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Somalia constitution review gains momentum amid opposition


Friday May 24, 2024
By ABDULKADIR KHALIF

Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has won over key federal state leaders to amend the first four chapters of the constitution, part of the promise he made when he came to power two years ago.

But he must now contend with those who see the process as flawed.

The details emerged last week when the National Consultative Council (NCC) he chairs met for the 9th time and agreed on a way forward.

The NCC is a caucus between the President, his Prime Minister Hamza Barre, Deputy Prime Minister Salah Ahmed Jama in the attendance of the leaders of four Federal Member States (FMS): Jubbaland, Galmudug, Hirshabelle and South West states plus the Mayor of Mogadishu.

Puntland boycotted the meeting but President Mohamud may rest easy for now because a majority of the states backed him in spite of initial rumours they won’t attend.

One of his other opponents, ex-president Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo, warned that the outcome of the NCC meeting will worsen the political tension and damage state-building and unity of the nation.

“Ignoring the genuine concerns of Puntland in regards the way the meetings are conducted is utter disregard of democratisation of the country,” Farmaajo stressed, reiterating the dictum that Puntland is the ‘mother of Somalia’s federalisation.’

Puntland State President Said Abdullahi Deni claimed he had been sidelined.

“Decisions made by a few people do not truly represent the community’s view, standing for waste of time,” Deni remarked.

“I hope common sense prevails and these individuals (NCC meeting participants) consider the complexity of the country’s situation.”

The NCC said they will go ahead with their earlier plans to endorse four chapters of the constitution which the federal parliament had identified and approved for review. The bone of contention, however, remains on security and structures that will run it.

On Sunday, former Somalia president Sharif Sheikh Ahmed used the social media of Himilo Qaran, the political party he chairs, to express his opposition to the NCC continuing to come up with disappointing results.

“What we are seeing and hearing is not what the people have been expecting.”

Many politicians like former prime minister Hassan Ali Khayre who together with follow former prime ministers, Omar Abdirashid Sharmarke and Abdiweli Ali Gas criticised back in March the lack of wide consultations when dealing with the constitution.

One other points generating controversies is the choice of the NCC meeting participants agreeing to synchronise all elections at federal and member states levels. Many view the simultaneous election timetable as favouring state presidents whose tenure is lapsing, and they embrace the concurrent elections as term extensions.

A reviewed constitution will likely wipe out any terms they have served. But it will also grant more time for them in office as a transition period.

Somalia has always haggled over its constitution over the last decade. The NCC has pushed for proposals such as limiting the multiparty system to three parties, and the election of the president directly by the voters.

The popularly elected president, according to the endorsed four chapters of the constitution will have powers to appoint and fire ministers without parliamentary role.

Dr Afyare Abdi Elmi, a researcher professor at City University in Mogadishu, expressed dismay when the first four chapters were endorsed.

“In reality, almost every article and/or clause has been either modified or changed. Many new articles and clauses have been introduced,” Dr Elmi stated.

“If the remaining chapters of the constitution mirror the four chapters presented here, it is going to be a new constitution,” he added.

NCC had proposed for elections to take place in June 2024 and state presidential elections by November 2024 via a three-party system. But this was seen as impossible, considering the country’s security situation.

However, delaying the election to unify the terms could be seen as a backdoor extension of terms for those who have finished theirs.

Hassan Ahmed Aidarus, a political observer in Mogadishu, is not surprised by the opposition from former leaders.

“They know what they are talking about, based on their experience,” Aidarus told The EastAfrican.

He quoted a local Somali proverb: “You cannot hide behind a tree from a man who himself hides behind a tree,” referring to an attempt at game of wits.

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