsidiary responsibility. Such distribution of powers, rights and duties has to be clearly defined and stipulated in the National Federal Constitution which sets up a Federal system of government; distinctly describing the power equation between Center and States. The apprehension by some that States may function as independent governments should be contained by the Federal Constitution and a Federal court of justice to curtail any such tendencies.

The central Federal Government and States will share legislative, executive and judicial powers each within the constitutional restraint of its allowed capacity limits. But the degree to which States are granted freedom with respect to these

above mentioned powers may vary, because the Federal system may be symmetric, with all States granted equal amount of local power under the aegis

of the Central Federal Government or asymmetric with some States granted more powers. But all in all the country would remain to be one Nation, with better and clear political synchronization between center and states that would enhance the living standard of the Somali individual which should be the goal.

The jittery sentiment by some about Federalism is not because they perceive it, as being good or bad, but rather the lack of confidence in it, through misperception of what it stands for implicitly or advertently. Others may perceive that such phenomenon may lead to National disintegration and others may lack proper constituencies to form a State or the capacity to administer their Regions and sustain an equal standard of rapid development compatible with other States.  For these and may be other reasons they would rather support Somalia to be under the umbrella of a unitary Government where everybody has equal “responsibility, but not equal benefits and rights”. Some others may argue on the disparity of resources which is a fact. But the Federal central Government has to address such inequalities of resources by injecting more development projects into the less fortunate States to lift up their potentiality. Besides, States could establish mutual cooperation between them, so that they could develop immensely together by implementing joint economic projects of all kind.  Moreover the Federal Constitution guarantees every Somali National the liberty to reside in any State of his choice even if he/she do not relate to the inhabitants of that constituency.

Federal System provides immense opportunity to a State in administering its Communities functions, just like that of a National Government, but in a lesser scale of a particular community; yet the Federal Central Government posses the prerogative to check and balance State activities to be compatible with the set rules and regulations as enshrined in the National Federal Constitution.

The Federal system would also eventually eliminate extremists as they will not have a State they could hide in and would drastically discourage and curtail the unwarranted desires by many candidates to apply for the post of President as the holder of such post will have limited powers to implement.

Somalia has the chance to day, to fathom the formation of a new system that would bar the creation of tycoon powerful monster Leaders by adopting an exemplary Democratic Federal Constitution that will empower the civil society and the people in general.

Finally a Federal National system of Government in Somalia after what has happened is inevitable, as it would be impossible to re-implement failed policies of Unitary Central controlled government system. Particularly under the prevailing sensitive situation where the Somali people are decomposed, and “territories and Towns has been claimed to belong to certain group which deny others to live with them.” What Somalia needs now is a period of self evaluation in peace and development to recover from its past harrowing period. In this regard the only venue open to them is to pursue a system that will provide security to each group in Federal modus of a self rule States. However despite all these prevailing facts, I do not exclude Somalis to ones again, in the distant future reach the desire, after unfettering the despairing nightmare, to decide that a Parliamentary Unitary system is better for the country as Somalis are considered to belong to the same ethnicity.
The writer is veteran civil servant & career diplomat


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