Minorities in Somalia Need More Voices in Local Governments and Governance Structures

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In Somalia, the clan system has always been a major factor in the running of the social and political affairs, and ever since the power-sharing system based on the 4.5 method was introduced in 2000 during the peace and reconciliation conferences in Arta of Djibout, clan influence has become more prominent for participating in governance and political activities.

As agreed by the Somali delegates in Arta’s Peace and Reconciliation Conference in 2000, Somali communities were divided into four major and half clans to share the political power and have a representation in the House of the People and other government structures.

All Somalia’s minorities were grouped under the name of the “Others” literally the half clan despite some clans may be misplaced in this category as a ‘minority’ in terms of their population size and land settlements in Somalia. Simply, because they were just not armed and did not take part in Somalia’s hostilities, some clans were labelled a minority and fell into this category at the time of establishing the 4.5 power-sharing system.

This power-sharing structure, which was initially aimed at finding solutions to the Somali crises but did not take into account the existing realities in Somalia, has been agreed to function until Somalia was a federal system in which universal suffrage elections were possibly held and the clan power-sharing was abolished.

By 2021 under the Federal Government of Somalia led by Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed “Farmaajo”,’ the clan system was to supposed be abolished and replaced by one man one vote elections, which would allow all Somali citizens to elect the political representatives of both the Lower and Upper Houses regardless of the candidates’ clan affiliation but through a multi-party political system as required by the federal constitution of Somalia. Unfortunately, the direct elections could not take place in Somalia due to political deadlocks and impasses that have flared up among the political groups and stakeholders, particularly related formerly to the direct elections but later changed to indirect elections.

The political setup of Somalia based on the 4.5 power-sharing benefits the so-called major clans and disadvantages the minorities grouped under the name of ‘Others’ by the clan power-sharing system.

The Somali minority clans dwell among the major clans and share ethnic, cultural and religious ties with the big clans in their respective districts and regions.
However, the minorities get unnoticed during the formations of governments and governance structures particularly at regional and district levels and are not made involved in the establishment of local councils and other government institutions. In this respect, they lack their voices in the local councils and governments to express the views and concerns that impact their lives socially, politically and economically.

Almost in every local government at district or regional levels, the minorities are hardly included in the established councils or, in extreme cases, excluded from the administrations because no one ensures their participation in the processes of establishing local government institutions.

The minorities should in fact have been empowered to play a role and take part in governance activities in every regional administration in Somalia so that their representatives can address the socio-economic, political and environmental problems affecting the outnumbered populations.

Political inclusivity aims at ensuring that all communities are well represented in governmental institutions at federal, state and regional levels.

With the upcoming elections in Somalia that are scheduled to take place in October 2021, the election authorities and the Federal Government of Somalia should ensure that the minorities have their representation ensured and are not excluded from taking part in the elections processes.

Political inclusivity should be promoted for it ensures that every Somali community including the minorities is represented at all levels of governance.

Not many people in the minorities are outspoken and articulate due to limitations by education, social and other cultural constraints; therefore, they should be empowered to speak for themselves and exercise their right to full participation in political and governance activities.

Especially at this critical time when the country goes to the indirect elections to elect the Members of the Parliament (Lower and Upper Houses), it is paramount that the Federal Government of Somalia and the Federal Independent Electoral Commission (FIET) keep an eye on the quota of women and minorities’ representation in the House of the People and the Senate.

In 2000, the 4.5 clan power-sharing system was picked because a solution was being sought for Somalia that was ravaged by civil war and bloodshed was everywhere.
However, the system could not have been critically the best option had there been any other choices available to solve Somalia’s political and security problems at the time. It has put some clans in categories they did not fit while others who could fall into the minority clans were placed in major clans.

Surely, the 4.5 power sharing will be relinquished when Somalia begins direct democratic elections, which were lastly held in the 1960s and representations of communities will be different based on the population sizes and the votes garnered; thus the question of who’s and who’s not a minority will re-emerge.

Mohamed Yarow, BA in Development Studies
Bachelor of Public Administration (BPA)
myerow@gmail.com