The Somali Federal System Isn’t a Bogeyman

Mogadishu (PP Editorial) — On the thirtieth anniversary of the ouster of the military regime in 1991, and subsequent state collapse in Somalia, a former Somali Presidential Candidate Ali Haji Warsame argued that centralism had sped up the state collapse when Mogadishu had became ungovernable in 1991.

“30 years ago today, Somali government totally collapsed because whole government was confined in one city state, the capital Mogadishu. Thanks to the federal system, the law of the land now, Somalia will never be the same & not totally collapse anew. Lessons learned” tweeted Warsame.

Poles apart: Abdi Garad (left) mischaracterises the federal system as “clan federations” whereas Ali Haji Warsame (right) views it as an antidote to state collapse.

This sentiment provokes an unjustified response from certain people who fail to make a distinction between failures of the Somali politicians and  the core principles of a federal system as an antidote to state failure and steppingstone to state-building. Warsame’s empirical argument has drawn the attention of Abdi Garad, a PhD candidate in security and state-building at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom.

“The thoughts suggesting #Somalia collapsed because of being a central state is (sic) too trivial. Also, thinking a Westphalian state based on clannism is another mudbank. Finally, as per the learned ones: @ababkal1 and @AbdiwahabSheik7 options are not limited to the clan federations” tweeted Garad.

The argument that the Somali federal system resulted in establishment of “clan federations” is far-fetched. For the first time in Somalia’s post-colonial period substantive political power is being exercised at regional levels without extensive micromanaging from the centre. Collapse of the state has made federalism a default political system in Somalia.

Only yesterday did the former Somali Prime Minister Hassan Ali Kheire, who views Mogadishu as his stronghold, call for a deal on the Somali elections before the end of the incumbent Somali President’s term.  Term extension has precedent in post 2004 Somali politics.  The subtle political message in Kheire’s statement underscores the need to prevent politicians from plunging Somalia into a civil strife by exploiting their fiefdom advantages.

Fiefdom misuse for political purposes predates the Somali federal system. It has been an essential feature of post-1991 politics in Somalia.  It is better to rely upon poorly performing federal member states, where there is room for improvement, than put one’s trust in a Damuljadiid or Aala Sheikh clique or their offshoots.  The futue of Somalia lies in more decentralisation. The federal system was conceived to attain that goal.  It is not the fault of the Somali federal system that the progress towards that goal has been slow.

© Puntland Post, 2021