Thursday, April 18, 2024
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Somalia on the Brink of Authoritarianism

By Dayib Sh. Ahmed

Somalia stands on a precipice, teetering not on the edge of democratic collapse, but on the verge of outright betrayal. The recent strong-arming of constitutional amendments by a self-serving parliament is not a power grab disguised as reform; it’s a brazen assault on the very foundations of a nascent democracy. This orchestrated manipulation of power dismantles the democratic process with the brute force, leaving the voice of the Somali people silenced.

President Hassan Sheikh signed into law changes made to the first four chapters of the Somalia provisional constitution.

The actions of Somalia’s parliamentarians will forever be etched in the annals of political history, not as misguided leadership, but as egregious violations of trust and a blatant disregard for democratic principles. History, as George Santayana warned, has a cruel way of repeating itself if forgotten. Somalia’s descent into chaos following the 1969 military coup serves as a stark reminder of the dangers of unchecked power.

This concern is particularly relevant today, given the recent push to eliminate the Prime Minister’s post. While the current Prime Minister may hold limited executive authority, the symbolic importance of the position shouldn’t be underestimated. President Hassan Mohamud’s endorsement of such a move raises questions about his commitment to a power-sharing structure that has offered a fragile stability in recent years. Conversely, current parliamentarians seem to have forgotten this harsh lesson, prioritizing personal gain over the needs of the nation with an audacity bordering on criminality.

At the heart of this crisis lies a malignancy, not a power grab. The imposition of a Presidential system and the passage of a new constitution rammed through without due process and genuine national consensus, reeks of authoritarian ambition. These parliamentarians, consumed by a thirst for economic gains and absolute control, have shamelessly disregarded the will of the people. Furthermore, the proposed three-party system, a blatant restriction on political participation, serves only to stifle democratic voices and entrench their own grip on power. The extension of their own terms is the ultimate act of self-service, a betrayal of democratic representation.

In a nation still grappling with the scars of authoritarianism and political instability, President Hassan has consolidated government power, both economic and political to pursue a new constitution. This calculated move is an attempt to strengthen his own authority while dismantling the delicate balance of power between the President and the Prime Minister. By centralizing decision-making and sidelining the Prime Minister’s parliamentarian system authority, President Hassan has jeopardized the very foundations of inclusive governance, accountability, and Somalia’s prospects for genuine democratic progress. This shift in focus has also disrupted ongoing efforts to combat terrorism and build essential government institutions.

This orchestrated manipulation of power extends beyond parliament to the National Consultative Council (NCC), tasked with guiding Somalia’s democratic development. The NCC’s initial current parliamentarian selection process, particularly the appointment of weak and self-serving figures, exposes critical flaws. These appointments, prioritizing personal connections over qualifications, exemplify the depths of corruption festering within Somalia’s halls of power. Specifically, the parliamentarians appointed by the President of Puntland, Said Abdullahi Dani, highlight the egregious issue of incompetence and servility. These individuals shamelessly prioritize loyalty to their benefactors over the merit and competence required for effective governance. In fact, they prioritize their own interests, as each of them expects to become a minister. Instead of defending the constitution, President Said A. Deni selects incompetent and unqualified individuals, and regrettably, he reaps the consequences of the seeds he has sown.

Moreover, dissenting voices within Somalia, particularly those emerging from regions like Puntland, must be amplified and duly considered. The protests against the parliament’s orchestrated constitutional change underscore grassroots resistance to authoritarian tendencies within the nation. Hence, it is vital to provide a platform for these voices and address their grievances through meaningful dialogue and inclusive decision-making processes.

The proposed Presidential system presents a perilous path for Somalia, threatening to erode the delicate fabric of decentralization crucial for stability. A Parliamentary system offers a more inclusive and balanced approach, aligning better with Somalia’s historical precedents and the realities of its diverse population.

The international community cannot be bystanders as Somalia descends into authoritarian rule. Champions of democracy and human rights must stand in solidarity with the Somali people, demanding a return to democratic principles and adherence to the constitution. Somalia’s tumultuous experience serves as a cautionary tale, highlighting the importance of unwavering commitment to democratic ideals, genuine public participation, and the rule of law in charting a future that honors the aspirations of its citizens and upholds the principles of freedom and justice for all.

In addition, Somalia stands at a critical juncture, confronting the looming threat of authoritarianism that presents a significant challenge to its fledgling democracy. The recent actions by parliamentarians not only betray the trust vested in them by the Somali people but also constitute a direct affront to the fundamental tenets of democratic governance. As the nation teeters on the brink of crisis, urgent and resolute measures are imperative to uphold the democratic principles enshrined in Somalia’s constitution.

First and foremost, the international community must not adopt a passive stance in response to Somalia’s democratic predicament. Advocates of democracy and human rights must stand in solidarity with the Somali populace, vehemently denouncing the unconstitutional maneuvers of the parliament and demanding a restoration of democratic norms and the rule of law. Utilizing diplomatic channels, imposing targeted sanctions, and engaging extensively with Somali stakeholders are indispensable strategies for those championing democracies in Somalia.

Furthermore, urgent and comprehensive electoral reforms are imperative to ensure genuine democratic participation and representation. Enhancing transparency, accountability, and inclusivity in the electoral process, along with implementing safeguards against the manipulation of power by entrenched interests, are essential steps. Only through a revitalized commitment to democratic principles can Somalia navigate a path towards a future characterized by stability, prosperity, and justice for all its citizens.

Lastly, the pivotal role of technology in fostering transparency and accountability cannot be overstated. Leveraging advancements in technology, particularly in the realm of digital governance and civic engagement, can empower Somali citizens to hold their leaders accountable and participate meaningfully in the democratic process. Initiatives aimed at bolstering digital literacy and widening access to information and communication technologies should be prioritized as part of Somalia’s democratic reform agenda.

In conclusion, the decisions made in the forthcoming days and weeks regarding Somalia’s political landscape hold immense weight. They will determine whether Somalia continues on a path of nascent democracy or veers into authoritarianism. This critical juncture demands a unified response. Domestically, Somali citizens must exert public pressure through peaceful protests, while civil society organizations educate the public and hold the government accountable. Independent media plays a vital role in facilitating open dialogue. Internationally, the international community can impose sanctions for undermining democratic processes, withhold aid contingent on adherence to the rule of law, and offer technical assistance.

The African Union can mediate dialogue and offer expertise in democratic governance. While the situation is precarious, there’s still hope. The existence of dissent underscores a yearning for democracy. By uniting domestic and international efforts, Somalia can navigate this challenging time. This could involve a transparent and inclusive constitutional review, strengthening institutions like the judiciary, free press, and an independent electoral commission, and a strong focus on anti-corruption measures. The road ahead will undoubtedly be challenging, but through unwavering dedication to democratic ideals, concerted action from all stakeholders, and a commitment to building strong institutions, Somalia can build a brighter, more equitable future for its people.

Dayib sheikh Ahmed (Faracadde)
Email: [email protected]

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