One can’t help but notice the symbolism in ushering in a new administration on National Youth Day; the 15th of May. President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud’s ascension to power, the second time in almost ten years, comes at a time when this young republic is crying for significant reforms.
Of course, it would be naïve to expect any administration to fix Somalia’s exhaustive list of ills in one term, nonetheless, there are steps it can immediately take to bring about real change. Below are some issues that need an immediate tending to.
Finalising the constitution
You would have to have lived under a rock to not have noticed that Somalia’s setbacks, to put it mildly, be it the usurpation of electoral power by regional administrations and the parameters of their reach, President Farmaajo’s attempt to grant himself two extra years in office and the resulting armed conflict between him and the opposition, the role, or lack thereof, of the Federal Parliament, all stemmed from the absence of a permanent constitution and the courts that would safeguard it.
There is a list of issues that should not be politicised, and the constitution is on top of that list. One grave mistake successive administrations have made is to handover this critical job to a political body. To do away with its time consuming cabinet reshuffles, the unfortunate dismissals of prime ministers (each of the last five presidents had at least two prime ministers, most of them three), the Ministry of Constitutional Affairs should be abolished and the job of working on the constitution should be given to a committee of unpolitical experts. This committee should be vetted and approved by parliament. To make this committee fully independent, it should be given the security of tenure. When the constitution is finally approved the same committee of experts that worked on it should be consulted with to set up a constitutional court that would settle all matters of constitutional disputes.
One issue that is closely interlinked with finalising the constitution is addressing the Somaliland question. You can’t simply afford to have a question mark hovering above the unity of your state, nor can you afford to legitimately finalise the constitution when a large swathe of your territory is missing.
To yield a satisfactory result, a genuine attempt at addressing this issue is needed. This is one topic that does not need to be rushed, but rather gently and empathetically worked on. Given that Mogadishu is dealing with Somaliland, an entity whose entire thirty-year existence is intertwined with its quest for independence, a group of apolitical experts, Similar to that of the constitution, should be set up to study and finally solve it. Gone should be the days when ill-prepared, incendiary, and problematic individuals were sent to hold talks with veterans of the matter from the North.
The obsession to hold one person, one vote elections at a stage when the electoral infrastructure needed to hold sound nationwide elections is not up to scratch seems irrational at best and dangerously irresponsible at worst. Given the security situation of the country, the idea that voters will queue up at polling stations up and down the country seems fanciful. While the security situation is being improved, the ideal steps to take is to set up a truly independent electoral commission mandated to deliver universal suffrage within a reasonable time. Again, with the security of tenure, this body of experts, some hired, if necessary, from overseas for their track record, should be vetted, and approved by parliament and should present their progress to parliament at least three times a year. This transparency would ensure trust in their progress.
In the meantime, indirect elections are conducted in a fair manner where the legitimate traditional elders are given their rightful duties to select delegates and allow all who are willing to run should be adequate. The problem with past indirect elections is not the fact that they were indirect per se, but the way they were conducted. Indirect elections held in a fair manner should be more desirable than haphazard and pretentious universal suffrage chosen merely for its resemblance to real progress. The goal should not be to have elections for the sake of it, rather the goal should be to have a robust and functioning democratic Somalia.
In short, to leave behind a tangible legacy, President Mohamud’s second outing as a president, the era of superficial, incompetent, and politically motivated ad hoc committees should be a thing of the past.
Securing Somalia is a priority for any government, and President Mohamud’s government is no exception. As the President himself made it clear in this interview, his administration will, in the first 100 days, work on to pass the legal framework needed to fully federalise the security agencies in order to form a coherent national security apparatus that can secure the whole country. However, one aspect that is neglected and needs looking at is the national identification program. Although this program has been in the pipeline at least since 2018, it must be expedited and implemented as soon as possible.
Apart from the act itself, the worst aspect of the crimes committed in Somalia is the inability to investigate it because almost 100% of the population is unaccounted for. Therefore, a national identification program complete with its biometric database is badly needed.
National Identification is also needed for immigration purposes. As things stand now, literally any ethnic Somali from any other part of the world can walk right in, claim to be a citizen, and get a spanking new Somali passport. This is precisely why countless international terrorists found it so easy to settle in the country. For Somalia to be safe, this must change. Of course, this is not to say that ethnic Somalis from outside Somalia cannot be citizens, but until the illusive citizenship law is passed, they just must opt in to register and be accounted for.
To ensure that Somalia is, once and for all, out of the political quagmire it repeatedly finds itself in and restored to its former secure and democratic glory of the 1960s, all these reforms must be carried out.