The roadmap to end the Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) is facing criticism from many quarters. The roadmap was endorsed through the Garowe conference out of which the seminal Garowe Principles emerged last year. Puntland leaders view federalism as the best road to forming a government beyond the transitional period which ends in August 2012. “Political groups in Mogadishu daydream of a return to centralised rule so everything will again be controlled from Mogadishu, under the watchful eye of Ugandan generals. Others in northwestern Somalia, namely “Somaliland”, daydream of international recognition as an independent country. In this political spectrum – stuck between separatism and centralised rule – federalism is the only option that safeguards each group’s interests, whilst protecting Somali national unity” editorialised Garowe Online.
Transitional Federal Institutions (TFIs) of Somalia came into existence after the a two-year reconciliation conference held at Mbagathi in Kenya between 2002 and 2004. The failure of the Transitional National Government, outcome of Arta (Djibouti) Reconciliation Conference in 2000, provided pro-federalism campaigners, of which Puntland is the most influential, with an opportunity to propose federalism. Unlike Arta conference the Mbagathi conference brought together warlords and Puntland regional administration. Somaliland was invited but it did not participate in the conference. Warlords were made members of the new Transitional Parliament; some warlords were given cabinet portfolio of the new government formed by the first TFG prime minister Ali Mohamed Geddi.
The first serious challenge to TFIs came from the Union of Islamic Courts which defeated warlords and attacked Baydhaba, the former seat of the Transitional Federal Institutions in 2006. The second challenge to TFIs came from the anti-TFG alliance (the former Alliance for Reliberation of Somalia and Al Shabaab) – Muqaawama (resistance). The third challenge came from the former TFG president, the late Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, who opposed the UN efforts to reconcile the TFG and Alliance for the Reliberation of Somalia (ARS) then based in Asmara, Eritrea.
President Ahmed viewed the peace talks as negotiation between politicians from the same clan, not between the TFG and Alliance for the Reliberation of Somalia. Negotiations between the ARS and the TFG paved the way for the resignation of president Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed in December 2008, the expansion of the transitional parliament to include new Members of Parliament from the ARS, and the election of Sheikh Sharif as a president in January 2009.
In the eyes of many Puntlanders the fourth challenge to federalism comes from the Somali president, Sheikh Sharif Ahmed who, according to Garowe Online, makes “ make the absurd argument that “federalism is a temporary system”. Puntland maintained strong relationship with some Mogadishu warlords, a relationship from which former TFG president Yusuf has benefited when Mohamed Omar Habeeb former chairman of Middle Shabelle Political Committee hosted the president, the prime minister and members of the cabinet in Jowhar shortly after the first TFG was formed in Nairobi in 2004 .
The expansion of the parliament to accommodate ARS members caused the influence of warlords in the TFIs to wane. With their ally forced to resign warlords, who have not recovered from defeat at the hands of former Union of Islamic Courts, were marginalised by their history and by the new TFG leadership and MPs.
So far the Mogadishu-based Hawiye Cultural Council and some grassroots groups in Mogadishu have opposed the roadmap but the blame for possible failure of the roadmap should not be pinned on them. Puntland allies in southern Somalia were sacrificed through hard-line policies of the former TFG president Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed. When the late president fired prime minster Ali Mohamed Geddi, he appointed Nur Hassan Hussein who proposed talks with insurgents and the then Asmara-based Alliance for the Reliberation of Somalia.
The absence of politically resourceful regional administrations in southern Somalia, particularly in regions where pro-centralism constituencies are, has turned out to be a major impediment to the roadmap. At the heart of this impediment is mutual suspicion between pro-federalism and pro- (decentralised system camps. President Farole likens centralism to a one-city state in which all resources are poured into the capital. Post-1991 reality is southern Somalia was bleaker than pre-1991 Somalia under military dictatorship.
Regions near Mogadishu were made prized illegal possessions by warlords and associated armed clan militias who marginalised unarmed clans who are wrongly labelled the others and who are disadvantaged by the 4.5 power-sharing mechanism. In 2007 reconciliation conference held in Mogadishu and chaired by the former interim president Ali Mahdi Mohamed the 0.50 alliance of clans was recognised a major clan, with the other 4 major clans ( Dir, Hawiye, Darod and Digil & Mirifle) but the 4.5 was revived during peace talks between the former Alliance for the Reliberation of Somalia and the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia in 2008 in Djibouti, the birthplace of the 4.5 power sharing mechanism. The 4.5 will be in use for four more years if the transitional period comes to an end peacefully in August 2012.
The Transnational National Government (TNG) led by president Abdiqasim Hassan (2000-2004) paved the way for the TFG that is change-oriented in the sense that the roadmap envisages the the end of the transitional period, and continuity-oriented in the sense that federalism will remain a foundational concept on which a post-August 2012 Somali government will be based. That the roadmap does not sit well some constituencies in southern Somalia is understandable. President Sharif’s Abgaal clan is at a disadvantage compared with the rival clan Habargidir which has two representation platforms ( Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama’a and Galmudug. )
Three other political trends in southern Somalia continue to have impact on the roadmap: the prolonged rein of warlords (1991-2006), the the defeat of the Islamic Union of Courts in December 2006, and the emergence of Al Shabab, a militant group blacklisted as a terrorist organisation. People who were let down by these groups are still divided on what political platform to adopt to make southern Somalia a hub of diversity and tolerance again. This is is a stumbling-block to implementing the roadmap. Federalism empowers regions.
The Anti-federalism camp forgets that the road to reconstituting the Somali state passes through successful administrations such as Puntland and Somaliland. Politicians and traditional leaders from clans with armed clan militias, which did not use their political clout to form successful regional administrations, will have difficult time convincing their compatriots on the merits of a centralised or decentralised system of governance. And that is why Puntland’s case for federalism is stronger.
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