Taking a page out of Puntland’s political playbook, the Interim Jubba Administration (aka Jubaland) said it has suspended relations with the Somali Federal Government (SFG) after the federal parliament passed a vote of “no-confidence” against the process to select IJA’s regional assembly.
The attempt to dissolve the IJA regional assembly culminated after several clans claimed that the process was overly dominated by IJA head Ahmed Madobe and that the number of assembly members was not divided fairly per clan and per district.
The crisis comes at a time in which distinct progress, such as new debit banking, is matched by troubles in other parts of the country — highlighting the fluidity of Somalia’s development in the last few years.
For example, the conference to form an Interim Administration for the Central Region (IACR) has appeared to hit another obstacle after a previous row over its boundary with Puntland region. In addition, ASWJ and Somali government forces are still warring in Galgaduud, along with separate fighting between Dir and Hawadle clan militias and Ethiopian and Somali forces in the central regions.
Overcast Political Climate
An important question is whether the IJA should direct its anger toward the federal parliament or to the entirety of the government as it has done. After all, Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud attended the inauguration of the IJA regional assembly last month (albeit with smiling but clenched teeth).
And, on a visit to Kismayo in late May, Prime Minister Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke signed an agreement with Madobe which would have allowed the IJA and SFG to name a joint committee to resolve clans’ complaints over the regional assembly process — perhaps providing a less dramatic option to prevent the crisis from reaching new heights.
In the end, the parliament first, and then the IJA, employed the nuclear option — which has become the political norm in the high stakes federalism process.
While Somalia’s Supreme Court Chief Justice Aidid Abdullahi Ilka Hanaf has been outspoken on many issues, he has not shown any capability to make the judiciary a relevant factor in major political disputes.
And, the absence of a constitutional court has left the country’s legal crises to be mediated by Ethiopia or hammered out in local agreements that have been tough to implement.
It appears that many clans have legitimate justification about the “fairness” of the IJA process, and it would probably take a much greater amount of time and funding (things with which external donors are stingy) for all clans to agree on a framework for the IJA’s own parliament (which ideally would be key to providing a political check on Madobe.)
However, there does not appear to be a strong legal argument or precedent to allow a federal parliament to dissolve a regional parliament.
Nevertheless, Somalia’s federalism process is much more of a political competition than a technical process, for better or for worse.
For instance, the anti-Jubaland motion is seen by some as a sly political move that originated with the office of the President or the Parliament Speaker. True or not, there are bigger kalluun to fry.
The more important question is how Somalia can move toward a one person-one vote system of elections when the fairness and legitimacy of many political institutions is still judged primarily by clan allocation.
Addressing that issue may be more critical toward Somalia’s democratic development in the long-term than any ad hoc solution to the current impasse.
Lastly, the IJA’s response to the federal parliament’s vote was keen to note that it still sought assistance to fight al-Shabaab — but that it won’t be collaborating with the federal government to do so in the near future. The statement read:
“IJA confirms its commitments to undertake offensive against Al-Shabaab, knowing that no Somali Government [will] partner in this venture.”
Since the IJA still encounters political opposition in the Gedo region and al-Shabaab controls Middle Jubba, Ahmed Madobe’s administration places expanding its military capabilities and influence as a high priority.
The suspension of relations between the SFG and IJA will presumably halt efforts by the Minister of Defense Abdulkadir Sheikh Ali Dini — who was just in Kismayo last month for military integration talks — to make any progress toward merging the command and control structure of Somalia’s armed forces.
Overall, it is hard to see any legal basis for the major decisions made by the federal parliament or IJA this week.
But the crisis can be resolved with or without the federal government if the IJA can come up with a way to appease disenchanted clans without upsetting others.
Whether this involves a shake-up in the IJA cabinet or additional seats added to the regional assembly remains to be seen, but all options are presumably on the table.