Somalia’s Puntland region “re-suspended relations” with Somalia’s federal government after a controversial agreement hailed by the international community was signed to form an interim Central State administration with Mudug and Galgaduud regions.
The interim Central State administration would ostensibly set the stage for a future Federal Member State (FMS) to be formed from Mudug and Galgaduud’s boundaries.
However, control of the regions is divided among many parties–including Puntland, al-Shabaab, Galmudug, Ximan and Xeeb, ASWJ, and various clans and sub-clans.
The lack of consensus over how to divide political power has created opportunities to either exploit the impracticality and local disapproval of the Central State deal, or alternatively, to seek productive forums for cooperation that are necessary to find a workable solution.
As provided at the bottom of this piece, Puntland’s official communique today directed at the federal government straddles this line: its President and former national Prime Minister Abdiweli Gaas has offered dialogue with the government in coordination with the international community while also promising unidentified consequences if the talks fail.
The thirty-day period proposed to discuss issues between Puntland and the federal government are likely not long enough to resolve Puntland’s grievances, which go back to the issue of certain articles in the provisional constitution being controversially altered.
Furthermore, Puntland’s issue with the proposed boundaries of the interim Central State administration incurring into its own region can eventually only be settled by the yet to be created Boundaries and Federations Commission and the federal parliament’s subsequent consideration of the commission’s recommendations.
Lastly, a crucial dilemma continues to be that the provisional constitution appears to defer to the authority of Puntland’s existing constitution until the two documents are harmonized, which could take some years.
This conundrum regarding which constitution takes precedent may make it more difficult to resolve several federal-regional tensions.
For example, how can Somalia draw Federal Member State boundaries that respect Puntland’s own claims to parts of Mudug region but also respect the fact that the federal provisional constitution does not allow the regions that are to merge as the basis of Federal Member States to be split up?
Nicholas Kay, the United Nations Special Representative to Somalia, recently promised that “Puntland should not lose any territory that it currently administers,” but then adding, “final boundaries will be determined according to the process prescribed in the Provisional Federal Constitution.”
The contradictory nature of Kay’s statement underlines the misunderstanding and complexity behind how to sort out boundary issues.
Any kind of renewed exception given to Puntland to control part of Mudug–based on the 1993 peace agreement that partitioned the region along clan lines–could upset other parties that seek similar accommodations in Lower Shabelle or the Jubba region.
Overall, the proposed talks between Puntland and the Somali government are an important step in deciding how to form Federal Member States, and this process will probably continue well beyond the initial 30-day timeline.
But it is important to note that the issues Puntland and the Somali government intend to discuss (e.g., the constitution, regional borders, and federalism process) have ramifications for many other actors that may not be directly involved in talks.
If other key political actors are excluded from any agreements that Puntland and the Somali government reach on these issues, it could simply result in a “squeezing the balloon” effect in creating more opportunities for other parties to declare the agreements “illegitimate,” similarly “cut off” relations with the federal government, or act as “spoilers” in other ways.
These dynamics are in part the result of ad hoc statebuilding in which each rushed and non-inclusive process exacerbates issues, which are attempted to be resolved with subsequent rushed and non-inclusive processes.
Until truly inclusive and locally credible forums can be formed to sort out constitutional and statebuilding issues and key technical tasks are taken up by the federal parliament and cabinet, Somalia may continue to simply squeeze the balloon.
The Government of Puntland State of Somalia and members of the Federal Parliament of Somalia held consultation meetings regarding the suspension of relations between Puntland and the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) and the causal reasons. After detailed discussions the following was agreed:
1. The Government of Puntland and the honorable members of the federal parliament agreed that the concerns and grievances of Puntland against the Federal Government of Somalia do exist and with factual evidence.
2. Honorable members of the federal parliament requested from the Government of Puntland an opportunity for talks between the FGS and Puntland within a period of 30 days, beginning 20th of August 2014.
3. The Government of Puntland accepted the request of the honorable members of the federal parliament. However, give the FGS failure to honor and implement previous agreements the Government of Puntland set the condition for international presence at the talks.
4. If the attempted talks fail and Puntland concerns and grievances are not addressed by the Federal Government of Somalia, the government of Puntland will take the next appropriate steps according to the Puntland Constitution.
5. Lastly, the Government of Puntland and honorable members of the federal parliament agreed that the Central Regions Agreement signed on the 30th of July, 2014 in Mogadishu, declaring the intent to form a federal state out of Mudug and Galgaduud regions violates the Puntland constitution and the Provisional Federal Constitution and could lead to further instability and civil conflict in the country.