Somalia cannot afford repeated political crises

The recent meeting of Somalia’s regional leaders in Dhusamareb, the capital of Galmudug State, without the attendance of the federal government, indicates that there are political turmoil and disunity among the bureaucratic elites in Somalia.

The current political crisis between the regional states and the federal government, however, is about two main issues. The first concerns the country’s political system, particularly the devolution of power between the federal and regional authorities. This is one of the main topics that the two groups have clashed over for the last 10 years. How power should be distributed, what sort of authority state leaders should have and what the federal government should control are all topics of debate.

Although the provisional constitution of the federal government notes these powers, it has not been helpful, especially when political disputes emerge between the two governance bodies, as the document has been a topic of controversy. Each side quotes the constitution and makes its own interpretations, undermining the relationship between the political groups.

On the other hand, their underperforming relationship has also slowed down the progress that the government in power needs during its four-year term in order to overcome the agonizing political, economic and social challenges that the country has been facing since the central authority collapsed in 1991.

The second issue that has been a topic of political conflict is elections, both parliamentary and presidential. Since the national independent electoral commission of Somalia announced that one-man-one-vote elections cannot take place in the country and then proposed a term extension for the current government, regional state leaders objected to the plans and urged balloting to be organized on time. Furthermore, they called possible term extensions unlawful and illegitimate.

This is one of the reasons why regional state leaders justified their recent meeting in Dhusamareb. In addition, they were able to discuss other matters including security, development, regional cooperation and the general direction of the country. While it is constitutional for states to meet to discuss cooperation and collaboration among themselves, given the country’s political situations, their meeting demonstrates the existence of an internal crisis.

Since the end of the Sharif government in 2012, holding elections on time has been a topic of conflict, which needs to end, among Somali political elites.

Repeated crises

Of course, this is not the first time that the regional state and federal government leaders have been at odds with each other over the last four years. Not that long ago, Puntland State leaders opposed the Banaadir representation bill that mandated a 13-member increase of the upper house. After significant turmoil, the lower house approved the bill and the president called it a victory, but some regional leaders and opposition parties were suspicious and doubtful, believing the move was more political rather than meeting the expectations of the Banaadir region.