What a mind-blowing showdown! The Constituent Assembly tackles the age predicament of the President of the Republic in June 1959!
Can you imagine the complexity and controversy surrounding the preparation of the Constitution for the future of the independent Somali State? It took the Technical Committee of experts appointed in September 1957 a whopping three years to prepare a preliminary draft Constitution of 141 articles and a 316-page commentary. But that wasn’t the end of it. A revised and shorter draft Constitution of 64 articles was prepared, and a drafting Political Committee of fifty Somali members examined both drafts in detail before approving a new draft Constitution of 100 articles and submitting it to the Constituent Assembly. This was no easy feat.
One major point of contention was the qualifications required for the election of the President of the Republic. The draft Constitution prepared by the government stipulated three main eligibility requirements, one of which was a minimum age of 35 years. While the first two requirements were easily sorted, the third became a hotly contested issue, culminating in fascinating debates in the Constituent Assembly during its discussions on the draft Constitution in 1959.
According to official records of the Constituent Assembly, the age requirement divided members before eventually leading to a consensus. The debate in the Political Committee was especially varied, with some members holding that the President of the Republic must be a Muslim, while others believed they should descend from a Somali family of at least two generations or be educated and mature young persons. The Minister for the Constitution staunchly opposed these proposals, arguing that in a 100% Muslim country like Somalia, there was no need to establish the religious affiliation of the President in the Constitution; that the notion of “original” citizenship had already been removed by the new law on citizenship; and that the age of 35 was reasonable since many young persons in the country were educated and mature.
Despite the opposition, the Political Committee still rejected the Government project, accepting instead amendments to article 35 (1), which was reformulated to read that every Muslim citizen whose father was born for two generations, who had the right to vote and had reached the age of 40, was eligible for President of the Republic.
However, the debate didn’t end there, and diverse opinions were aired during discussions in the Constituent Assembly. Some champions of the young generation said the limit should be set at 30 years, while others drew inspiration from religious convictions, proposing to raise the age to 40-50 years. Even a new problem was raised by Sheikh Ali Giumale, who proposed the addition of a paragraph to exclude anyone who married a non-original citizen from office because the President of the Republic could be influenced by family ties.
In the end, the Constituent Assembly decided to raise the age to 45 years and approved Sheikh Ali Giumale’s proposal. The article was rewritten to state that any Muslim citizen whose father and mother were both original citizens, and who had reached the age of forty-five and had the right to vote, shall be eligible to be President of the Republic. And oh, the author of this perplexing and fascinating piece is M. Trunji. You’re welcome.