By Hassan M. Abukar
Somalia’s speaker of the federal parliament, Mohamed O. Jawari, resigned this week just days before an expected motion to oust him was to take place. There is now a scramble in the parliament to determine who will replace him. I think it is time for someone else, other than a member of the Digil/Mirifle clan, to be the next speaker. Fifty years is a long time for such a coveted position to be reserved for one clan, right?
Are you shocked?
I have never been a fan of Jawari, however, his sudden resignation presents a golden opportunity to weaken the odious 4.5 system—a power sharing arrangement among the country’s four major clans: (Hawiye, Darod, Dir, and Digil/Mirifle) that has been in place since the Arta Conference in 2000. The smaller clans are relegated to fight for scraps. For instance, the Hawiye and the Darod are given the offices of the president and the prime minister, the Digil/Mrifle get the speaker of parliament, and the Dir the judiciary.
I was in Mogadishu in March 2018 when the political ramifications on Jawari’s tenuous future started to take shape. To say that the government was in a standstill is an understatement. The political impasse was the talk of town and nothing got done. There were days that traffic on major streets came to a halt. There was fear the country’s multitude of security services would clash.
The problem with Somali politics is: It is divisive, clannish, and haphazard. Most of all, it is personal. I wonder if those who have been calling for Jawari’s removal ever thought about what would come next. What is the plan for after Jawari?
What were the issues of contention or was it merely an attempt to get rid of Jawari?
We Somalis are good in getting into political gridlocks and leaving no time for self-reflection.
Now that Jawari is gone, I propose something outrageous. Something—are you still with me?—that will annoy many: Let the parliament select a qualified speaker who is not, as tradition goes, a member of the Digil/Mirifle.
Jawari’s replacement will send shockwaves to the country if the Digil/Mirifle people are no longer entitled to the speakership. It is a position for all qualified Somali citizens.
In 1969, Sheikh Mukhtar, then the speaker, briefly served as president of Somalia when President Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke was assassinated. Mukhtar, according to people who knew him, was opposed to the idea of any Digil/Mirifle leader being relegated to the head of parliament. To him, it is a coveted job, but nevertheless one that limited the potential of his people.
Recently, Sharif Hassan, the interim president of the South-West regional state and a former speaker of the federal parliament himself, has made it clear that Digil/Mirifle should not serve as speaker. “Let someone else be the speaker,” Sharif Hassan said, with a sarcasm dripping from his mouth.
I know that the very mention of the name “Sharif Hassan” can make people tremble, or shudder in disgust, or both. He is, after all, a controversial figure prone to corruption and cutthroat political dealings. But, the man has a valid point.
Perhaps, agreeing with Sharif Hassan on this point will temporarily lift me from the list of his “sworn enemies.” After all, I have become persona non grata in Baidoa—the temporary capital of his regional administration—because of my critical writings about him.
The end of a Digil/Mirifle speaker should serve as the beginning of the end of the current clan power sharing, root and branch. It is one step forward in making a major, if not symbolic, dent on the 4.5 system.
The current system is an iniquitous power-sharing arrangement. It is not based on hard data as there has not been a census of the Somali people for a long time. No one knows the number of each clan in the country. The political leaders, who instituted the 4.5 system, thought they came up what they thought was an imperfect, but fair power sharing. They were wrong. They were oblivious to the fact that any system based on clans sharing power is fundamentally flawed and morally repugnant.
It is a system that further divides Somalis into clans instead of uniting them. It engenders some sort of superiority complex among major clans because they assume they are better than the smaller clans. It defies meritocracy. Moreover, it has increased political tension—like what we just witnessed in Jawari’s resignation—and has frayed the fabric of what once was a strong national pride. Many people today identify with their clans rather than the nation.
Somewhere in Somalia, an unflinching conversation is taking place between an 8-year old girl from, let us just say, Badhan (Sanaag), or Borama (Awdal), or Guriceel (Galmudug) or Bula Burte (HirShabeele) or Beled Hawo (Jubbaland) and her astute, but realistic, no-nonsense mother.
“Mom, when I grow up, I want to be the speaker of the federal parliament.”
“Honey, you can’t be.”
“Because only Digil/Mirifle people can be the speaker.”
“But I want to be the speaker.”
“I know sweetie, but that is the way things are.”
“Is it written in the Somali constitution, mom, that only Digil/Mirifle can be the speaker?”
“No, honey, but that is based on an informal agreement made by a bunch of old, myopic, and self-serving Somali politicians in 2000.”
“Wow! I am sorry, mom, but they were really dumb and unfair.”
“Yes, I agree”
“So, mom, do I have to be from the South-West region in order to be the speaker of parliament?”
“Not so fast. You have to belong to the Digil/Mirifle clan in order to be the speaker.”
“Are the Digil/Mirifle the only people who inhabit in the South-West region?”
“No, sweetie. There are other clans who live in the South-West region.”
“So, what you are saying is that only the Digil/Mirifle can be the speaker.”
“Worse than that, you can be Digil and not be the speaker. Only the Mirifle have historically been the speaker.”
“Is that a joke?”
“I told you, sweetie, Somali politics is not fair.”
“I love my country, mom, but Somali politics stinks.”
I don’t know what message we are sending to our children: You can only be president of Somalia if you hail from two clans. You can be the speaker of parliament only if you belong to this clan. It is time that Somalis think as one people, who can work together based on their shared identity. National pride should replace clan politics. That is, if we are serious of going forward, let our children aspire to the highest offices of the land regardless of their clan.
Are you numb to this commentary?
I thought so.
Hassan M. Abukar
Hassan M. Abukar is a political analyst, a contributor to Wardheernews, and the author of Mogadishu Memoir. He can be reached at [email protected].
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