Garowe, May 14, 2023
By ISMAIL HAJI WARSAME
When political opponents say that Puntland State is the mother of federalism, people of Puntland think that they are being praised and recognized for the State’s tremendous sacrifices in men, material and minds in founding the 2nd Somali Republic, the current Federal Republic of Somalia (First Somali Republic existed from 1960-1991). In fact, what protagonists are saying here is that Puntland alone came up with unpractical federal concept that was not applicable nationwide. Sadly also, the history of who had spear-headed in saving Somalia from total disintegration and its disappearance from the world map, following the Civil War, had been hidden and buried in the same way that the history of self-government, sultanates and kingdoms that existed in Puntland regions long before European colonial powers came to Somalia, were buried to be never told in Somalia’s political and history narratives. We were made to believe that the history of the struggle of the people of Somalia to be free and own their state and government started from Derwish leader Sayid Mohamed Abdulle Hassan. That was how Siyad Barre was formulating Somali history for twenty-one years in power with iron fist.
Now, let us come back to our today’s theme: Federalism.
Is Somalia’s federalism de facto or de jure? Was federalism a part of public debate in Somalia from 1960-1991? Other than the rise of SSDF as opposition movement against military regime and a small elements of intellectuals and former politicians from Digil&Mirifle before independence (inugu federaal fadnee?), was there any public awareness of desire for federalism? Was federalism imposed on Somali people by laws of government? Could someone do something to prevent it from happening at that time? Can anyone do something today to eliminate it from Somalia’s political discourse, body politic and laws of the land? What are the political consequences or the legacy of the Civil War? Isn’t the failure of the Somali State resulting in de facto “federalism” a part of Somali political narrative and outcome of the Civil War? Are the root causes of the Civil War still addressed? What guarantees in Somalia’s political and security situation today do we have to ensure that yesterday’s political blunders wouldn’t be repeated?
It is noteworthy to remind Somali people that
- Federalism and its variety of confederalism finds relevance in Somalia’s traditional clan society where most clans are more bonded by federation than by blood lineages. The infamous 4.5 clans are confederate clans. Most clans in Somalia are social constructs for strengthening them numerically for common protection. Nowadays, Somali Clan confederates are lately used for securing political edge in power-sharing rivalry.
- Still some shamelessly propagate that Somalia’s Federalism was derived or adopted from ethnic Ethiopian federalism. Knowing historical facts about national efforts of re-instating Somali State after its failure in January 1991, and having participated in most national reconciliation process, I confirm that Ethiopian involvement in the drafting of Somalia’s governance holds no water. Some Somalia’s constituencies were demanding federal system long before independence. It is a fallacy to interpret Somali federalism that way. It is just another anti-federalist tactics to unravel the modest gains of the Federal System and discredit its supporters. Unfortunately, many gullible Somali citizens bought this dangerous falsehood.
- Another misinformation is that Puntland State is part of Southern Somalia. That is the same as the notion that SSC is part of Somaliland now, given colonial history. Puntland State is located geographically in Northeast and parts of Northwest regions of Somalia and colonial borders had lost relevance after the Act of Union of 1960 forming the Somali Republic.
- Finally, Mogadishu and Hargheisa have same misleading policy on Puntland State: They propagate that Puntland is part of Southern Somalia and SCC is part of Somaliland. This is neither true nor acceptable to us.
The situation on the Somalia’s “Debt Relief” is worse than you think. Interest payments or “Debt Servicing” on Somalia’s Sovereign Debt is paid by the people of Somalia, including those in Puntland State. It is paid from portions of bilateral and international donations. The Central Government divides these donations into two portions, one going to debt Somalia’s servicing, and the other portion is further subdivided, small amounts of which are thrown to FMS in the same way you throw pieces of meat or fish at lunch table to the cats, and the bulk of it is burned in Mogadishu and used for non-stop international travels of President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. People of Puntland are among those paying these big-ticket expenditures.
Make no mistake. “Fiscal Federalism” you hear about these days is being negotiated and conducted under these abnormal situation. Don’t expect any fair distribution of resources any time soon, if this course of action is maintained.
Legislations and institution-building are runaway power abuses and corruption. Best examples are recent laws of NISA, Petroleum, and Fishery, just to name a few. Who passes these laws in Federal Parliament, by the way? Yes, by the federal parliament representatives of Puntland State, among others, because if they don’t conform to the political dictations of Southern leaders, they wouldn’t be safe in Mogadishu.
Now, tell me how Puntland State could work with Mogadishu Regime, which respects no agreements and laws of the land with total disregard to the governance system most Somalis agreed upon? This gives you an idea on what is happening between FGS and Puntland State.
People say let us complete the Federal Constitution. More questions arise here:
The question is whose constitution is it?
- Is it a national constitution or a constitution of South Central Somalia?
- Where does Somaliland stand here?
- Are we talking about negotiations between South and North Somalia again, after a constitution for South Central Somalia is passed with potential Puntland State unwise consent?
- Where do Puntland’s SSC Regions stand here?
- What about one and half region state in Central Somalia supposed to be an “Interim administration”, but now having the same rights and status as Puntland State?
- What about other mini-states whose headquarters are located in or operating from Mogadishu, challenging Puntland State at Madasha Qaranka, and Mogadishu Regime is using them against Puntland State’s legitimate concerns?
- In conclusion, would Puntland State past MOUs and agreements with the Central Government since 2009 need ratification by Puntland constitutional bodies?
I leave you with these questions to ponder.
However, I warn you that the struggle between pros and cons of federalism will go on until one side wins the game. Keep fighting.
To reiterate, federalism is a de facto or force majeure that happened in Somalia following the vicious Civil War in the country. Puntland Vision from 1998 and TFG of Somalia Charter recognized this historical and socio-economic facts on the ground in Somalia.
Is the notion that federalism couldn’t function or isn’t feasible in Somalia holds truth? Could you improve this debate further to argue that this claim wasn’t consistent with historical facts and reality on the ground?
Since TFG of Somalia, the country had four presidential mandates: Sharif Ahmed, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud (HSM) 1.0, Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo and HSM 2.0? Tell me one of them, who had spent time making federalism work in Somalia? If you want to build a house, and do not move to realize the dream, would it be built by itself? These past and present Somali federal leaders were either undermining or trying to dismantle it. In other words, they were not converts of federalism. That is why opponents of federalism were quick to denounce federalism as incompatible for Somali culture and it couldn’t function well in Somalia. This is a fallacy. Federalism is a reality on the ground in Somalia. Puntland State is a living example that federalism does work in Somalia.
However, there is a vicious cycle in Federal Member States too. Federalism meant to decentralize authority or power to Elected District councils (remember federal government is three levels: FGS, FMS and District Councils). This never happened before Puntland State. That is good news for federalism in Somalia.
But federalism has many forms. There are asymmetrical, confederal and other forms of federalism. However, it takes two to a tango (single person doesn’t play dhaanto by himself/herself). Whom to talk to on this issue, if Mogadishu governments aren’t ready or interested. They are also against democratization and will of the people. There is one political position of Somaliland Administration I used to admire in my past political experience: “Whom to talk to in Southern Somalia?” This situation still holds true to Mogadishu political situation. Are there political space and environment in Mogadishu today to talk about fiscal federalism, common security architecture and federal legislations in parliament not sensitive to the concerns of FMS?