Somalia’s Draft Constitution: a Case of Local Priority VS Regional and Donor interest

Abdi Dirshe - The latest prescription to re-engineer the re-emergence of Somalia as a weak and divided state is drawing a strong resistance from the wider Somali public as they oppose the new “draft Constitution” and characterize it as constituting an unconditional surrender of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Somalia.
Somalia’s Draft Constitution: a Case of Local Priority VS Regional and Donor interest

If it is the Somali people’s sacred duty to safeguard, protect and defend the Constitution and to maintain its supremacy as the embodiment of the will of the people, therefore it is only reasonable for the people ofSomaliato participate in and speak for or against the constitution-making process. So when the Somali people spoke out against not only the draft constitution but also against the roadmap, the international community issued a press release designating any Somalis who oppose the draft constitution as “spoilers” with potential undisclosed consequences. This will lead to the radicalization of the society and will surely shift support to the extremist groups like Al-Shabaab.

Some allege that the International Community is more interested in to showcase for the outcome of the $60 million spent on the draft constitution than the quality of the future supreme law of a nation, whereas the Somali people oppose it for various reasons including as it stands this draft constitution polarizes Somalia further and is a recipe for renewed civil war. Moreover, Somalis want to have a say on the draft constitution as this represents the potential document that will guide future generations to maintain harmonious social and political life.

Since the collapse of the Somali government in 1990, the Somali people have been struggling to imagine an alternative system of government, one that is just and acts according to the will of the people. In this effort, the Independent Federal Constitution Commission (IFCC) has been created and many conclude today that this commission has failed completely to produce a document that can be embraced by the masses. Many inSomaliafeel that major constitution making principles such as defining the principal players; public participation and transparency have all been violated and instead of seeking public support, tactics such as misinformation, arm-twisting and threats are employed.

The IFCC could have drawn analysis from the experience ofSouth Africain terms of the constitution making process as SA experienced decades of political violence. For instance, in SA, there were preliminary discussions and negotiations between the Afrikaners, the Nationalist Party and the ANC prior to the constitution making process, and in the end an interim constitution similar to Somalia’s Transitional Federal Charter was adopted by all, which mandated the formation of constitutional assembly to draft a permanent constitution within two years. When the Assembly was formed it undertook a major outreach and educational effort to solicit opinions about the constitution. The public responded with two million submissions for over two years, whereas inSomaliathe public was never consulted during the constitution making process or during the last eight years of drafting the constitution.

In this respect, the IFCC was very much silent on disseminating information and creating awareness and educational pamphlets pertaining to the draft constitution, not only that but Somalia’s constitution making process was kept in secrecy, it is only now that the recently formed committee of experts (CoE) started token consultation with the public with little input and little participation and this only coincides with the agenda to end the transition and to merely show the international community that the public was consulted.

With so much at stake in the lives of the Somali people and the future of the Somali state, many skeptics point to several short-comings of this draft constitution. According to the new constitution, the system of governance to be adopted should be based on federalism, mandating the creation of states. Accordingly, the existing 18 regions have no legal basis within the context of the new constitution. To qualify for a state status, two or more regions must form a political community. Yet, the capacity for any region to organize its political life has been incapacitated by the deterministic approach of the International Community to the Somali conflict. With the recent flare-ups of civil strife in the regions of Sool and Sanaag, the only entity, Puntland that had claimed to have fulfilled “the state conditions” under the new constitution is now also in question; hence it begs to ask, in the absence of states in Somalia what states are to be federated?

From our perspective, the needs of the Somali people to overcome past governance deficiencies and authoritarian injustices could have been met by having a unitary system with decentralized regional autonomy that brings self-governance to rural districts and municipalities. This is what all Somalis are yearning for and not the vague federalism in the draft constitution.

Moreover, Constitution making process is undertaken normally after negotiated settlement is reached by parties to the conflicts, so as to iron out major differences and address areas of contention and disagreements in the constitution, in the case of Somalia, none of that nature took place or even was there an acknowledgement of past grievances.

In addition, the transparency, openness and the participatory nature that is required by the draft constitution was compromised by the hastily introduced roadmap, which consequently morphed the draft constitution as part and parcel of the roadmap to end the transition rather than treating the draft constitution as a sacred document for the people by the people.

Continuation on the denial and arm-twisting path will only guarantee the continuation of the current political turmoil and may in fact lead to a new revolt against the foreign forces inSomaliaand will undoubtedly and unnecessarily continue to shed blood inSomalia. The priorities for the Somali people are clear: a strong Somali state, at peace within and with its neighbours. Weakening the Somali state and designing divisions in the form of new states inSomaliais not the answer. Regional and donor priorities should be urgently re-evaluated.   

Abdi Dirshe is a political analyst and is also the current President of the Somali Canadian Diaspora Alliance. Contact Abdi

Article 21 May 2021 10:14

I read your article on Foreign Policy with keen eyes and interest. While whining from public officials does not deserve response from any sensible citizen of the Republic of Somalia, I felt compelled to counter false narrative with more objective analysis.