Mogadishu, SOMALIA — President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud of Somalia is pushing for constitutional amendments to expand presidential powers, a move that could signal a looming constitutional crisis in Somalia. This initiative, aimed at centralizing authority, is unfolding against a backdrop of the nation’s delicate political balance. Amidst these developments, the concept of Somalia power sharing is once again under the microscope, raising significant concerns about the future stability of the nation.
As part of the desire to change the Constitution, today the Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud appointed Hussein Sheikh Mohamud as his senior adviser on constitutional affairs. This decision, coming amidst ongoing debates on the amendment process of the Federal Government Constitution, has raised eyebrows in political circles. Critics argue that the President is advancing constitutional amendments without ample input from key Somali stakeholders, including politicians, cultural elders, and some Federal Member States (FMS) like Puntland and Somaliland. Notably, Hussein Sheikh Mohamud’s past is marked by controversy, having resigned from his position as a Senator and Chief of Staff of Villa Somalia following allegations of collaboration with Al-Shabab.
Internal Opposition: Political Personalities Clash
Many Somali politicians, foreseeing a potential constitutional crisis in Somalia, oppose the constitutional reform led by President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. They argue that the President’s approach, characterized by a push to expedite the amendment process, is designed to complete the constitution before the upcoming Puntland elections scheduled for January 8, 2024. Critics fear that this haste is an attempt to impose a new constitution favoring the President, without adequate input from Puntland, Somaliland, or other key stakeholders.
Key political figures within the President’s own clan are actively opposing these changes. Former President Sheikh Sharif, ex-Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire, and MP Abdirahman Abdishakur, now a Presidential Envoy, lead this resistance. They argue that amplifying presidential powers undermines the Prime Minister’s role as a check, potentially allowing for unchecked use of state resources. Consequently, this intra-clan opposition is reshaping the discourse on Somalia power sharing, highlighting a complex interplay of personal and political interests.
As these strategies take shape, concerns about a constitutional crisis in Somalia are intensifying, reflecting the complex interplay of politics and clan allegiances
Clan-Based Strategies: Historical Reflections and Contemporary Implications
The President’s current strategy to recalibrate power within Somalia draws stark parallels to historical attempts that aimed to redistribute power along clan lines. His proposal, suggesting a collaboration with northwest Somalia’s Hargeisa-based breakaway government, implies a significant power-sharing agreement. By envisioning the ‘south’ – predominantly his own clan’s territory – to hold the presidency and the ‘north’ to secure the vice-presidency, this approach revives a contentious plan from the past.
Historical Clan-Based Initiatives
This strategy, raising the specter of a constitutional crisis in Somalia, is reminiscent of the 1990s initiative proposed by Mohamed Farah Aideed and Abdirahman Tuur of the USC and SNM, respectively. Their plan, which aimed to create a similar clan-based division of power, faced substantial opposition and ultimately failed. This failure notably delayed the establishment of a stable and effective Somali government for over a decade. The rejection stemmed from its divisive nature, as it overlooked the need for inclusive representation of all clans, particularly attempting to marginalize the Darod clan, a key stakeholder in Somalia’s political landscape.
In the present context, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud’s proposal risks repeating these historical mistakes. By potentially sidelining the Darod clan, it could ignite clan rivalries and deepen existing political fractures. The implications of such a move are profound, as they could disrupt the delicate balance of power that has been maintained through carefully negotiated clan-based power-sharing arrangements, essential for Somalia’s political stability.
Moreover, this approach raises critical questions about the long-term viability of clan-based politics in Somalia. While clan affiliations have historically played a central role in Somali politics, there is a growing discourse about the need to move towards more inclusive and democratic governance models. This shift is essential not only for political stability but also for fostering national unity and progress.
The historical reflections on clan-based strategies in Somalia thus serve as a cautionary tale for the current administration. They highlight the importance of inclusive governance and the dangers of repeating past errors that could set back the nation’s hard-won gains in political stability and reconciliation. The challenge for the President and his administration is to navigate these complex clan dynamics while steering Somalia towards a more inclusive and united future.
Somalia Constitutional Crisis: The Future of FGS and Stability Concerns
The potential for an unconstitutional change, as proposed by President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, places the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) in a precarious position, fraught with challenges that could have far-reaching consequences. This situation is alarmingly reminiscent of the controversial removal of PM Hassan Ali Khaire without a proper vote in parliament, an event that demonstrated the vulnerability of Somalia’s political institutions to abrupt and undemocratic changes. The proposed alterations to the constitution, which aim to concentrate power in the presidency, raise serious questions about the future of Somalia’s democratic process and the rule of law.
Central to these concerns is the risk of bypassing established parliamentary procedures. Such a move would not only undermine the legitimacy of the FGS but also potentially set a dangerous precedent for future governance. It would signal a shift away from democratic norms and checks and balances, which are fundamental to any functioning democracy. The repercussions of this could lead to increased political instability, as it might provoke opposition not only from within the government but also from the broader Somali population and international community.
Risking Internal Conflict and State Implosion as a Result of the Constitutional Crisis
Furthermore, these constitutional changes, if implemented without broad consensus, could exacerbate existing clan tensions and rivalries. The FGS, already navigating a complex landscape of clan dynamics and regional interests, might find itself facing heightened internal conflicts. This could undermine the progress made in recent years towards state-building and reconciliation efforts in Somalia. Without an accepted constitution and power-sharing arrangements, the state itself may risk collapse, deepening the issue beyond a constitutional crisis in Somalia.
The implications for international relations and foreign aid are also significant. Many of Somalia’s international partners, who support the country based on principles of democratic governance and stability, might reconsider their engagement and support. This could lead to a reduction in crucial foreign aid and investment, further complicating Somalia’s path to recovery and development.
Lastly, the potential constitutional changes pose a direct challenge to the federal structure of Somalia. They risk centralizing power to an extent that might weaken the federal framework, undermining the delicate balance between the central government and federal member states. This could impede the ongoing efforts to build a cohesive and effective federal system in Somalia, essential for the long-term stability and unity of the country.
In summary, the proposed constitutional changes by President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud bring to the forefront critical dilemmas for the FGS, potentially culminating in a constitutional crisis in Somalia. Navigating these changes will be pivotal in determining Somalia’s democratic trajectory, its internal stability, and its relations with the international community. Handling these changes with a cautious, inclusive, and transparent approach is essential, as the future of Somalia’s governance and stability hangs in the balance.