Tuesday, June 18, 2024
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  • Opinion

Somalia on a dangerous precipice

By Abdelkarim A. Haji Hassan

President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud’s ascent to the presidency in 2022 was met with widespread optimism among the Somali populace. Somalis yearned for stability and progress after decades of conflict, particularly following five years of President Farmaajo’s dismal autocratic rule, whose legacy would be seen as the architecture of the present dictatorial system in Somalia.

President Hassan’s election was heralded as a potential turning point for the nation, with promises of significant reforms and strategies to address pressing issues, particularly in the realm of security, including the crucial fight against terrorism. Central to his agenda were initiatives aimed at establishing a national army and bolstering governmental institutions.

In Somalia’s journey towards stability and democratic governance, the significance of inclusive decision-making processes and the establishment of independent oversight mechanisms cannot be overstated. Nowhere is this more evident than in the ongoing debate surrounding provisional constitutional amendments, where the principles of inclusivity and independence are paramount.

At the heart of Somalia’s constitutional evolution lies the imperative to accommodate diverse voices and perspectives. Inclusivity ensures that the aspirations and concerns of all segments of society are taken into account, fostering a sense of ownership and legitimacy in the governance framework. Particularly in the context of provincial constitutional amendments, involving stakeholders from Federal Member States, Civil Societies and the representative from the Somali people, is essential to crafting solutions that resonate with the nation’s rich tapestry of identities.

Somalia is grappling with the formidable challenges of combating extremism, enhancing security, and revitalizing its economy and institutions. These are not just isolated concerns but interconnected facets crucial to the nation’s stability and progress. The decision to prioritize constitutional overhaul at this juncture runs counter to the aspirations of the Somali people for inclusive governance and participatory decision-making. Rather than fostering a sense of shared purpose and national solidarity, it risks exacerbating existing divisions and alienating segments of the population who are marginalized or excluded from the process.

More importantly, the pressing question weighing on the minds of Somalis is: why now bring the constitutional change? At a time when the nation is beset by myriad urgent priorities demanding the president’s undivided focus and attention, the decision to thrust a divisive issue to the forefront raises significant concerns.

Moreover, glaringly absent in this discourse is any semblance of independence within the “independent constitutional review body.” Instead of being a bastion of impartiality, this body has been handpicked by the president without due process, raising serious doubts about its autonomy and integrity. True independence is the cornerstone of any credible review mechanism, ensuring that decisions are made free from undue influence or bias. However, the apparent lack of transparency surrounding their selection process and the absence of meaningful checks and balances raise legitimate concerns about the body’s ability to function autonomously.

Nevertheless, the initial optimism surrounding President Hassan’s leadership has since waned, as his administration has veered off course from its stated objectives. Rather than focusing on fulfilling his campaign promises for the betterment of Somalia, President Hassan has increasingly exhibited a singular fixation on retaining power at any cost. President Hassan has prioritized self-preservation over national development. His efforts have been predominantly directed towards effecting constitutional change that would extend his tenure and consolidate presidential authority, at the expense of the agreed Provisional Federal Constitution, relegating Prime Minister’s role to a ceremonial position devoid of substantive power. Of particular concern is the proposal granting the president unchecked authority to dismiss the Prime Minister without due process and parliamentary oversight.

In his pursuit of expanded executive powers, President Hassan has neglected critical issues plaguing Somalia, including the political instability, widespread insecurity and abject poverty. The populace had hoped for decisive action on these fronts, as articulated during his electoral campaign. Key priorities including low hanging fruits such as advancing the democratization process through initiatives such as the establishment of local councils in regions like Benadir, and the dire national issues of liberating territories held by Al Shabab insurgents, and fortifying governmental institutions have been sidelined in favor of self-serving constitutional change.

President Hassan’s approach has not only impeded progress in combating terrorism and institution-building but has also exacerbated existing divisions within the government, Parliament and Federal Member States. Rather than fostering consensus and collaboration, his tactics have fueled dissent and suspicion among FMS and parliamentarians. Reports indicate that President Hassan to pass his divisive plan, has resorted to manipulation and bribery, leveraging promises of ministerial appointments and other incentives to sway MPs into supporting his constitutional overhaul.

Furthermore, the President’s exclusive efforts to rewrite the constitution without genuine consultation or consensus-building risk plunging Somalia into further turmoil. By circumventing established democratic processes through an unrepresentative and undemocratically elected parliament, to rubber stamp the constitutional change, President Hassan jeopardizes the nation’s hard-won progress and risks precipitating a return to widespread civil conflict.

As Somalia navigates the intricacies of provisional constitutional changes, it stands at a crossroads between entrenched power dynamics and the promise of inclusive, transparent governance. Embracing inclusivity and not just procedural matters; there must be fundamental steps towards building a resilient democracy that reflects the aspirations and values of all Somalis. It is imperative for stakeholders within Somalia and the international community to oppose a unilateral action by the president and advocate for adherence to democratic principles and inclusive governance, lest Somalia’s fragile stability unravel under the weight of authoritarian ambition.

Its expected the constitutional change to be passed by the parliament, and all eyes are on President Hassan’s next steps. Will he persist on a path that risks derailing the hard-won progress towards stability? Only time will tell, but the situation requires from the Somalis and international community’s an unwavering commitment to Somalia’s democracy.

Abdelkarim A. Haji Hassan

Email: [email protected]


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