Saturday, 17 August 2013

WHEN THE PRESIDENT TRAMPLES THE CONSTITUTION

August 16, 2013 By Faisal Roble Every government that came to Mogadishu since the Barre regime had claimed to be legitimate. The loudest noise and more intense claim for legitimacy had been echoed by the current government. On the contrary, the current government is less legitimate than its predecessor. Given how much it erred and abused the recently drafted Provisional Federal Constitution (PFC), one could easily argue that Hassan Sheikh’s government in Mogadishu is a government with the least legitimacy and may have dashed once again probable hopes for regrouping Somalia. An African proverb says: WHEN ELEPHANTS FIGHT, THE GRASS DISAPPEARS. When the President of Somalia vows to undermine the Provisional Federal Constitution (PFC) of Somalia, the country suffers and further disintegration becomes the norm. If so, one can’t protect a nation whose President is undoing its very binding constitution. Who needs a Federalist Constitution? In case the novice President and his team failed to fathom the profundity of the need for the current PFC, it was intended to address three main objectives that are central to Somalia’s existence as a united country: constThe first objective was to curtail the disintegration of the Former Republic of Somalia. Somalia’s disintegration started in earnest with the suffocation of democratic values during the years of the Military rule. In search for change, young military officers, mainly hailing from the Puntland regions of Somalia, tried to remove the late dictator, General Mohamed Siyad Barre, through a military coup. By this time, the Barre regime was showing signs of major political fissures, and his authority’s legitimacy was in the waning. By the 1980s, some of the young officers who escaped Barre established armed opposition front, the Somali Salivation Democratic Front (SSDF), led by the late President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed. Few years later, the Somali National Movement (SNM), once led by Ahmed Silanyo, the current President of Somaliland also established its shack in Addis Ababa of Ethiopia. With these two groups (mainly representing two major clans of Somalia’s establishment) establishing military bases in Ethiopia, the hitherto adhered ethos of “Though Shall not Seek help from the Enemy, Ethiopia,” was permanently altered. Towards the end of 1980s, the United Somali Congress of the late General Aidid, a junior partner in the removal of Barre joined the parties in Addis Ababa. This then was the beginning of the disintegration of Somalia and the formation of the genesis of the second republic. To that end, in 1993, the SNM declared a unilateral secession from the rest of Somalia, followed by the SSDF establishing the first and formidable autonomous region of Puntland in 1998. Both regions are today more peaceful, better governed and less corrupt than Mogadishu, with a fledgling managed democratic cultures. Additionally, the Puntland state skillfully helped midwifed the birth of the PFC and attaches particular importance to the protection of the integrity of the document. The mayhem, terrorism, corruption, rampant rape cases that regularly take place in Mogadishu are almost non-existent in these two regions. How can Mogadishu, therefore, bring these regions back to the fold within the context of the second republic was one of the arching objectives of the PFC. A second objective of the PFC was to lend legitimacy to new and future leaders in Somalia who lost legitimacy after the 1991 civil war. One of the everlasting negative impacts the Barre regime imparted on Somalia is the erosion of political legitimacy. Prior to the Barre regime, the Somali Youth League (SYL) and the Somali National League (SNL) enjoyed tremendous political legitimacy in the 1940s through the 1960s. These parties were the main forces that translated the nationalist struggle of Sayid Mohamed Abdulle Hassan (father of modern Somali national resistance) in the late 1890s through the 1920s into modern and western style political activism that eventually (1960) delivered independence, hence the establishment of the first republic. Both presidents Adan Abulle Osman and Abdulrashid Ali Sharmarke, as well as their respective Prime Ministers (AbdiRazak Haji Husseing and Mohamed Haji Ibrahim Igal) belonged to the said parties. With an impressive degree of legitimacy given by their constituents, these leaders established the first legitimate, albeit weak democratic governance in the country. General Siyad Barre overthrew that government in 1969 and hence eroded any semblance of legitimacy in the governance system of Somalia. It is well established in the Political Science literature that without legitimacy, governance is almost impossible, therefore follows suite anarchy and civil disorder, as the case has been with Somalia since the 1991 civil war. The problem of solving Somalia’s governance is not because Barre’s (negative) legacies are too rigid to erase them, that is to say “Ayax tag eelna reeb,” or “the locust is gone but its effect is with us” can’t be a theory to explain the perpetual failure of governance in Somalia. Both national and international efforts notwithstanding, the endeavor of lifting Somalia up from the ashes has been a herculean, albeit unsuccessful mission. Other Sub-Saharan African countries that experienced similar disorder seem to have quickly recovered. One may ask why the difference? It is only so because leaders of those African countries regained a healthy dose of legitimacy to institute changes for forward moving. The central problem for Somalia, on the other hand, has been and still is, to wit, the loss of political legitimacy and the constant failure to regain that precious commodity. How to reestablish political legitimacy for Somalia’s authority was also one of the objectives of the PFC. The PFC, therefore, is the last attempt or tool to help lift Somalia up and remedy that absence of legitimacy. A third objective of the PFC was to democratize the country through a constitutional system of governance that divides power and decisions making between the center and the regions. Because of the absence of any legitimate body to govern, outside the traditional power structures headed by clan chiefs, elders and religious leaders, Somalia has yet to democratize its polity[i]. Without democratic institutions in place, and absent of any legitimate authority in the country, neither mass violence, unbridled rape of women (Mogadishu is the epicenter of rape cases), nor corruption (including supervising looting aid monies) is accountable in Mogadishu. Without a transparency, so far not a single individual has been brought to justice (outside those poor pirates tried in foreign courts) to answer the pillage of Somalia and the destruction of its infrastructure, the mass violence in Mogadishu in 1991, or women being raped with impunity. The stealing of 80% of aid given to Somalia by foreign aid even passed to the oblivion with a mere lukewarm response from the very perpetrators of said corruption. To add insult to an injury, the late Osman Atto (RIP), who is blamed to have sold some of the country’s looted infrastructure as scrap metal to Uganda, a well-established warlord, received a national burial honor from President Hassan Mohamoud on August 10, 2013. This is a nation whose sense of fairness faded away to the depth of darkness. Next honor could easily go to Abdi Wal, Indha Cade, Haji Musse Yallaxo and the rest who are comfortably resting in Mogadishu. Watching yesteryear’s “Pearl of the Indian Ocean” resemble a medieval European haunted house of horror and terror is a trouble thing to experience. Violating the Provisional Federal Constitution (PFC) Illegal Changes to the PFC The President during his tenure, now about one year, violated the spirit and intent of the PFC of the Somali Federal Republic. However, the President of Puntland, Dr. Abdirahman Farole, has been warning Somalis and non-Somalis alike of the looming danger in tempering with the integrity of the document. Finally, at his inaugural speech on the occasion of the 15th anniversary of the establishment of the Puntland autonomous government, President Faroole announced, after serious consultation with his cabinet, the leadership of the Puntland State of Somalia decided to suspend relations with the Federal Government of Somalia. The main reason for what amounted to be a political earthquake is the result of incessant tampering, changes, distortions and illegal amendments brought to the PFC by Mogadishu and the novice President, Hassan Sheikh. As delineated in a draft memo released by the government of Puntland, about twenty five articles of the PFC have been changed, altered, amended or distorted by Mogadishu. Some of the changes, for example, finalizing the status of the Capital City, or the requirement for 40,000 signatories as opposed to 400,000 to engender any amendment, are significant changes to the original contents of the PFC. Additionally, the legal process for corrections, change or amendments to the constitution was gravely violated. So far the explanations given by Mogadishu or its mouthpiece regarding said changes are unacceptable to Puntland leaders and Somalis at large. The chairman of the Parliament, Mr. Jawari, has been docile and silent at the wake of a political tsunami brewing under his watch. Erroneous Interpretations of the PFC In addition to illegal and sly changes made to the PFC, distortive interpretations made to some of the articles are deepening the political crisis and the looming disintegration of the country. On August 11, 2013, for example, the President had picked a governor for Galmudug region. The enabling articles of the constitution that are cited for the Presidential action to handpick a governor for Galmudug case are Articles 18, 90, and 99. Nothing can be more unprofessional and non-judicious than this act and the erroneous citation of completely unrelated relief. For the record, Article 18 (Inviolability of Home) refers to legal property ownership; Article 90, a) through q), is all about the President’s powers in declaring wars, appointing Ministers, opening the house of the representatives….. A remote resemblance between the action of the President and the contents of this Section is perhaps found in Section k), which talks about the President’s responsibilities to “appoint senior Federal Government officials and the heads of the Federal Government Institutions on the recommendation of the Council of Ministers.” However, unless someone is challenged in their understanding of their eight grade level civic studies, the Section cited above is talking about federal level institutions and entities, and has no relationship with this President hand picking a regional post that is non-federal and non-professional assignments. It is such a silly way of handling the affairs of the PFC that prompted Mr. Faroole to pronounce “war ayay na moodeen,” or “who do they think we are,” implying that the community of Puntland is more sophisticated than Hassan Sheikh thinks. Lastly Article 99, Responsibilities of the Council of Ministers, (a) though (i), delineates the functions of the Council of Ministers. Some of the highlights of the Sections under this Article include (a) formulate the overall government policy and implement, (d) prepare an annual budget, (e) set the national policy, etc. The only Article which the President may attempt to misinterpret in order to get his way is Section (i), “Exercise any other power conferred upon it by the Constitution or by other laws. In nowhere does the Constitution empower unelected technocrats or ministers over the will of the people of Somalia. Article 48 calls for two levels of governments, one federal and another regional. When it comes to the formation of local government, the constitution fully empowers not Mogadishu, and certainly not with the Council of Ministers, but the residents of the regions. There is no way to go around this fact, unless one is determined to lead Somalia into a full blown and irreparable disintegration. If correctives measures are not take immediately to arrest the recalcitrant behavior of Mogadishu, Puntland and, possibly Jubbaland, may depart company with Mogadishu. They will do so because these entities have legitimacy with their masses and hence can execute such radical decisions. Concluding Remarks Under this President, not only is the PFC under attack, but even humanitarian organizations are not safe, the latest casualty being Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). According to an August 15, 2013 article by AFP, “leaders in Somalia are playing a role in “the killing, assaulting and abducting of humanitarian aid workers either through direct involvement or tacit approval.” Otherwise a tough nut to crack, MSF decided to withdrew its operation because “the “last straw” came when it discovered that some of Somalia’s official authorities were supporting or condoning the lethal attacks on its aid workers.” – Very sad! If carefully read, Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud’s behaviors are indicative of the early days of Siyad Barre’s power grabbing, only less charismatic he is and he surrounded himself with less qualified docile aides. Given that Puntland, Jubbaland, Khatumo regions, and certainly Somalilanders have paid with blood and sweat to have a system of federal governance not to mention the blood path taking place in the Shabble regions, Mogadishu must drop its unconstitutional and centrist ideology so that the flicker of light Somalis saw only a year ago will not fade away. If this President cannot implement the intent and spirit of the PFC, if he is resolute to temper, distort, illegally amend and erroneously interpret, and if he can’t protect civilians both national and international, what is there to convince Somaliland to come back to the fold? As to Puntland, President Faroole should consider toughening his timely suspension of any dealings with the Mogadishu government more, and Jubbaland should soon stop appealing to Mogadishu and embark on its own course until the right time for constructive engagement comes. Meanwhile, those of us who love both Mogadishu and Somalia equally must sing in the spirit of Julius Caesar’s era of Rome: We love Mogadishu not less, but we love legitimate leadership for Somalia and its people more. Unfortunately, Mogadishu elites, with the exception of very few, are adamant to supervise both the death of Mogadishu and the demise of Somalia with one sharp spade. Faisal A. Roble Email:Faisalroble19@gmail.com

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