About the Somali Constitution

The Somali people are on each other’s throat again for a piece of paper that they do not understand its contents, and in which they did not take part in its drafting as the recession hit unruly Western firms are vying for their underground riches. And by the way, what is a Constitution; what does a Constitution mean to the Somali people?
May 13, 2012

What is a Constitution? I fully understood the word ‘Constitution’ in 1994 while I was setting up a project that was designed to help find employment and training opportunities for the Somali and other immigrant communities in the West London Borough of Hounslow. A voluntary sector trainer described the word ‘Constitution’ to me as ‘a set of fundamental principles or established precedents according to which a state or other organisation is governed’ – Fine words. But in today’s Somalia, what does a Constitution really mean to ordinary Somalis?

In the past few weeks, the Somali people heard about the word ‘Constitution’ more often than at any time in their painful past history. If you tuned in to the Voice of America Somali Service these days, the presenter has always new guests in the studio or on the phone to interrogate about the new Draft Somali Constitution. The various Somali blogs and websites also carry headlines about the latest objections to the new Draft Somali Constitution by various Somali organisations, regional administrations and individuals.

Many people in Somalia and elsewhere put forward their opinions to be heard on air about how to put together a Constitution for Somalia; others make condemning remarks to certain clauses within the so called the Draft Constitution. In fact the Somali media and the society at large went plastic over the new Draft Somali Constitution. But who engineered such an alien document called a ‘Constitution’ for us at this stage in our lives? I am not amused at all and, although I do not believe conspiracy theories, I suspect that there must be a new grand project that is aimed at destroying the Somali society permanently. I smell a dead rat in here.

Those professing to be the Somalia politicians and their opposing sides particularly talk endlessly about what is better for the Somali people and who is better to respond to their needs effectively. But none of them offer actual facts and understandable explanations on what is Constitution or why it is good for the Somali people and when do the Somali people need such a Constitution. Almost everyone I heard on the BBC or VOA Somali radio services, the participants in the discussions on the Draft Somali Constitution conveyed a message that they really do need some sort of assistance themselves with the subject at hand. The radio presenters themselves and the Somali blogs writers also failed to shed light on what is a Constitution or why Somalia needs a Constitution now, and what is there in a Constitution for the Somali people in this state of affairs.

But how does a Constitution affect or make changes to how we, the Somali people, see this piece of modern governance instrument, if we ever had an opinion about it? Have you ever wandered or recalled when you last used an article in a Somali Constitution to your personal or environmental advantage? Why all over sudden has this piece of paper become so crucial to the lives of the Somali people. Have the so called the Somali civilian government of the sixties ever used a Constitution? And if so, which court or courts heard a case against whom; what high profile disputes where resolved using a Somali Constitution?

The Constitution was written but the successive governments never used the document to govern the country and its people. And similarly, Siyad Barre’s colourful Scientific Socialist’s Constitution had never been used by the Somali people and their institutions at the time? In fact I don’t think that any Somali individual ever used or ever needed the support of a Somali Constitution to put an argument across, let alone win it. Somali people utilised in the past and relied upon to some other tools other than a Constitution to get by and to get on with others.

And although the world is more complicated than the seventies and even the nineties, and the human beings increasingly depend on legal documentations in these difficult times, I do not understand what the fuss is about in the run up to the August 2012 deadline set by the London Conference on Somalia? The London Conference on Somalia should have thrown out the item called ‘the Constitution’ from the so called the road map.

The the road map was written in Kampala, Uganda, and Uganda is hardly an example in the countries that respect their Constitutions. The organisers of the LCS disastrously overlooked the fact that a Constitution for Somalia may be going to complicate their time table in the run up to August 2012. That time table in tatters now. Somalia has other extremely urgent priorities than a Constitution right now. Somalia needs basic institutions building.

I think this latest move about a Constitution is designed to start a new cycle of violence with which to further complicate the situation and start a new conflict among the Somali people. But who would want to restart a new conflict in the world’s worst failed nation state? This is for everyone’s guess. Whose ideas was it in the first place to bring this alien and sensitive subject before securing the country and strengthening its institutions?

In Iraq, for example, the Constitution was drafted three years after the invasion of the country by the United States and it was voted for in a country wide referendum by the Iraqis in October 2005 before being adopted as the country’s governing document. And unlike the United States, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland does not have a single document called ‘the Constitution’ that modifies the way its political institutions function. Britain’s Constitution evolved over many centuries. In one of the UK’s governing documents, the Magna Carta, which protects the rights of communities against the Crown, for example, was written in 1215. And the Bill of Rights which extended the powers of the Parliament was put together more than four hundred years later in 1689. Why put the cart before the horse?

If the so called the Draft Somali Constitution is approved tomorrow, what immediate or medium term benefits for that matter will it bring to the long suffering people of Somalia and her Diaspora communities? Isn’t it possible to have one paper that sets out the development plan for the country’s institutions, including the security services, and wait what comes next? As one famous Nigerian thinker and politician put it, ‘can you eat the Constitution’? I have more questions than I can fit in this space but sadly I have no answers.

If a Somali Constitution is adopted tomorrow and it is written on a 100gm conqueror paper, which Somali national institution will use it to safeguard the ordinary people’s rights? Is it Faroole’s or Siilaanyo’s? Or is it Indha-Adde’s or Sharif Sakiin’s? Please tell me. The Somalia Constitution, I strongly believe, will have to wait until the country is secured. If you, the International Community, helped us out in drafting a Constitution, please keep it for us in a safe house, perhaps at the United Nation’s headquarters in New York or Geneva, thank you. We will ask for it when we need it or when the time is right, whichever is sooner.

Meanwhile, I heard the other day that Indha-Adde objected to the Human Rights clause and Puntland’s Faroole objected to the Federal clause. Do you know what these two fear most in the Draft Constitution? Is there a particular clause that is designed to be used against any of the two in future Federal Somalia’s courts of law? Also do they know if they will be alive when the justice system in Somalia takes off? Or surprisingly, do they know that they are the only thugs and criminals in the former Somali republic; are they so sure about that? A lot has gone on for so long, they must just be paranoid. Most of the so called parliamentarians also objected to some sort of clauses in the Draft Constitution. Don’t mention the Shebaab terror group which rejected the document wholesale. And Somaliland has declined to participate in it in the process.

Please let me highlight a classic demonstration of a functioning society and her Constitution: Mark Fuhrman, the California detective who had prosecuted O.J Simpson in the mid 90s, used so forcefully, albeit unsuccessfully, the United States Constitution more than three cross examinations sessions during the trail. If you are old enough to remember you may recall him say again and again from the witness box: ‘I take the Fifth Amendment.’

The Fifth Amendment refers to ‘the US citizen’s right to silence during cross examinations and/or interrogations at detention facilities and the courts of law’. Mark Fuhrman was put to pieces by Johnny Cochran, who died a few years back: ‘Have you ever called a Black man a nigger or addressed the Black people as niggers in the past ten years, detective Fuhrman’? He never thought Johnny had a tape in his possessions in the brown briefcase that rested next to him! What a Constitution with properly functioning society.

I have not read the new Somali Constitution but if it contained such rights, would Faroole or Siilaanyo respect it if I was in the dock at Garoowe or Hargeisa courts? If I uttered such words, the packed courthouse, including the presiding judge, would have laughed at me as though I am in contempt of court or they would have wandered whether I have some sort of mental illness, and I would have been promptly handcuffed, possibly beating en route to my overcrowded and dirty cell in one of their prisons where there is no food or water. Most probable outcome: death. So why do the Somalis need a Constitution at this point in time? In order to have a Constitution, I believe that the society in which the Constitution is meant to govern must be functioning properly, I mean educationally, economically and socially.

If the Draft Constitution is made a priority as it is the case now, Somalis should be aware that a fifth column is at work: a group that is not among the Somalia groups. Wake up, men – and women too! If this is not true, tell me what else does this Constitution thing is about. The Shabaab still hold the fertile land of the Juba Valley more than four months after the Kenyans moved in from across the border, bombs go off sporadically in our capital, and Somali kids die every day helplessly in the high seas as the usual conflict-related famine is around the corner if political settlement is not found in the next few months.

All the while, nearly 25,000 African troops – and increasing by the week – are on the ground inside Somalia, together with the estimated 10,000 foreign terrorists. To make things worse, a criminal gang of South African and Canadian oil prospecting firms have now sneaked through into the country and are scrambling for the Somali natural resources without proper documentations from a Somali State, with almost 100% of the find in their pockets. Come on, are the Somalis insane?

Please avoid the Somali media while the debate on the Somali Draft Constitution rumbles on. I suggest that you go online and follow the Olympic hopefuls in the upcoming London games this summer.


Abdul Ghelleh

Email: abdulghelleh@gmail.com

My contributions to the world famous fiction, the Animal Farm:
‘Somalia: What We Want? We Want A Constitution. When We Want It? We Want It Naaw!’

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