When Somalia gained independence in 1960, the country embarked on a democratic path with eight regions governed by civilians.
But under the dictatorship of the late General Mohamed Siad Barre for 21 years (1969-1991), the Horn of Africa country was split into 18 regions. The collapse of the dictatorship in 1991 was followed by years of civil strife.
Horrified by years of statelessness, Somali leaders gathered at Mbagathi near the Kenyan capital for a major reconciliation conference in August 2004 and adopted a charter paving the way for the formation of federal republic of Somalia.
Exactly 11 years after the Nairobi accord, Somalis are working their way to federalise their country.
Progress is slow but proving tangible.
Last Saturday, when Mr Abdulfatah Hassan Afrah, the governor of Hiran region, and Ali Abdullahi Hussein Guudlaawe, the governor of Middle Shabelle region, signed an agreement to unite the two regions in Central Somalia to form a state, Somalia’s Minister for Interior Affairs and Federalisation Abdurahman Mohamed Hussein Odowaa joined the jubilation by holding hands with signatories.
Mr Odowaa congratulated the two governors and their peoples in Hiran and Middle Shabelle regions.
But he also had a word of caution. “The federal government (of Somalia) welcomes the merger of the two regions to form a state to be part of the federal republic of Somalia,” said Mr Odowaa.
He added, “You have to remember that the way ahead is not carpeted with a bed of flowers.”
Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud, who was present at the event in Villa Somalia, the state house in Mogadishu, said: “What we are today witnessing is another occasion that shows how power is being devolved and shared.”
“This signing ceremony … is a demonstration that organised authorities will be responsible for the states and accountable to the federal government,” he added.
The provisional constitution that was endorsed by a constituent assembly in August 2012 stipulates that two or more regions can unite and form a state.
Since Somalia officially has 18 regions including Banadir region (Mogadishu and surrounding areas), there are quite a number of states that can be formed.
The best guess is that seven or eight semi-autonomous states will be created. Guided by a separatist philosophy, Somaliland in the north-west declared itself an independent republic in May, 1991.
The breakaway republic was announced less than four months after the collapse of Barre’s totalitarian regime in Somalia.
In another development, Puntland state declared itself autonomous in August 1998 when politicians in the northeastern regions of Somalia opted for that.
Unlike Somaliland, Puntland has labelled itself a ‘semi-autonomous’, a crucial distinction which signifies its leaders are waiting until a federal republic is formed by Somalia so that they can join in.
Since September 2012, Somalia was guided by Vision 2016, an internationally supported scheme that, among other goals, aims at federalising Somalia by the end of the term of the current government in September 2016.
Apart from Somaliland and Puntland that had existed prior to the formation of the federal government in 2012, the task of organising the remaining regions into states has proven to be arduous and painfully slow.
In August 2013, the federal government signed an agreement with Jubaland rulers in Kismayu town, recognising the merger of three regions, namely Lower Juba, Middle Juba and Gedo regions as an interim administration later to become a state.
Sheikh Ahmed Mohamed Islam alias Madobe, a former militia leader whose fighters battled alongside Kenyan troops in the campaign to capture Kismayu in 2012 from the jihadist Al-Shabaab group, was acknowledged as the leader of Jubaland.
Baidoa town, 240 south of Mogadishu, had been the base of rival politicians, all intending to form the South- western State of Somalia.
Some wanted to form a state made of 6 regions almost encompassing the whole of Southern Somalia. The ‘6-region’ block was led by Mr Madobe Nunow Mohamed, a former Somali minister, vowing to form a state made up of Bay, Bakol and Lower Shabelle regions plus the three regions already recognised as Jubaland administration.
By ABDULKADIR KHALIF