Charting a New Course: The Shift to a Presidential Governance Model in Somalia

Somalia, a country plagued by decades of civil war and political instability, has been on a long and arduous journey towards recovery. The aftermath of the fall of the military regime in 1991 led to a period of turmoil, claiming the lives of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians. In the year 2000, Somali clans gathered in Arta, Djibouti, to form a transitional government, utilizing a clan-based political power-sharing formula as a means to instill confidence and mitigate suspicions. 

In the establishment of the transitional government, Somalia adopted a political power-sharing formula based on clan representation. This approach aimed to address historical grievances and ensure that all clans had a stake in the governance process. However, the prolonged use of this formula has also posed significant challenges. While it has provided a certain level of stability, it has perpetuated a system that relies heavily on clan affiliation rather than meritocracy, hindering progress toward a more inclusive and accountable government.

One of the key issues plaguing Somalia’s governance system is the lack of clarity regarding the powers of the president and the prime minister. The current government system is neither strictly presidential nor parliamentary, leaving room for ambiguity and potential power struggles. The absence of a constitutional court further exacerbates these challenges, as there is no designated body to interpret the Constitution and resolve political disputes. This legal vacuum has created an environment prone to political wrangling and has hindered the effective functioning of the government.

To heal the wounds of civil war and address deep-rooted grudges, Somalia urgently needs a comprehensive transitional justice process. Transitional justice encompasses a range of mechanisms, including truth commissions, prosecutions, reparations, and institutional reforms, aimed at acknowledging past wrongs, promoting reconciliation, and preventing future conflicts. By addressing historical injustices and holding perpetrators accountable, transitional justice can help restore trust and confidence among Somali clans, paving the way for a more stable and inclusive society.

In light of the challenges facing Somalia’s governance system, the current administration has proposed a bold move to change the structure of the government from a parliamentary to a presidential system. The plan includes replacing the prime minister with a deputy president and granting more defined powers to the president. However, the government’s approach raises concerns about the lack of wider consultation with key stakeholders, particularly clan leaders, civil society organizations, women’s organizations, and youth organizations.

For any governance reform to be successful and sustainable, it is crucial to engage a broad range of stakeholders in decision-making processes. In the case of Somalia, excluding these stakeholders from the proposed changes risks exacerbating existing mistrust and may be perceived as an attempt to consolidate power without due consideration of diverse perspectives. To prevent this, the government must actively engage with civil society, clan leaders, women’s organizations, and youth organizations to ensure that their voices are heard and their concerns are addressed.

Sidelining key stakeholders in governance decisions can have severe consequences, including the perception of autocracy and the potential for renewed conflict. Somalia has experienced the devastating effects of political exclusion in the past, and it is crucial to learn from those lessons. By embracing inclusivity and allowing for meaningful participation, the government can demonstrate its commitment to democracy, transparency, and the collective aspirations of the Somali people.

Amin Jamal

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