This summer, as Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government nears the end of its mandate, the country has a number of deadlines to meet in a political transition meant to culminate in the August 20 presidential election. These deadlines, as originally set, include:
- By June 20, Somalia must assemble a National Constituent Assembly whose members will meet in Mogadishu by June 30.
- By July 10, Somalia must adopt a new constitution.
- By July 20, Somalia must swear in a new parliament with 225 members selected by elders.
- On August 4, the parliament will elect a speaker and deputy speaker.
- These MPs will then elect the next president by August 20.
The next step in the so-called “Roadmap Process” is for a group of 135 elders representing the various clans to select the 825 members of the National Constituent Assembly who will vote for a new parliament, constitution, and president.
The constituent assembly is scheduled to convene July 12, but the elders still have not presented the names.
Chairman of the Hawiye clan elders, Mohamed Hassan Haad, says the council first wants a chance to review the draft constitution.
U.N. Special Representative for Somalia Augustine Mahiga says the elders have a right to express their concerns, but they do not have the authority to make decisions about the constitution, and certainly not to withhold the names for the constituent assembly.
Some Somalis, VOA continues, feel that the draft constitution “is being forced upon them by the United Nations.” Complicating the transition, then, are not only power struggles between Somalis and Somalis, but also between Somalis and external partners.
Assuming that Somalia makes the August 20 deadline for holding presidential elections, some voices are starting to say that the real work – or, some say, the real problems – will begin only after the “transition” is complete. Mahiga recently wrote in an open letter to Somalis that “the end of the transitional period will be an important benchmark, but it is time for us all to begin to look past 20 August and think about the future political dispensation of Somalia.” After August, the draft constitution will be put to a popular referendum, an event that could cause major debate and conflict.
Dr. Michael Weinstein argues that the core unresolved problem in the transition is the issue of federalism and the nature of the state:
What kind of “transition” will occur on August 20 when the very structure of the state has not been determined – whether it will be unitary, decentralized unitary, federal, or confederal? The question of the nature of the state is both the most fundamental and the most divisive political issue in Somalia. The reason why it has not been resolved in the “draft provisional constitution” is that it is so divisive…The T.F.G. was a more coherent structure than the one that will replace it; at least the T .F.G. had a completed charter.
In what seems like an early warning shot in the debate over federalism, the TFG’s minister for home affairs recently made news by stating that the government recognizes none of the country’s many self-declared autonomous regions.
Weinstein goes on to outline other issues, including accountability for the new government, political divisions within parliament, the relationship of Somalia to the donor community, etc. He concludes pessimistically, saying that at best, Somalia faces “a transition to a transition”: “The territories of post-independence Somalia now face a new four-year transition with a presumptive government that replicates the one that it will replace.” He writes that there could be substantial continuity in the new government in terms of personnel. Indeed, current President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed may well win re-election.
What do you think? Is the transition hollow? What do you expect will happen after August 20?