Somalia’s New Cabinet – Between Constitution, Clan, Comrades, and Quality

Abdiweli at Cabinet confirmationOn 21 January 2014, Somali Prime Minister Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed’s new cabinet was approved by a large margin of Somalia’s parliament with 186 MPs voting in favor, 46 against, and 1 abstaining.

Before the nomination, VOA journalist Harun Maruf solicited opinions via #MyKindofGovernment

The enlarged cabinet consisted of 25 ministers, 25 deputy ministers, and 5 state ministers.

The process to select them continued to reflect the contentious constitutional division of power between the President and PM.

Expectations were high especially after PM Abdiweli asked the parliament for an extension to complete the process—ostensibly to complete talks with President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud’s team and other influential groups.

It has been common practice for the president to be involved in the cabinet-making process. The inability of the PM to unilaterally execute this authority was part of the rift that led President Hassan to controversially “ask” for PM Shirdon to submit his resignation.

President Hassan’s request of the PM’s departure–though done by his predecessors–did not fall under the powers of the president listed in Article 90 of the provisional constitution.

It did, however, result in the parliament facilitating the correct legal process to make the President’s wishes a reality, and PM Shirdon eventually was ousted in a vote of no confidence.

Fast forward to the present where the recent cabinet was part of a negotiated process between (but not limited to) the PM and President even though the provisional constitution under Article 100(b) appears clear on the authority for nominating the cabinet residing with the PM:Article 100The prominent role of the President continues to undermine to some degree the authority and capacity of the PM to execute assigned duties for what is supposed to be an independent executive branch that serves as part of the balance of powers (in theory) kept with the judiciary and parliament.

In the future, unless the President serves to strictly advise the PM on creating a cohesive and capable cabinet, the current dynamics will continue to make the selection of the cabinet primarily as a venue for competition between the president and PM and clan appeasement (as will be explained.)


Addressing this stifling competition in the future inevitably will require the president to adjust the office’s reach into the council of ministers while the PM also acting more demonstrably in his role.

The Unhappy Ones

Following the announcement of the cabinet, Banadir governor and Mogadishu mayor Mohamed Ahmed Nur “Tarsan”—who was nominated as Deputy Minister of Youth and Sports—refused his position (which would essentially be a demotion) and stated he was not consulted on the decision.


If the offer of an unflattering office was supposed to soften the blow of potentially relieving Tarsan from his current duties, perhaps his well-known bombastic nature was not fully appreciated.

Furthermore, if Tarsan was not consulted (or rather was consulted, rejected the spot, and was nominated anyway), this will make many wonder about the care taken to reduce the controversial nature of the cabinet and the effort to pick genuine candidates.

Additionally, Minister of Parliament (MP) Abdikafi Macalin Hassan nominated for Deputy Minister for Energy and Water also refused his position claiming that it was not considered an adequate position on behalf of his Digil (Garre sub-clan) clan.

Abdikafi stated, “The mode of power sharing here is clan-based. Therefore, it is true that we did not get our fair share.”

Abdikafi’s comments reinforce how appeasing clans with high-level positions (in addition to politicians’ efforts to put in allies) add layers of difficulty in the cabinet-making process that impact the ability to choose the right person for the job.

Lastly, chairperson of ASWJ’s administrative councils Ibrahim Hassan Gurey complained that no members of his pro-government Sufi militia were included and stated the group had “cut ties” with the government.

There are various factions in ASWJ so Gurey may not speak for the group as a whole.

Nevertheless, Gurey’s statements underscore the difficulty in satisfying each interest group in the country when prominent positions are being distributed.

Nominees In Brief

Somali activists denounced the fact that only two women were nominated to head ministries (Nadifo Mohamed Osman as Minister of Public Works and Reconstruction and Khadijo Mohamed Diriye as Minister of Women and Human Rights.)

The ladies at Somali Women Development Centre (SWDC) are demanding the 20% share they had in the last cabinet — Mustafa Osoble (@MAosoble) January 18, 2014

Again Somali women overlooked 4big posts in the new cabinet, fowziya is no longer foreign minister, a guy has to be in that high position? — Falis Farah (@FalisFarah) January 17, 2014

While there were also just two female ministers in the last cabinet, women represented 20% of the 10-person executive team (not counting deputy staff.)

Also, women in the previous cabinet–Fowzia Yusuf Haji Aden as [first female] Foreign Minister/Deputy Prime Minister and Dr. Maryam Qasim as Minister for Human Development and Public Works)–broke ground by holding esteemed positions.

On top of the fact that only two women were selected recently to Puntland’s 66 member parliament (despite efforts to apply a quota), serious attention should be paid to the role of women (approximately half the population) in Somali politics moving forward.

Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs went to Former State Minister of the Presidency Farah Sheikh Abdulkadir, a close associate to President Hassan who negotiated with Jubaland’s Ahmed Madobe to establish the Interim Jubba Administration.

Given the immense amount of work to complete the provisional constitution, the appointment of a close presidential ally rater than a well-known constitutional and legal scholar will raise some eyebrows about the cabinet’s ability to work with other authorities to finish work on the document.

Farah will have to rely on his experience as an Islamic scholar and former Somalia country director for the Kuwaiti-based Africa Muslims Agency (AMA — aka DirectAid International).

Minister of National Security was given to former Interior Minister Abdikarim Hussein Guled. He will take an important security portfolio from the last cabinet–despite coming under pressure from some members of his Habar Gadir clan that he wasn’t sufficiently working for their “interests.”

Moving forward, it will be critical to see whether his experience as a humanitarian worker, educator, and alleged successor at one point to Farah Abdulkhadir as AMA director can be used in the national security sector–which requires different skills than those suggested in his CV.

Minister of Health, interestingly, went to military man General Ahmed Mohamed Mohamud whose experience in the health sector has not been made widely available if it exists.

He replaces a medical professional in Dr. Maryam Qasim. Several commentators on Twitter were not happy with the selection, which were similar to other comments that questioned the expertise of the nominees relative to their position.

How does a general with no prior experience in the health become the minister of health? #Somalia — MoHaMed AbdiNasir (@MohMedAbdiNasir) January 18, 2014

Having that said a military general became the minister of health / a man with an agriculture background became a foreign minister #somalia — C4S Foundation (@Change4Somalia) January 17, 2014

#somalia Ex minister @DrMaryanQasim was amazing in the health secter now a Military general will replace her #som2014ministers. — Saeed Naaji (@SaeedNaaji1) January 17, 2014

What does a general know of running a nation’s health care system? Or am I being cynical? #Somalia — Afropolitan (@Payitforward87) January 18, 2014

Job Vs background. Agri man= to foreign minister Gen= to medicine ministry Edu man= security @harunmaruf @AliMohamoud #MyKindOfGovernment. — harun farah (@Harun_Frh) January 17, 2014

Somalia will miss u, ex-minister RT @DrMaryanQasim: I also wish the new cabinet all the best and I pray that Allah makes their affairs easy.

— Mukhtar Ibrahim (@mukhtaryare) January 17, 2014

Undoubtedly, this was one of the most perplexing selections in the cabinet.

Minister of the Interior and Federalism was given to Abdullahi Goodax Barre, who served in former PM and now Puntland president Abdiweli Gaas’s cabinet during the TFG-era.

Goodax ostensibly will have to deal with implementing the difficult terms of the Addis agreement that created the Interim Jubba Administration.

He may also have to address a potential future crisis as delegates in Baidoa (Bay region) are considering the formation of a southwestern state that may claim some regions currently within the IJA.

This is only the tip of the federalism iceberg as there is great uncertainty about how to merge Somalia’s central regions split between competing clan-oriented administrations.

Minister of Finance went to Hussein Abdi Halane, who also served under ex-PMs Gaas and Farmaajo during the controversial financial times of the TFG era. According to some past reports, he was popular with international donors, which is an advantage to the cabinet.

Abdirizak Fartaag, a critic of Halane and former Head of Somalia’s Public Finance Management Unit, alleged (without citing specific evidence) that Halane in his tenure did not award contracts within a competitive process to manage the KM 50 airstrip and Aden Adde airport.

Also, during the controversial financial era of the TFG, Halane  stated that he witnessed former PM Farmaajo on two trips to the UAE “personally receive $5 million in cash.” Media reports claimed that there was insufficient evidence to show that one of these payments was actually deposited into Somalia’s central bank.

This anecdote raises the question of Halane’s ability to ensure the deposit of government funds as the SFG tries to improve financial accountability. Nevertheless, his willingness to speak openly about financial management will prove to be a valuable asset in the new cabinet.

Minister of Defense and close ally of the president Abdihakim Mohamed Haji Fiqi was replaced by General Mohamed Sheikh Hassan, an ally of former Finance Minister and Parliament Speaker Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden. (Note: Sharif Hassan–a key player in the Digil/Mirifle community and the new state formation process in Baidoa–has been seen as a major victor of the cabinet selection with other allies receiving posts.)

It was noted by one freelance journalist source in Mogadishu that General Mohamed had done some good work during his longtime experience in Somalia’ intelligence and security sectors.

However, by his own admittance Gen. Mohamed was involved in a controversial donation of Omani assistance for which funds were not fully accounted. (See the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea’s 2012 interview with Gen. Mohamed, page 46)

Many Somali websites speculated several ministers were linked with Al-Islah religious offshoot Dam Jadiid (New Blood), which is seen especially by President Hassan’s opponents as overly influencing his administration.

To give a brief background, ex-Monitoring Group coordinator Matt Bryden explained that some reported Dam Jadiid members were part of the aforementioned AMA (where Farah and Guled once worked) and allegedly directed funds in the past to educational institution SIMAD headed at one point by President Hassan.

While these networks are still alive in the current government, there isn’t significant evidence yet to say that Dam Jadiid is radically changing Somalia’s religious or political landscape outside perhaps expanding relationships in the Islamic world.

To address the risk of losing some domestic political legitimacy, President Hassan will have to confront ongoing suspicions that alleged members of this circle are exercising too much influence in government.

The Big Picture

The high number of nominees who are former officials or who wear multiple hats as MPs and now cabinet ministers shows that there is a revolving door of elites that commonly fill these positions, which makes the term “re-shuffled” more appropriate than “new” to describe the cabinet.

While many might dislike this practice, new politicos have had a hard time adjusting to Mogadishu’s cutthroat political environment.

The October 2013 resignation of ex-Central Bank chief Yussur Abrar–who claimed she witnessed interference, threats, and corruption in her short and mysterious tenure–provided the most recent example of how political newcomers feel the heat quickly in Mogadishu.

But clan appeasement is perhaps an equally important issue compared to the failure to appoint new faces.

The cabinet selection followed the 4.5 clan formula that allocates positions “equally” to major clans/sub-clans and to a lesser degree “minority” clans. As has been seen, inevitably, not everyone is pleased.

Somalis have to share as no clan is capable of conquering all, nor divided among all. — Regional Dev. Group (@KismayoKistaa) January 17, 2014

is what #Qabiil you belong to, not how qualified you are, #MyKindOfGovernment — Khadar Abdi-Barre (@caraabiye) January 17, 2014

Certainly, it’s possible to appoint a cabinet that is both diverse and talented. But the clan quota must always compete with the priority of elites (not just the President and PM) to include their inner circle into the cabinet. This is a big obstacle to creating an expert cabinet regardless of a quota being used or not.

The current process often leads to oddly divided minister portfolios led by those with inappropriate backgrounds.

One way to address this in the future could be for the PM to assert the constitutional authority of the position more assertively in order to reduce other influences.

In this scenario, the PM would have less political interests to attend to and potentially could select more qualified candidates in a less competitive process.

On the other hand, this suggestion may be impractical considering such a figure would have to be a masterful negotiator among various interest groups, as well as have tremendous political capital and charisma…a veritable Super(wo)man.

As one political onlooker in Nairobi recently stated to this blog, one big question will be whether the PM’s office has the adequate financial and administrative resources for all of its new ministers to accomplish its missions.

There are certainly budgetary implications for an expanded cabinet.

Bureaucracies created out of thin air with financial/administrative restraints and leaders learning new portfolios will likely find it difficult to draft new laws, implement government policies, and fulfill the rest of their duties listed in Article 99 of the provisional constitution.

Presenting another obstacle to the ministers is the current parliament, which has failed to pass any laws and is still developing institutionally.

Since the roots of pasts political dilemmas still exist today, it is likely this new cabinet will have to confront old demons as they attempt to accomplish something new and build off the efforts throughout Somalia to move the country forward.

All the best to the new cabinet and ministers, we all want you to succeed #Somalia #mykindofgovernment — Dr.Mo (@DrMYMc) January 17, 2014

#MyKindOfGovernment Stop being so damn negative Somalis. It takes effort & time to rebuild a state. #Somalia — Afropolitan (@Payitforward87) January 17, 2014

Categories: Mogadishu, Somali Government

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1 reply

  1. I am sure with time a political stability and peace will develop in Somalia. So to progress it and to expedite these process, the empowering of the government must be accurate.

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