The Federalism Debate: Beware of a Quick Fix

As the combined forces of the Somali national Army and AMISOM are taking armed offensives to the last remaining strategic holdouts of Alshabab, a political storm is raging in most regions recently recovered from the grip of Alshabab forces-from the Jubba regions in the southern most area of Somalia, to Bay, Bakool, Lower Shabelle, Middle Shabelle, Hiiraan, Galgaduud and beyond.

The genesis of these conflicts are centered around opposing views on governance configurations for these regions, and most particularly on competing interpretations of the federating process articulated under the Somali Provisional Constitution, which was adopted in August 2012. The result is the chaotic manner in which various politicians/strong men are making a constellation of arbitrary claims on putative federal units that are merely and realistically mirages, and in processes that are not compatible with the relevant provisions of the constitution; hence, the claims and counter-claims of territories on overlapping regions: the six state South West state (Lower Shabelle, Bay, Bakool, Gedo, Lower Jubba and Upper Jubba) on overlapping territories of the Jubbas (Gedo, Lower Jubba and Upper Jubba,) Three State South West state (  Lower Shabelle, Bay and Bakool) on overlapping territories of the South West state and the new Shabelle State( lower Shabelle and Middle Shabelle) on overlapping territories of the Three State South West state.

More worrying though for policy makers, is the fact that there is an undercurrent of clan chauvinism driving the proliferation of these copycat claims and counter claims for power and land that if not properly managed , could cause a renewed clan conflict and civil war.

The purpose of this paper is to advance the thrust and substance of the debate on the constitutional dimensions touching on governance, formation of civil administrations in the regions and the contentious issue of Federalism, a governance model agreed upon by then stakeholders in 2004 in Embagathi, Kenya, reflected in the 2004 Transitional Charter and subsequently enshrined in the current Provisional Constitution. The paper further would explore viable and peaceful options on the way forward taking into account diverse political views on these subjects, and the clan and regional grievances seemingly shaping these opposing and trenchant views.