Somalia – Ending the Political Quagmire


Pic – Courtesy of Amin Arts.

A tug of war is shaping up between President Yusuf and Prime Minister Nur Adde and a lot of the government big wigs are lining up behind each team in what appears to be the final chapter of this government. To make matters worse, IGAD countries are flexing muscles trying to warn the two teams before the rope snaps. But this is like tossing up the classical coin and such flexing may have the desired effect or backfire and put Somalia back to its clannish cucoon.

The mess all started with the Charter which is not only vague but also has very poor controls.

Take the position of the President. Unlike other countries, he is neither the ceremonial type nor the overall executive and this adds to the confusion. He is commander in chief of the Armed Forces and appoints the Prime Minister but he can neither fire him nor pass a motion to parliament to consider a vote of confidence. This allows any difference of opinion between the PM and President to escalate into a crisis because there is no incentive for the PM to avoid disagreements with the President. Both can be brought down by parliament and this gives them both an incentive to stay on good terms with the Speaker and even resort to bribes when there is a crisis and the parliament appears to be the only way to resolve the issue.

Such a set-up has made the speaker the king maker in Somalia politics. We have seen how easy it was to pass controversial issues like foreign forces, making Baidoa the seat of government, impeaching the former speaker and passing a no confidence vote on the former PM. All these prove that the vote goes where the sympathy of the Speaker and the bribed parliamentarians go.

As the current crisis escalates, we are sure to see envelopes going under the tables, secret meetings, group lunch invitations, raising funds, Baidoa recording full house and another controversial vote that will either axe yet another PM, impeach the president or keep the status quo with a sour relations and bruises on all sides for a finale in October when all sides have to go at the end of the 5 year term. The only winners will of course be the group of 275 MPs who have lined up their pockets from both sides and glee every time a crisis pops up.

This is the  time to take a deep look at all the crisis that occurred and take steps to ensure that they are not repeated. But, alas, the MPs whose job it is to legislate are busy logging dollar signs and sums in their dollar books. The few renowned professors we have – Samantars, Gasses and Company – do write always on the ills but never the solutions. As for the Somali media who should have exposed these ills and kangaroo dealings, it is oiled by amateures who write what their tribal emotions dictate or demonize one of the opposing sides hoping a reaction will come from that side bad enough to put them in jail or on a flee prompting a sympathetic protest from some human right outfit loud enough to put them on a coveted post at the BBC or VOA Somali services with an expatriate label.

One issue with the current controls in the existing charter is that it follows a very crude set of controls that are vague, ineffective, promote differences and groupings, and discourage compromises and consultations. 

This is my recommendation on those articles in the charter that relate to the responsibilities of the president, prime minister and the speaker:

  • The president can now appoint the PM while parliament initiates the no confidence motion. Give the president the right to also initiate these motions. This will give an  incentive to the PM to promote an understanding with the president and seek compromises with him on differences. Maintaining the same 6 month cap for one motion will ensure the president does not use excessively this right.
  • The PM now proposes list of ministers to the president. The charter does not specify if the president is required to approve or reject. This loophole has created two interpretations that the proposal signifies the president’s consent and an opposing view that the proposal is advisory and an approval/rejection is not required. My recommendation is to specify the nature of the proposal as requiring presidential consent withinin a specified time and requiring the PM to submit a final agreed list to parliament also within a specified time. This will give them both an incentive to work together, ensure neither can hold a list indefinetely and eliminate differenct interpretations of the charter and escalation to a crisis.
  • It must be mandatory for the PM to submit to parliament  within 3 months his annual budget. This will eliminate a scenario like the current one where no budget has been submitted and also establish accountability and a minimum of controls and checks which is not the case now.
  • All motions initiated by parliament must clear the respective committee first where the merits of all issues will be decided and non legislative issues thrown out. For a committee to send a motion to parliament, it must hold hearings of all parties if hearings are not mandated in the charter. This will eliminate a scenario like the current one where it is up to the speaker or a group of parliamentarians to table, debate and vote for an issue in one day in a very questionable fashion and without hearings.

The above points are desired to beef the president’s power. the PM’s role, embed transparency in the decision making workflow, accountability and to enhance the independent role of parliament making it a unique legislative entity instead of acting as an extension of the persona of its speaker.

Were these to be implemented, would it solve Somalia’s never ending crisis? I would have hoped yes, but knowing the knack of the Somalis to adjust quickly, I would not be surprised if like the magician, out of the sleeve comes yet another crisis.

What stuff are we made of, for God’s sake!