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Somalia: Still in Transition?

Daniel Kebede
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With the completion of the Transitional Federal Government's (TFG) term on August 20, 2012, the Somalia Federal Government (SFG) was established on the basis of the enacted Provisional Constitution. The new Lower House of the parliament, whose members are nominated by their clan leaders, elected Hassan Sheikh Mohamud as its President. The SFG has also announced the end of the transition and the establishment of a new government in a democratic manner. The international community, including the United States and European Union, has recognized it as the first representative government of the Somali people since the collapse of the Siad Barre regime in 1991.

However, although the SFG enjoys de jure sovereignty over all of Somalia, it exercises limited de facto authority over only Mogadishu and some parts of the south. Military operations of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), as well as the separate presence of Ethiopia and Kenyan troops, fight against Al-Shabaab and have liberated certain areas; but most of southern Somalia is still in the hands of third party groups like Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama'a (ASWJ) and Ras Kamboni, despite efforts of consolidation. Even in Mogadishu, some sources indicate that militias are more active than SFG security forces in controlling certain neighborhoods[1]. These clan-based, religious and regional militias, allied with AMISOM, Kenyan or Ethiopian troops, are beyond the control of the central government. In addition, some regional towns and rural areas are still under the control of Al-Shabaab.

It is understood that the political dimension of a transition has to include conducting national elections, enacting the new constitution, and establishing a new democratic institutional structure and capabilities that leads to political consolidation. However, these critical components were not manifested in the context of Somalia's transition. The current SFG President didn't come to power through such national elections, but rather by members of the parliament nominated by clan-elders[2], while a national election is being planned for 2016. In addition, exclusive Somali elites held a series of consultative conferences in Garowe, Puntland, which were based on the Djibouti Agreement, Kampala Accord and the Roadmap, to discuss the next phase of Somalia's government. This group came up with an interim entity that is operating under an incomplete constitution; it left open the fundamental questions of state formation and federalism. For example, the provisional constitution did not include the list of constituencies of the Somali federation, despite the aspiration of many regions to become member federal states. Although the provisional constitution[3] stipulates that a region can establish statehood by merging with other regions, the SFG becomes reluctant in practice. Moreover, democratic institutions which should have existed during the transition period including the upper house have not been established yet.

The incompatibility of the SFG's centric sentiment of governing the country on one hand, and the regions' aspiration to have a decentralized federal model on the other creates tension and division among the parties, including among the federal government authorities. With mediation on August, 2013 by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and Ethiopia in Addis Ababa, the SFG and the Jubbaland delegation headed by Ahmed Madobe agreed to remain as an interim administration for the next two years. In addition, they agreed to hold reconciliation conferences in Kismayo and Mogadishu as part of the regional statehood formation process and integrate the Ras Kamboni, Darwish and other militias into the central command and control of the Somalia National Army. Aspirations for regional statehood still continue in the Galmudug[4], South-Western State of Somalia, Maakhir State, Hiraan State, and Banaadirland[5], despite the outstanding issue of Somaliland, a self-declared independent state.

During the first year of its term, the SFG has also experienced tension with regional authorities, and divisions among the SFG authorities resulted from clan politics. In August 2013, the Puntland administration withdrew from the cooperation with the SFG, accusing it of violating the principles of the Provisional Constitution. Similarly, the SFG accuses the president of Puntland of being an obstacle for the Somali unity and discloses its willingness to provide both technical and financial support for his contenders who support the SFG.  The challenges the SFG encountered indicate that there is a need for inclusive politics, negotiation and good relations with other de facto political actors from Puntland, Jubbaland and other regional administrations. The institutional capabilities and credibility of Somali security forces are still weak and unable to control the frequent attacks, including assassinations attempts from Al-shaba'ab through its Amniyat in Mogadishu. The supply of uniforms for the SFG security forces is also not under the control of the government; it is supplied by international NGOs. Furthermore, national reconciliation, which is one of the major instruments for stabilization and transformation, is planned to be carried out in 2014[6]. Thus, unless the government's stabilization efforts are politically led with an inclusive approach and are militarily supported, Somalia will not be able to consolidate its security gains without political gains, so as to end its real political transition.

To conclude, political transition should be viewed as a functional transformation of actors and system. Although the SFG and the international community have declared and recognized the end of the transition respectively, I believed that the SFG is still in transition process. The adoption of the constitution is still incomplete and democratic institutions have not yet been established. The SFG is still dependent on outside forces like AMISOM for its security due to weak institutional capabilities and credibility of its security forces. It also needs to manage both the presence of non-state armed groups, which are beyond its control, and its lack of control over certain territories. Additionally, the SFG has to complete tasks which were not finished by its predecessors: national reconciliation, the development of a federal system, constitutional review and referendum, design of an electoral system, preparations for elections in 2016, development of institutional capabilities of security forces and establishment of democratic institutions. Without addressing and completing these tasks, it is difficult to say that the transition has really ended in Somalia.

Daniel Kebede is a Southern Voices Network African Research Scholar for The Wilson Center's Africa Program. He is currently working on his PhD at the Institute for Peace and Security Studies at the University of Addis Ababa in Ethiopia.

The featured photo was taken during a recent event featuring Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and is free of use with proper credit given to The Wilson Center.

End Notes

[1] Hills, A. (2013). Policing, Good-enough Governance and Development: the Evidence from Mogadishu. Conflict, Security & Development, 13(3), 317-337.

[2] Based on the roadmap, the transition ended on August 20, 2012 with the support of customary law. The signatories of the process for ending the transition were President of TFG, Speaker of the Transitional Federal Parliament (TFP), Prime minster of TFG, President of Puntland State, President of Galmudug State, Representative of Ahlu Sunna Wal-Jama'a (ASWJ) and UN Special Representative of Somalia at the head quarter of the African Union, Addis Ababa agreed the member of the Federal parliament to be nominated by the Somali traditional leaders (duubab) with the basis of 4.5 formula.

[3] Article 48 (2) of the Federal Republic of Somalia Provisional Constitution, which was adopted on August 1, 2012 in Mogadishu and approved by an assembly of representative from each clan, every region in Somalia can establish through merging with other to be a member state of the federation. If not, they administer by the federal government directly for the maximum of two years.

[4] Garowe, Puntland Communique February 17, 2013, The second Somali National Consultative Constitutional Conference. According to the Garowe II principles, the TFG recognized Galmudug (comprising Galgadug and Mudug regions) as member of the federation (though not at the status of Puntland) and called for international community to support in realizing its regional statehood. However, under SFG, it is not still fully recognized as a member of the federation.

[5] McGregor, A. (2009). Who's Who in the Somali Insurgency: A Reference Guide. Washington DC: The Jamestown Foundation.

[6] The Somalia Compact document developed by the Federal Republic of Somalia in September 2013 subsequent to 'New Deal for Somalia' conference held in Istanbul, Turkey.

About the Author

Daniel Kebede

Daniel Kebede

Former Southern Voices African Research Scholar;
Addis Adaba University
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