Somalia’s political journey may have reached a crossroads this week when the Federal Parliament pushed back by a month the appearance of the National Independent Electoral Commission.
The NIEC’s appearance before Parliament would be crucial in determining the definite dates for elections to be held at least before March next year. It is understandable that many political leaders in the country have been miffed with the postponement.
First, delaying such a crucial meeting means we can’t know the election date at least until four weeks from now. That is likely to affect the electoral calendar; an election date influences planning for its conduct.
Second, the postponement may imply institutional failure on the part of Parliament and the Federal government of Somalia. Indeed many critics have pointed a finger of blame to the FGS for its vague program on the vote.
No one knows whether electors will be registered in a proper roll, whether voters will vote under a new dispensation, and whether there will be delays to the earlier stated plan.
Somalia’s biggest challenge has often been a security problem: Al-Shabaab have often visited terror on civilians. Gradually, however, the monopoly of this violation no longer belongs to Al-Shabaab. The national security apparatus have, from time to time, tortured own citizens under the guise of keeping law and order
But a political problem still exists: How will the vote be conducted? That arrangement would have been a result of a series of meetings between the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) and federal states. Those meetings sort of stalled.
For three years now the Federal government of Somalia under President Mohamed Farmajo has made it difficult or fomented animosity with federal states. A political dialogue meant to iron out a model of an election, review the constitution and regulate voting stalled last year. It hasn’t resumed since.
In fact, in Somalia, Mogadishu’s relations with federal states has been at most lukewarm. Since last year, President Farmaajo has been accused of trying to interfere with elections in Jubaland, imposing leaders in South West and Galmudug, and sending troops to oppress civilians in Hirshabelle. Dialogue between Mogadishu and Somaliland has been start-stop, giving uncertainty on the future of their relations.
With key planks of the political cycle either crippled or simply forgotten, we are left with no constitutional review, no dialogue between different levels of government and a political environment punctuated with coercion, rather than inviting people to sit at the table.
We understand that Somalia’s political journey to stability has been bumpy, if not retrogressive at some point. But Garowe Online would like to point out that this derailment is sometimes caused or fueled by Somalia’s international partners.
Picture the controversial 4.5 electoral model, a type of college system where electors are chosen by clan elders from the four main clans who then vote for candidates. The remaining clans then share out the other slots, controversially called ‘.5.’
Here is how: On April 3, 2016, then Somalia’s Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke and then Puntland President Abdiweli Mohamed Ali signed a political agreement that among other things indicated that that model of 4.5 would end in 2017 elections. That agreement was “guaranteed” by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development and witnessed by the United Nations, the African Union, and the European Union.
A copy of the agreement seen by Garowe Online indicates then Ethiopian Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom, now WHO Director-General signed on it as IGAD guarantor. He was Chair of the IGAD Council of Ministers. Then UN Secretary-General’s Representative in Somalia Michael Keating signed as witness for UN as Francisco Madeira, the AMISOM boss witnessed for the African Union, so was Mohamed Affey, the then IGAD Special Envoy to Somalia. Michele d’Urso witnessed for the EU.
Puntland and the FGS had agreed that “under no circumstances shall the clan-based 4.5 power-sharing be used beyond the 2016  elections.”
While the deal here was specific to Puntland, it had been agreed within the arrangement of the National Leadership Forum, a country-wide round of dialogue between the federal government and federal states, facilitated by partners. It targeted key goals indicated earlier, between 2016 and 2020, among them an election timetable.
Garowe Online notes that some of the partners that were keen on the Forum either switched sides or have been lethargic ever since, allowing the process to be controlled local individual interests.
Within IGAD itself, Kenya and Ethiopia continue to take divergent sides on Somalia, even though in public they claim to support the cause. Amisom boss Madeira has lately been criticized for siding with FGS in tiffs with federal states while James Swan, the UN Representative has fought claims in the recent past of failing to prevent an overreaching FGS.
Most, if not all, partners have incidentally claimed they support no delays in elections. But it is apparent their divisions based on their interest have soiled disagreements in Somalia’s political sphere.
According to the original plan, Somalia’s remaining 8 months will be critical for the country’s stability. That period will carry the mandate of the current FGS and it must complete the key tasks ahead. The question if it will, and if international partners will pressure it.
In Somalia; the culture is such that religion, language, and desire for a united country punctuate politics. But as has been noted, narrow reasoning seems to have enslaved political ambitions.
The 4.5 power-sharing formula may have kick-started Somalia’s path to political stability 13 years ago. It was a seminal move to help establish institutions in Somalia. But it was an opportunistic proposition by some political leaders in the Djibouti negotiations during the Somali Peace Conference, only accepted as a short-term power-sharing arrangement.
Those arrangements seem archaic now. In fact, they seem “unconstitutional” as they unfairly hinge on the old cluster of clans and their population bases for the distribution of parliamentary seats. We assert that this formula is not based on proper democratic criteria, such as population, region, or district as constituencies.
Back in 2016, leaders rightly observed that it had created grievances and fomented old others. Four years ago, leaders checked their reality and accepted it should be abandoned.
Somali political leaders reiterated their support for ending the 4.5 formula in the Second Somali National Consultative Constitutional Conferences of February 2012 (Garowe II principles).
Citing agreement under the Garowe Principles, the Puntland government strongly opposed the 4.5 clan-based formula and pushed for a district-based model.
To accept it to continue into this year’s elections would reflect a gross failure by Somalia’s international partners, not to mention the leadership in the FGS.
Somali political leaders are being accused of failing to set up a roadmap for universal suffrage and guaranteeing the right of citizens to participate in one person, one vote election as the 4.5 clan formula was accepted by Somalis as a temporary basis for power-sharing in the absence of universal suffrage.
Read below the last Int’l community guaranteed agreement between FGS and Puntland agreed upon the 4.5 formula should not be be used as criteria for Somalia’s elections.