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It started with the name of the Somali State in 1970s. The government was then anything but democratic. Nevertheless it was called the Somali democratic Republic. Now it is Federal Republic of Somalia more by de facto than de jure. Successive Mogadishu Federal Administrations were trying to behave in the same way as the dictatorship of Somali Democratic Republic, albeit they had no capacity and institutions to implement their centralist policies by force of repression, fortunately or unfortunately, based on your perspective.

The latest governance system agreed upon by all Somalis is federal, however, it is sad that it is being misinterpreted by many as weakening Somalia’s state, even to the extent of dismembering the country. That is extremely dangerous propaganda. It neither reflects on the political realities in Somalia nor on experiences in many federal countries in the world. On the contrary, Somalia is much stronger with different levels of democratic government.

Another lethal propaganda by anti-federalist forces is the question they pose as to how many presidents Somalia could have at the same time. This an attempt to discredit and ridicule the heads of Federal Member States, some even suggesting that they should be called regional governors. They ignore the fact that each FMS had come into existence as a result of a union of two or more regions – a political situation quite different from the era when a regional governor was appointed by the central government for a particular region. They also dismiss the fact that federalism entails doing away with old political cliches and habits of past bad rulers of Somalia. Anti-federalist forces are advocating for the repeat of the same mistakes and abuses of power that led Somalia’s state failure in the first place. That is unacceptable to many Somalis.

Federalisn 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. Dir, Hawiye, Digil & Mirifle etc are confederate clans. Most clans in Somalia are social constructs for strengthening them numerically for common protection. Somali Clan confederates are lately used for securing political edge in power-sharing rivalry.

Still others 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, Ethiopian involvement in the drafting of Somalia’s governance holds no water. It is a fallacy. 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.

I am afraid the struggle between pros and cons of federalism will go on until one side wins the game. Keep fighting.

1 Comment

1 Comment


    March 11, 2023 at 8:31 am

    “Dear [WDM],
    Great thought about federalism. Federalism has been, and it is, part of Somali culture for thousands of years.
    Another vital thing is that Somalis are connected as they share lineage.
    I was fascinated when I tried to apply the Somali case with the transitive formula.
    The transitive formula is this: If A is equal to B and B is equal to C, therefore, A is equal to C. And so on until A is equal to Z.
    The transitive law tells us all that all Somalis are equals. This is what lets Somalis have one culture and language. They are connected in confederate.
    It is the transitive culture that has let Somali despite expanding thousands of kilometers, share the same culture and languge.
    For example, Somalis are expanded from Ras Asayr to Jabuti, from Awash to Wajeer sharing the same language.
    The intriguing question is: how do Somalis speak the same language despite living thousands of kilometers apart? It is because of federalism”.

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