Consultations for 2016 elections in Somalia have taken place in Baidoa, Adaado, Garowe and Kismayo. The outcome of discussions reflects highest political polarisation along clan lines since 1991. Jubaland and Puntland are in favour of a district-based elections whereas Galmudug and Southwest state prefer 4.5 power-sharing to remain the basis for selecting new parliamentarians for 2016 elections.
We have been here before. In 2000, the 4.5 formula was used to form the former Transitional National Government ( TNG). It was the least inclusive political dispensation since the collapse of the Somali state in 1991. Both Puntland and Somaliland opposed it. Political leaders readopted 4.5 to be a foundation for transitional federal government institutions ( TFG ) formed in 2004 in Kenya and phased out in 2012. The 4.5 formula was utilised one more time in 2012 to form the Somali federal government.
Despite its feeble political institutions, the TFG had what TNG lacked: an alliance of politicians and warlords who retained a 4.5 mechanism but agreed on Somalia to become a federal state.
It was an admission that political leaders cannot succeed without seeking legitimacy at regional and district levels. TNG and TFG faced opposition from powerful warlords and former Union of Islamic Courts in Mogadishu. This threat to government institutions made Somali federal leaders dependent on African Union Mission to Somalia since 2007.
In an attempt to reconstitute the Somali state, political and traditional leaders at Djibouti-sponsored Arta Reconciliation Conference used the principle ( Xal baannu rabnaa, xaq ma rabno “ No to redressing wrongs, we are seeking a solution”). That is why institutions based on 4.5 have been unable to formulate policies to genuinely address history of dispossession and human rights violations.
Would a district- based election model fare better? The district-based electoral system will only serve the interests of certain clans and lead to further polarisation if minorities remain as marginalised as they are under the 4.5 formula.
The 4.5 formula and district-based electoral system accommodate the demands of powerful clans. Successive 4.5-based governments have fuelled disharmony at national and regional levels.
To recover from a civil war, Somalia needs a political class who shares nation-building objectives. After a quarter century of civil war and extremism, Somalis will have to choose between clan fiefdoms and a caliphate. Is a third option available?