In Somalia’s growing democracy, clans could still be needed

AXADLETM / EDITORIAL – Somalia’s main opposition politicians are facing a new coalition that they claim could develop ideas to strengthen the federal system of government and extend the reach of the common man.

Known as the Forum of National Parties (FNP), the coalition, now chaired by former Somali President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, brings together 6 key political parties, making it the first milestone in Somalia. Ahmed, who led Somalia between 2009 and 2012, is the leader of the Himilo-Qaran party. The coalition also unites the Union for Peace and Development [UPD] Party led by another ex-president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud.

Other key leaders who join the coalition of “politics with teeth” include Ilays party leader Abdulkadir Osoble, a lawmaker in the House of Commons and chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. Former Southwestern President Sharif Hassan and former Defense Minister Mohamed Abdi ‘Gandi’, the first interim president of Jubaland, have also supported the group.

Somali Senator Ilyas Ali Hassan explained the motivation behind the coalition was that like-minded leaders wanted to create a movement that would guarantee a federal system and prevent possible delays in the election calendar.

“This coalition emerged after an incident for our party candidate in 2020, His Excellency Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed,” he explained, referring to last month when authorities in Mogadishu allegedly prevented Ahmed from visiting Jubbaland as the state prepared for the inauguration of President Ahmed. Madobe. .

Ahmed and other politicians were later allowed to fly to Kismayo, but his party has since sued the government for what he calls ‘abuse of power’.

“Strong cooperation between the Somali Federal Government and federal states as well as the joint efforts of all political stakeholders towards free and fair elections in 2020/21 will be crucial,” he added.

The coalition clearly draws support from veteran politicians who claim to understand people’s needs. With its leaders announced on the day of the violent floods, the FNP also presented a check to the victims of the Beledweyne Flood in Bardale, where he pumped donations worth $ 200,000 in relief work.

Far from humanitarian issues, however, the most important desire is to take control of the government after the next election, observers say.

“According to my understanding and my insights, the Forum for National Parties (FNP) is a coalition formed by important opposition parties that are more or less perceived as some of the biggest candidates in the next election,” said Abdimalik Abdullahi, a researcher on Horn of Africa political movements. .

“It is a relatively heavy coalition whose main agendas include first and foremost pressure on the government to hold a timely election and secondly to ensure that the election model is decided on a consensus basis, with the proposals of key political stakeholders at both levels of government being considered. ”

Observers say the FNP and its campaigns by trying to build a coalition, a non-existent political phenomenon in Somalia’s post-independent history, could try to break other barriers. First, it could be building trust that is not known to exist among Somali politicians.

Moments after the coalition leaders were announced; other politicians who withdrew from the group cited backstabbing.

Former Planning Minister Abdirahman Abdishakur, who leads the Wadajir party, said his party refused to participate after disagreeing on ambitions. He wanted a loose coalition of ideas that could bring the parties together to coordinate their agitation, rather than already solving challengers.

“We had different reasons (in seeking a coalition). We wanted to focus on unity in strategy and vision rather than structures, ”he said.

“Some parties reserve some critical issues and others are conducting secret negotiations with Farmaajo,” he added, referring to President Mohamed Abdullahi ‘Farmaajo.’

The reference to ‘secret talks’ may have been directed at President Ahmed, who had claimed he was invited to talks in Mogadishu but declined until all coalition members attended.

Coalition supporters believe it would be a formidable force, but admit that they face the threat of disagreement if some members accept negotiations with the federal government.

“We hope this will transform the policy of clans into the party system, and we hope that this will encourage other people to focus on the parties instead of clan-minded systems,” Osoble argued.

Still, that may not be the immediate problem. Somalia has not had a one-person-vote election since 1969, when Mohamed Siad Barre ousted a democratically elected government.

In the last three elections (2009, 2012 and 2017), the clan controlled the oldest show and appointed delegates to elect MPs, who in turn elect the president. Now the country wants to move from a clan-based political system to one-man elections with one vote in 2020 and replace the delegated system.

Since 2016, when Somalia passed the law on political parties, about 57 political parties have been registered, according to a list from the National Independent Electoral Commission. However, most still operate outside the country, mainly due to the security situation but also due to Somalia’s prominent diaspora.

The Somali government tried to curb clanism in party politics. The 2016 law states that parties cannot be accepted if they are established on the basis of extremism, clan, dialect, family, race, gender and regionalism and “must not encourage hatred in society.”

According to Article 2, political parties must also have a national view, represent at least two thirds (2/3) of the regions of the country in accordance with Article 58, and their leadership and membership are based on regional boundaries of the country that existed in 1991, which had 18 administrative regions.

Yet the four major clans still determine the presidency, prime minister, parliament and judiciary speeches in a system known as 4.5, where 0.5 indicates the share that goes to smaller ethnic groups.

“You cannot separate the influence from the clan and politics of Somalia. The country’s policy may move towards a more politically oriented policy, but at the end of the day the influence of the clans will still exist, ”said Yasin Ahmed Ismail, a risk analyst for East Africa in the Eurasia group.

Proponents of clan-based politics say the stabilized government is making sure that consensus determines who takes what. Yet critics say it contradicts democratic values ​​by ensuring continuous marginalization of women, young people and smaller ethnic groups.

A paper published by a program in Somalia known as Bringing Unity, Integrity and Legitimacy to Democracy (BUILD) and funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) suggested that political parties could eliminate the negative forms of clannism by focusing on universal question “Important for a majority of Somalia’s population, while adapting to cultural and historical norms.”

Ismail believes there may be hiccups in the meantime, but Somalia could enact a law to ensure that clan-based parties also seek support outside their strongholds.

“Such a law would force some of these clan parties to group together and form a kind of coalition,” he suggested in a view supported by Abdullahi.

“The clanism cannot be easily separated from Somali politics today, as the 4.5 power-sharing system is still in place and deeply rooted in the system,” Abdullahi argued. “But the growing embrace of party politics and the subsequent steps taken towards democratization are a good gesture.”