Somalia’s New Federalism Deal Is A Disaster (And It’s Everyone’s Fault)

EU signing ICS agreement

On 30 July 2014, Somali government officials and foreign diplomats officially inaugurated their third straight fiasco during the country’s controversial federalism process.

A ceremony was held in Mogadishu to announce the intent to form an interim Central State administration consisting of Mudug and Galgaduud regions that could eventually become a Federal Member State.

The UN Special Representative for Somalia Nicholas Kay hailed the deal but caveated its non-inclusive success:

Every region in Somalia is home to all Somalis, and is very diverse.  Today not every representative managed to attend this ceremony, but I hope that very soon all stakeholders will be at the table and part of this historic process.  I urge in particular full participation by women.

In other words, the deal has almost zero local legitimacy–which is supposed to be the foundation of the federal system.

While nine different officials within the federal government and international community signed onto the document, no local representatives did apart from ASWJ leader Ibrahim Hassan Gurey and Galmudug president Abdi Hasan “Qeybdiid”.

The list of opposition to the deal is long:

Puntland Rules

Out of all the dissenters to the agreement, Puntland’s particular circumstance and response stands out.

Puntland may be on point when it claims that the Somali government “violated” the provisional constitution (Article 49[6]) when it started the process to create an interim authority that could become a Federal Member State without sufficiently consulting local and regional authorities.

The move by the Somali government and its hype team of donors and diplomats to make a premature announcement for the central regions’ administration was another irresponsibly senseless decision.

But to be clear, the deal is the start of a long and flexible process and not the creation of a Federal Member State. It announced the intent to form an interim regional administration whose territory, structure, and authority as a Federal Member State is ultimately subject to the recommendations of a (non-existent) Boundaries and Federations Committee (BFC) and then the federal parliament.

Rather than demand a seat at the table, Puntland president Abdiweli Gaas in an extreme response walked out of the proverbial house and pulled its own completely unconstitutional move of “suspending relations” with the federal government like his fiery predecessor Faroole.

Politically, of course, Gaas made a brilliant move that may draw support among his constituency and will put more pressure on an already weak federal government to negotiate on Garowe’s terms.

In a more perfect world, Gaas would have taken the political high ground: immediately insist on participation in any process to discuss Puntland’s key demands–especially the desire to keep areas of Mudug currently under its control as part of its future Federal Member State.

But even Puntland’s own constitution hasn’t got its territory completely figured out.

While it is difficult to find a final version of the regional constitution approved by parliament in 2012, the most recently available versions vaguely state that the Mudug region is under Puntland’s territory “except the districts of Hobyo and Haradhere.”

But this particular clause is a direct violation of the federal provisional constitution because the latter does not allow regions to be split as they merge to become Federal Member States.

In addition, Puntland’s constitution also does not mention the fact that Galkayo district remains split as a result of the 1993 Mudug Peace Agreement (MPA) that divided the region along clan lines in order to stop tribal bloodshed.

Future tribal division in Mudug eventually occurred with the establishment of the Ximan and Xeeb administration.

So What Will Happen to Mudug Region?

One option would be for Mudug region as a whole to become part of Puntland or Central State–but this is not possible sociopolitically as evidenced by the need for the MPA.

Puntland could argue that it should be able to keep Mudug’s clan-divided status because Article 142 of the provisional constitution states its regional constitution “shall retain and exercise powers” until it is harmonized with its federal counterpart, and Mudug is defined (vaguely) as “belonging” to Puntland in its constitution.

This would be a particularly troubling interpretation because it makes the federal constitution completely irrelevant to Puntland for perhaps a dozen years until any “harmonization” can occur.

Equally important, Puntland’s constitution appears legally and politically inadequate because in addition to not accurately defining its borders in Mudug, it claims disputed territories with Somaliland in the Sanaag, Sool, and Toghdeer regions.

There has not been official recognition by the current federal government or international community of where Sool and Sanaag regions fall, and this also poses an imminent challenge to defining Somalia’s borders in the federalism process.

Alternatively, if some legal or constitutional scheme is cooked up by the Boundaries and Federations Commission and other authorities to allow Puntland a “special exception” to have Mudug split along clan lines, other parties in the federalism process contesting prospective Federal Member States’ borders will wonder why can’t similar accommodations be made for them.

What does it all mean?

No one party is without its shortcomings and weaknesses in the federalism process socially, politically, and constitutionally. Rushed non-inclusive announcements from the Somali government or rash misguided moves by individual regions risk delaying the formation of federal states and finishing the provisional constitution.

While the outlying regions have every reason to be reactionary as a result of Mogadishu’s bumbling announcements, it may be more productive to take genuine action on resolving disputes rather than engage in political grandstanding.

The two choices for parties are quite clear: they can keep pointing fingers in a never-ending blame game or cement themselves at the negotiation table until everyone admits they need to sacrifice a little to get perhaps a little bit more in return.

Plenty have sacrificed in the past. But who will be the first to give something up now?



Categories: Federalism, Puntland, Somali Government

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