Federalism, a Guarantor of Peace among Somali Clans

By Ismail Warsame

February 6, 2013

Nowadays and for while during the past two decades, Somali thinkers, writers and politicians were keenly debating on best way forward for Somalia’sgovernance and political arrangements Post-Civil War. This debate is extremelycrucial for the survival of Somalia as a country as well as a strong cohesive nation-state.

While many among debaters were and are still sincerelyl ooking for best possible governance system (s) and pros and cons of each ofthe “Menu of options”, a few of them continue to ignore the status quo (current Somalia’s political situation) dismissing it as sidetrack and unimportant clannish nuisance or refuse to acknowledge the extent ofpublic mistrust following the vicious civil war involving heinous crimes of ethnic cleansing, mass murder, forceful and illegal landing-grabbing, plunder of both public and private wealth and barbaric destruction of national heritageand state archives in Mogadishu and elsewhere.

In my humble opinion, any politician of conscience at any level of government (President, Cabinet and parliament members) whose political power base had committed such grave and gross human rights abuses, national robbery, national betrayal and treason should apologize to the nation and resign immediately. If that is not forthcoming, it would be mean that the civilwar is still technically on, and there is no guarantee that history would not repeat itself. Such politicians have no moral legitimacy to govern until they come clear and publicly accept their personal and power-base responsibilities for what happened in Somalia during the Barre regime and following the final collapse of Somalia’s central state in 1991. Somalis, please be warned. One should never entertainwith the idea to translate the recent US recognition of the current Somali Government as a victory of one faction over others in theCivil War, and again attempt to misuse state resources to try to subjugate others. That would be a futile exercise and would unfortunately hasten the disintegration of Somalia as we know it. It is the expectation of all Somalis from the world community to watch out any signs for the repetition of that sad saga.

During the past ten years we witness multiple self-proclamations of regional federal mini-states such as Makhir State,Khatumo State,Awdal State,Galgamud State, Hibin and Heeb State, Asania State,Ras Asayr Stateamong many others. With keen observation, one would realize that those self-proclamations were characteristically peaceful and surprisingly did not spark off any clan fighting with the unique exception of Khatumo, rightly resisting aggressive occupation of its territory by “Somaliland”militia. Why? This could be a case-study; of all clan wars in the country, the self-proclaimed federal mini-states brought relative peace to their respective constituencies.  In my opinion, one ofthe main reasons for such peaceful environment within for all sub-clan systemsis the fact that their constituencies see themselves as equal stake-holders inthat mini-entity (state), which acts as the accepted and shared mechanism for conflicts resolution and constitutes common interest for all. Logically and practically, one would therefore take note of this new development to expand the concept to a national level in Somalia’s long journey to restore lost trust among its people and regions.

For historical prerspective, a few months after we had established the Puntland State of Somalia in August 1998, a sub-sub-subclan among the inhabitants of coastal Indian Ocean Mudugh town of Gara’ad andsurrounding areas including the District City of Jeriiban unilaterally announced the creation of Coastal State, declaring its independence fromPuntland State, following sub-clan grievances regarding their expected share inthe newly constituted Puntland Parliament. That grievance was actually proved to be the mistake or intentional concession of their allocated Parliament seatto another sub-clan in Mudugh Region by their local traditional elder. The subclan members opposed the move by the elder. To address the issue and resolveit, a delegation led by the Late State President, Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed and meincluded, went to the District and met with all stake-holders. One of the first questions we asked our interlocutors was: “How many sub-subclans belong to orcreated the Coastal State, and how many regions are there in the proclaimed entity?” The audience looked at each other,and surprisingly, the answer was obvious. The District belonged to the larger Mudugh Region and even most of the inhabitants of the Jeriiban District alone via their representatives did not belong to and were not party to the “Coastal State”. That was the end of the story. I believe, Coastal State was the first unviable mini-state created in Somalia.

The lesson we learned from that experience was that a statewhether it is a national or regional must enjoy the trust of all its constituencies to survive, safeguard its unity, develop and prosper in peace and harmony. Anyone aspiring to see the Somalia he or she wants or imagines must take this lesson seriously into account.

Those Somali writers debating on federalism lately almostall of them ignore the fundamental reason for the debate itself on the issueand failed to find the answers to two critical questions:

What is the main reason that has brought us here to debate on Somalia’s governance options?

How would you restore trust of the people nation-wide in a central authority when people of Somalia have not yet officially and technically ended the Civil War in the absence of comprehensive national reconciliation given what happened?

President Hassan, in athoughtful, prepared and defiant speech to the Somali Diaspora in his recentvisits to US and Belgium says openly, “ if you look back on what happenedyesterday, you lose the opportunities of today”, thus dismissing outright any possibility for accountability for crimes of mass murder, crude human rights abuses, robbery and plunder of personal and public properties. With such a vision for Somalia,forget about reconciliation and peaceful conflict resolutions!

Finally, I am aware that many Somalis would like to give thecurrent government in Mogadishu the benefit of the doubt and wish her to succeed in the best interest of the entire nation. To those I say the taste of pudding is in the eating. Anyone who helps Somaliare cover from its present predicament will be highly appreciated and undoubtedly recognized.


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