The following is the Executive Summary from the Sahan report: SOMALIA’S TROUBLED TRANSITION: VISION 2016 REVISITED. To read the full report, click here.
Somalia is politically in far better shape than when President Hassan Sheikh took office in 2012, but much of that progress threatens to unravel as the country lurches toward an uncertain and ill-prepared political transition in August 2016. The federal government’s transitional framework, known as Vision 2016, has made fitful progress and is now years behind schedule.
Political infighting and lack of political will account for much of the delay, but the Provisional Constitution – upon which Vision 2016 is based – is so incomplete and incoherent that it would be virtually impossible to implement under the best of circumstances.
Consequently, with less than 18 months remaining in the federal government’s term of office, it has become increasingly clear that plans to hold a credible constitutional referendum and direct elections by August 2016 are no longer realistic.
The greatest challenges posed by the Provisional Constitution relate to sequencing. Most core transitional tasks, such as the constitutional review process and the formation of independent commissions, require the involvement in some form of either the Federal Member States (FMS) or of the Upper House of Parliament, which represents FMS’ interests. At present, only one FMS exists, the Upper House is yet to be constituted, and the modalities of how it should be constituted are not laid out in the Provisional Constitution.
This scenario presents a serious dilemma: whether to delay these tasks until after all of the states are formed – and risk running out of time – or to proceed in the absence of the FMS and risk potential political and legal challenges from the member states when they are eventually formed.
In 2013 therefore, the Somali Federal Government (SFG) rolled out Vision 2016 in an attempt to translate the Provisional Constitution into an achievable and broadly acceptable framework for completion of the Constitution, development of the federal system, and election of a new parliament before the end of its term of office. Vision 2016 identified three “foundational elements” stipulated by the Provisional Constitution: constitutional review and implementation (considered in section II of this report); completion of the federal system (III); and democratisation (IV). It also proposed milestones and a timeline that would allow the transitional tasks to move forward in parallel and without delay, while at the same time respecting the need for formal consultation with the yet-to-be-established FMS.
Progress however has been slow, and it is increasingly clear that even these critical objectives cannot be met. With less than 18 months now remaining in the current federal government’s term of office, the space for an orderly political transition has narrowed dramatically. The constitutional review process is dangerously behind schedule. The Constitutional Review and Implementation Oversight Committee has proven difficult to establish, leading the Lower House of Parliament to sidestep the Provisional Constitution and establish an ‘Oversight Committee’ of its own.
The Independent Constitutional Review and Implementation Commission (ICRIC), established in June 2014, must now be partially reconstituted following the resignation of its chairperson in May 2015 and the decision to augment its membership with commissioners from the Federal Member States.
Greater progress has been made toward the formation of Federal Member States (FMS): since the establishment of the SFG in August 2012, two new Interim Regional Administrations (IRAs) have been established for Jubaland and South West Somalia – both of which aspire to become FMS. Dialogue intended to pave the way for two more IRAs in Central Somalia began in April 2014, but remains deeply controversial and is the source of social and political tensions in the area.
The formation of these IRAs has already exposed a number of potential flashpoints in the statebuilding process, including the delimitation of state boundaries, inclusivity and representation within each FMS, and even the status of Mogadishu as the national capital. Progress towards the formation of FMS is also engendering frictions between the federal government and Parliament over the allocation of powers and resources between FMS and the federal government.
The completion of the constitutional review process, the drafting of electoral and party laws, and other intricate issues requiring agreement between the SFG and FMS are also likely to become sources of contention and delay.
The belated formation of the National Independent Electoral Commission (NIEC) and the Boundaries and Federation Commission (BFC) on 7 May 2015 may help to ease some of the inevitable strains that will emerge, although this will depend in large part on the degree to which they are able to establish their credibility, competence, and impartiality.
Overall, the kind of process that could simultaneously provide a political transition and the continuity of the institutions established in 2012 should focus solely on the most essential, non-negotiable aspects of the Provisional Constitution, and should achieve political consensus between the SFG, Parliament, and FMS, in order to minimize potential spoilers.
Such a minimalist version of Vision 2016 could rest on the following requirements: the new President should be elected by a joint vote of the two House of Parliament, the Upper House should be constituted of representatives of the FMS, and the House of the People should be reconstituted. Arguably the most encouraging sign of progress has been President Hassan Sheikh’s decision, in February 2015, to convene a “Somali Leaders Forum” including the leaders of Federal Member States and Interim Regional Administrations.
This body, which met for the second time in Garowe in May 2015, represents the first meaningful indication that the SFG leadership may honour its commitment to practice consultative and inclusive politics in the implementation of Vision 2016. Indeed, the initial deliberations of this forum hold out the promise of genuine consultation, negotiation, and compromise between Somalia’s principal political actors over the coming months.
It remains incomplete and much confidence-building will be required should it fulfill its stated purpose, but since a constitutional solution to Somalia’s looming transitional crisis appears increasingly remote, a political settlement between these parties by August 2016 may be the only way to keep Somalia on the path to recovery.
To read the full report, click here.