Thursday, November 30, 2023
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Reflections on Somalia’s Political Deadlock: The Need for a New Political Deal

Dr. Abdurahman A. Baadiyow

For over 30 years, I was immersed in reconciliation efforts, research, writing, and publishing books, papers, and articles in Somali, English, and Arabic on various topics regarding my beloved country, Somalia. In addition, I also taught, trained, and raised awareness on numerous issues focused on Somali studies to the new generation of Somalis at home and abroad. Most of my publications are available online.[i] My priorities during these long years were focused on reconciliation and peacebuilding, education, women’s issues, and theorizing reconciliation between the state and society in conflict. The hostile relationship between the state and its society was the leading cause of the state collapse in 1991 and has remained unresolved. After my return from Canada in 1992, I was among the early activists who revived civil society networks prioritizing education, peace, and reconciliation. My work on peace & reconciliation officially began in 1994 when I was elected chairman of the Somali Reconciliation Council (SRC). The SRC was among the civil society networks that paved the way for the Somali Peace and Reconciliation Conference in Arta, Djibouti, in 2000.

Dr. Abdurahman Baadiyow

In this pursuit, I served as a member of the civil society technical team who organized the Somali Peace and Reconciliation Conference in Djibouti, which gave birth to the third Republic of Somalia in 2000. In the following years, I continued my efforts as a peace and reconciliation advocate until I decided to take a more direct role in politics. Thus, I ran as a presidential candidate in the 2012 elections, where I experienced firsthand the intrigues of Somali politics. I discovered during my presidential campaign the vicious nature of Somali elite political culture and how corrupt the selection/election system is, on which I later wrote a paper.[ii] My national obligation drove me in all these initiatives as a scholar, civil society activist, and former Somali National Army senior officer. I remain deeply entangled in the responsibility of recovering a Somali state capable of providing security, social services, and economic prosperity to its citizens while preserving its cultural heritage and Islamic values.

On the other hand, my historical studies led me to revisit Somali historiography, decipher its puzzles, and realize its negative contribution to the Somali way of thinking regarding the state and society. Somali history and politics were generally addressed from the anthropological perspective based on the clannization of the whole gamut of Somali studies. Most of the existing literature contributed to the mental colonization of the Somali people by adopting a view of our traditional culture and identity through the lens of colonial prejudice. That is why our past and present elites and political leaders openly criticize our culture and consider them symbols of backwardness and obstacle to state-building. Responding to this distortion, I took the task of decolonizing the minds of Somalis by introducing a new critical perspective on Somali history. This perspective is encapsulated in my books titled “Making Sense of Somali history” (volumes 1&2) and “The History of the Islamic Movement in Somalia.[iii] 

After almost two decades of socio-political activism, the Somali government recognized my expertise in this field. Prime Minister Hassan Kheyre appointed me as his Senior Adviser for Peace & Reconciliation in 2018. Similarly, President Hassan Sheikh appointed me as his Senior Adviser for Constitutional Affairs in 2022. Although my titles under the two regimes may differ, my current task is not that different from the previous one. Whereas the current one deals with reconciling political elites, the former deals with the reconciliation of society. My new assignment is to create a conducive environment where the Federal Member States (FMS) and the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) agree on the outstanding Provisional Constitutional issues that require their consensus and agreement.

Given my extensive involvement in the Somali state-building process and my scholarly inquiry into the current political situation, my thoughts steered me beyond Constitutional Affairs. I pondered days and nights and posed many questions, such as:

  • What happens to the state-building process if the FMS and FGS disagree on constitutional matters?
  • How can Somalia implement its Constitution while Al-Shabaab rules large swaths of Southern Somalia?
  • What happens if the current administration fails to conduct 1P1V?
  • When will Somali citizens gain their rights to elect their representatives if the current selection process, built on clan power-sharing, continues? And many more. 

In the process of this contemplation, I was firmly convinced that nothing much would change in Somali politics at the end of the current administration term without a new political dispensation among political leaders. Even more alarming is that the replication of the selection/election model of 2022 at the end of this term will likely create instability and renewed conflicts. Therefore, the crossroads at which Somalia stands today is the choice between a state-building process through a new political deal or continuing the status quo of the failed process that will eventually lead to conflict and, most likely, violence.

The state-building path requires political will and stability that enables fair and free elections based on 1P1V at all state levels. This project requires clear targets and a realistic action plan to get support from the political elites and the Somali people. The following issues are the main tasks that need to be achieved during the period of stability to normalize Somali politics:

  1. Eliminating al-Shabaab and liberating Somali people from all over Somalia.
  2. Completing the Provisional Constitution and harmonizing FMS Constitutions with the National Constitution.
  3. Enacting electoral laws and adopting an appropriate electoral model to conduct 1P1V elections at all levels: districts, FMS, and national levels
  4. Establishing district councils elected by the registered voters in the 1P1V process.
  5. Conducting elections at FMS where the registered voters elect members of the FMS parliament.
  6. Conducting national election of 1P1V throughout the country where all members of the federal parliament are elected by the registered electors of each FMS separately.

To realize the above issues, many organizational, technical, and financial preconditions are required. Moreover, the appropriate and harmonized structure of the state at all levels and its election system must be agreed upon and enacted as the law of the land. Hence, Somalia must have only three levels of government: district, FMS, and FGS. The structure of regions must be removed as it is an extra structure that complicates elections. Moreover, the people should elect presidents and deputies at FMS and national levels. Furthermore, election periods must be harmonized, which means Somalia should have two elections: one unified election at the FMS and another at the national level. 

In conclusion, unlocking the Somali political deadlock must be addressed through a new political agreement that leads to stability and popular election. The new political dispensation must be attractive to the public through its benchmarks, clear plan of action, and inclusivity. This new accord must adopt an appropriate governance system, election model, and all the necessary legal frameworks. I hope my reflection will provoke a debate among students, scholars, elites, Intellectuals, and political stakeholders.  

Dr. Cabduraxmaan Baadiyow
Email: [email protected]

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