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Tensions Rise Amidst Constitutional Crisis in Somalia and the Ethiopian Territorial Ambitions

By Abdullahi Ahmed Nor

Introduction:

In the Horn of Africa, Somalia is grappling with an escalating constitutional crisis that has been further complicated by Ethiopia’s aspirations to annex the coastal districts in the self-declared autonomous region, of Somaliland. The country, also striving for stability after decades of civil unrest and conflict, faces a new challenge as its fragile federal structure is put to the test. The Federal government in Mogadishu and the Federal Member States has been at odds over the distribution of power and resources.

President Hassan Sh. Mohamud

This impasse not only jeopardizes the nation’s democratic progress and effective governance but also threatens to exacerbate the country’s fragmentation. Somaliland’s unilateral declaration of independence in 1991, following the unilateral appointment of the late Ali Mahdi as president by Mogadishu-based rebels without consultation with other stakeholders, set a precedent. Similarly, Puntland Federal Member State currently finds itself on the brink of going its way due to President Hassan’s unilateral decision of a new Presidential Constitution, bypassing the legitimate Parliamentary Provisional Constitution and sidelining consultation entirely.

President Hassan’s unilateral actions reflect a concerning trend toward consolidating power within his own circle, prioritizing personal interests over national unity and cooperation. The disregard for consultation and inclusivity risks alienating other regional states, potentially leading to a mass exodus from the federal framework. It’s not a question of if, but when, as no Federal Member State would willingly submit to the dominance of President Hassan’s clansmen and allies.

The constitutional crisis has been exacerbated by the recent claims that Ethiopia, a neighboring country with significant influence in the region, has shown interest in acquiring strategic territories in Somalia. These territories, which boast access to the Red Sea, are vital maritime gateways for landlocked Ethiopia and are considered economically and geopolitically significant.

Although the Ethiopian government has not officially confirmed these ambitions, however, reports of Ethiopian military presence and mulling of investment in infrastructure within these coastal districts have raised concerns among Somali federal authorities and the international community. The MoU was signed on January first 2024 between Ethiopia and Somaliland. Somaliland unilaterally declared independence from Somalia in 1991, but  not internationally recognized as a sovereign state. The Federal Government views Ethiopia’s actions as a direct threat to its territorial integrity and sovereignty. Before the rise of SSC (Khatumo) fighters that liberated their land from Somaliland occupation, Somaliland region has managed to maintain relative peace and stability, compared to the rest of Somalia with the exception of Puntland State, and has developed its own governmental institutions and economic systems

The situation presents a complex diplomatic challenge. The African Union (AU) and the United Nations (UN) voiced against the MoU and are closely monitoring the developments, emphasizing the importance of respecting the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Somalia and its regions. International partners have urged all parties to engage in dialogue and seek peaceful resolutions to both the constitutional impasse and the territorial concerns.

The constitutional crisis in Somalia and the alleged Ethiopian ambitions have the potential to destabilize further the already volatile region. If not addressed with diplomacy and respect for international law, there could be significant implications for regional security, trade, and the well-being of the Somali people and the wider red sea region. As the situation unfolds, the international community remains hopeful that a peaceful and constructive solution can be found through collaboration and adherence to the principles of sovereignty and self-determination.

It is not possible to clap with one hand

President Hassan’s disregard for the provisional constitution, a cornerstone of Somalia’s federal framework, further undermines the country’s stability. At this critical juncture, the Federal Government of Somalia under President Hassan has plunged the country deeper into chaos with his unilateral governance approach. Since his reelection for a second term, President Hassan has exhibited a concerning disregard for established institutions, opting instead to dismantle and manipulate them to serve his own interests.

Within the initial three months of his renewed mandate, rather than strengthening the existing institutions, without any strategy he chose to systematically dismantle key pillars, particularly those pertaining to justice, elections, and the economy. His actions have been marked by favoritism towards individuals from his clan and inner circle, rather than prioritizing competence and impartiality. Despite two years in office, he has yet to nominate replacements for the institutions he dismantled, exacerbating the governance vacuum and fueling uncertainty. Some of the institutions he dismantled include:

  1. The dissolvement of the seasoned and renowned economic experts of the National Economic Council, which included 5 Somali members and 4 non-Somali members, by Presidential Decree LR.62, replaced with young graduates mostly from the local universities without any experience.
  2. The president dissolved the Judicial Service Commission without any strategy, and is planning to nominate inexperienced people handpicked by him alone.
  3. The president dissolved the Anti-Corruption Commission and is planning to nominate inexperienced people handpicked by him alone.
  4. The president disbanded the National Independent Electoral Commission (NIEC), and is planning to nominate inexperienced people handpicked by him alone.
  5. The president dissolved the Independent Federal Boundaries Commission, and is planning to nominate inexperienced people handpicked by him alone.
  6. The president dissolved The National Database and Registration Authority (DADSOM), Somalia’s citizen registration and identification agency and already populated it with his own handpicked people. 

The Stubborn fly will follow the corpse to the grave

President Hassan Mohamud, despite facing numerous obstacles, including the highly divisive constitutional changes evident to even the most casual observer, persists in his belief that sheer determination will propel him to success. Yet, his inability to secure even Mecca Al Mukarama Road in the capital, Mogadishu, underscores the extent of his administration’s shortcomings. This failure has fueled frustration among both the Somali populace and political figures, highlighting concerns over his confused priorities and unilateral approach to constitutional amendments. Such actions only serve to exacerbate existing tensions and hinder progress toward a more stable and inclusive Somalia.

The original version of the constitution in use in Somalia was framed when Somalia adopted a federal government from the Somali Republic at the end of the Somali Reconciliation Conference at Mbagathi in Nairobi, Kenya, from early 2000s until it was adopted formally in 2012.

At the time, delegates seeking to rebuild Somalia from the civil war approved a multiparty democracy and a parliamentary system of government. They first wrote the Transitional Federal Charter in February 2004 that was finally endorsed as a Provisional Constitution in August 2012 in Mogadishu, Somalia.

It took 20 years for Somali stake holders to agree on the provisional constitution and yet President Hassan single handedly wants to change it into a Presidential System of Government where the president has the power to appoint and dismiss the Prime Minister without resorting to the legislative. The President, I think lives in a parallel world because it is impossible to contemplate such dreams when we are all aware that Al Shabab controls over 70% of Southern Somalia. The change of the Constitution is being challenged by former Somalia presidents, former prime ministers, and legislators such as Abdirahman Abdishakur and Puntland State.

Moreover, the recent meeting in Nairobi, where former President Sharif sought to offer advice to President Hassan on the country’s current trajectory and its consequences, was met with a dismissive response. Despite Sharif’s earnest attempt to impart wisdom and insight, his counsel fell on deaf ears. President Hassan’s unwillingness to heed the warnings and perspectives of a seasoned predecessor and countless other prominent figures advise reflects a troubling trend of hubris and isolation. This failure to engage with constructive advice not only undermines the potential for collaborative leadership but also exacerbates existing divisions and challenges within Somalia’s political landscape under Hassan. As the country grapples with internal strife and external pressures, the disregard for inclusive dialogue and consultation threatens to deepen the rifts and further destabilize the fragile foundations of governance.

Micromanaging the affairs of government, ill preparations and I think bad luck follows President Hassan like his shadow. Anything he touches turns into ashes. He embarked on a campaign to eradicate Al Shabab but unfortunately Al shabab decimated the National Army and took their weapons. He touched the Constitution and it automatically turned into an apple of discord. He appoints staff and officers and surprisingly they are not qualified for the job like his recent appointment of Mr. Abdulahi Sanbaloshe to head the spy agency of Somalia (NISA). Mr. Abdullahi isn’t fit to hold government Office due to his records which are splashed on the open source Internet – Sanbaloshe was accorded to so many opportunities, and miserable falled in all of them. He is remembered the security failure of Sobo tragedy, while serving the Somalia’s Spy Chief. He is also a die hard believer in tribalism. The appointment of Hon. Ahmed Fiqi as a Minister of the foreign Affairs of Somalia knowing he can’t be the chief diplomat representing the country.

The President forcibly evicts IDPs from government plots and the next day sells to the highest bidder like he did in his first term. When you see President Hassan sure you saw corruption incarnate. None of the previous Presidents ever stooped to so low as the current President. The constant pressure to micromanage every aspect of governent, the burden on decision making and the health toll, would ultimately hinder the president’s ability to effectively serve the public. It is indeed abomination to have such person to sit in the Presidential Office but I hope he won’t last long. “ President Hassan, shouldn’t bite off more than he can chew”.

Somalia’s long-standing political turmoil has intensified as the nation confronts a severe constitutional crisis that threatens to unravel the fragile fabric of its Federal Parliamentary system. The crisis stems from a protracted deadlock among the central government, regional states, and opposition groups over key constitutional interpretations and the distribution of power.

The current impasse revolves around several contentious issues, including the process of elections, the structure of the government, the allocation of powers between the federal government and regional states, and the completion of the provisional constitutional review that have been stalled for years. The inability to reach a consensus on these matters and its likes, is casting a shadow over the legitimacy of the government and its institutions.

Somalia’s partners have emphasized the need for a credible and inclusive process as a cornerstone for any lasting solution to the crisis. They have also highlighted the importance of implementing the necessary agreed upon constitutional reforms to clarify the roles and responsibilities of various levels of government and to ensure a fair distribution of resources.

As Somalia stands at a crossroads, the coming weeks are critical for the country’s future. The resolution of the constitutional crisis is not only vital for the stability of Somalia but also for the broader Horn of Africa region, which is closely watching the unfolding events.

Abdullahi Ahmed Nor

Email: [email protected]

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Related articles:

1)Somalia on the brink of authoritarianism By Dayib Ahmed

2) The conundrum of the Somali constitution By Abdullahi A. Nor

3) Somalia on a dangerous precipice By Abdelkarim A Haji Hassan

4) Somalia eroding governance: The case of President Hassan’s second term By Dayib Ahmed

5) An open letter to the us dep of state: urgent action needed to safeguard democracy and rule of law in Somalia By Mohamed Fatah

6) President Hassan Sh. Mohamud: The veil of corruption and family centric administration By Ahmed I

7) An open letter to President Sheikh: Urgent call for national unity and focus on key security threats By Mohamed Ali


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