The difficulty in the 4.5 lies in the fact that its authors fell short when it comes to power-sharing, to be exact, in the allocation of parliamentary seats among stake-holders within each clan. This is where everybody feels injustice done in Mbagati Conference of 2002-2004 because of the unacceptable political concessions made to accommodate unjustified sub-clan demands in an attempt to diffuse internal conflicts within each clan. That approach to the problem had created a situation, where sub-clans continue to hold on to those seats as their right and ignore the fact that the allocation was a temporary political compromise and subject to change, while others feel left out of the new Somalia political arrangements.
This is why Somalis complain about the 4.5 formula. I see no easy resolution of this issue at the moment until that time Somalia stands strongly on its feet once again and able to hold a free and fair general election.
For clarification purpose and to understand the complexities or difficulties cascading from the 4.5 formula, one must be briefed on how the concept was devised in the first place during the long process of the national reconciliation (see also An Open Letter to the New Members of the SomaliParliament ).
Following the collapse of the Somali central government in 1991, Southern clans claimed that they were not only the victors of the Civil War, but also have the biggest share of the Somali population. This claim was not based on credible statistics or population census. Seemingly powerful warlords then in Mogadishu spearheaded this claim with massive propaganda within foreign diplomatic circles and humanitarian organizations involved in the tragic Somalia story. The advantage of these warlords in disseminating this fallacy effectively to the outside world was that they were in charge of the Capital, Mogadishu. Somalia being a one City State at that time, that argument was powerful and the outside world started to buy it.
As the country fell into clan enclaves and de facto decentralization, talks of national reconciliation had to be started to bring the nation back together again. A series of such efforts hit the rocks. These initial talks took place in Mogadishu, Nairobi, Djibouti, all ending up in abysmal failure and creating more confusion on how to get out of the quagmire we had created in Somalia’s political vacuum.
In 1996 the National Salvation Council (NSC) known as The Sodere Group was formed in Ethiopia. The initiative to bring Somali stake-holders together in another attempt in the town of Sodere outside Addis Ababa belongs to the Late Somali President, Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed. Incidentally, in London, UK, where Abdullahi was receiving a medical attention at that time, I was the one who drafted Yusuf’s letter to the Late Prime Minister of Ethiopia, requesting for the latter’s help in hosting such gathering. Meles Zenawi positively responded to Yusuf’s request immediately.
Within a matter of months, the Sodere Group was formally formed with a Central Committee and Executive Branch with five Co-chairmen ( Abdullahi Yusuf, Osman Atto, Abdulkadir Soobe, General Aden Gabyow and Ali Mahdi) representing all major and minor political fronts of Somalia save Somaliland and Salbalaar (Hussein faction) entity.
Subsequently, in 1997 The NSC members agreed upon and resolved to organize a national congress in Bosaso, Northeast Somalia (now Puntland State of Somalia) to form a broad-based government. You may recall that the Arta Conference big tents were bought by OAU /IGAD/Partners and shipped to Bosaso. They were returned from Bosaso to IGAD Secretariat in Djibouti as Egypt sabotaged that Conference. The difficulty in organizing such a gathering though lied in the allocation and distribution of delegates along clan lines while still Mogadishu warlords demand a lion’s share of the delegates. To resolve this issue, separate talks between Hawie and Darood faction leaders took place in Sodere in early 1997. In those meetings, the only credible Somali populations found was that one organized and conducted by the United Nations in 1950s in which Darood numbered 38% and Hawie 22%. Hawie faction leaders had to recognize that census, but requested for Hawie to be equal with Darood in the spirit of national reconciliation. Darood faction leaders accepted that request.
What happened next was that Digil and Mirifle faction leader, Abdulkadir Soobe, approached Darood leaders and requested for the same treatment for his clan to be equal with Hawie. After initial consultations among the Daroods, Digil and Mirifle was given the same equal status in clan numerical proportionality. In turn, Hawie, Darood and Digil and Mirifle gave Northern and Southern Dir clans equal clan status as well, designating the remainder of the population as “others” at that time translating to a half ( 50%) of a major clan.
Following the failure of the Somali Conference in Cairo towards the end of 1997, which brought NSC and Salbalaar together with a hidden Egyptian intention to foil the scheduled Bosaso Congress with the help of Ethiopian leaders’ naivety on Somali politics, the 4.5 Somali Clan Power-sharing Formula was applied for the first time in Arta (Djibouti) Conference of 2000 as the basis of Abdulqassim Hassan Government.
Another thing worth mentioning here was the historical outcome of the Cairo Conference despite its failure. This was:
The Collapse of NSC and Salbalaar
The agreement and resolution by Cairo Conference participants, in principle, to form the future Somali governance institution on the basis of federalism, a long time SSDF demand.
To conclude, our people should choose to see the bigger picture, which is Somalia as a secure, viable, democratic and prosperous nation. If 4.5 Formula is a bitter medicine along the way to achieve that noble goal, let us close our eyes and swallow it.
The author is the former Puntland Presidency Chief of Staff and long-time participant of most Somali National Reconciliation Process since 1995. He lives in Toronto, Canada.
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