Somalia’s Supreme court abdicates its role to adjudicate on electoral disputes

By Hikam Dahir

As the final arbiter, the supreme court is the guardian of the constitution and its function is to make sure that everyone gets a fair treatment before the law but it does not came as a surprise to many that our supreme court is not so supreme given the fragility of our institutions.

For the sake of clarity, I am not here to criticize the supreme court itself as an institution or the chief justice as a person; I will rather try to challenge the prevailling orthodoxy which says the supreme court has no business in adjudicating on an electoral dispute in the context of 17 September agreement.

Since it is the highest authority where citizens can go for justice, the supreme court is supposed to deliver consequential and life changing decisions while upholding the law of the land and protecting the interest of the people.

One has to wonder then what is the point of having a supreme court if it is not able and prepared to act whenever it becomes aware of breaches by government branches or non-governmental forces trying to violate the fundamental rights of the Somali people.

On the 9th of April, to his credit, Fahad Yassin chose to take his case to the supreme court, keeping in mind that it is the last institution where citizens can turn to when they feel their rights are infringed upon.

The supreme court did not dismiss the case out of hand as some people predicted nor did it challenge the plaintiff’s right to take the accused to court. To the contrary, the court immediately notified the defendants namely FEIT, but unexpectedly concluded that it has no jurisdiction to decide on the case at hand.

Regardless of our different opinions about the incumbent adminstration or Fahad Yassin, I think we all agree that the supreme court should never abdicate its role to decide on cases that other beaches of the judiciary are incapable of addressing due to the complexity of the case between a citizen and a divided, quasi-governmental organization (FEIT).

It is understandable that the public was particularly interested the verdict of this high profile case, however, to the dismay of many, myself included, the court took an abrupt turn when the chief justice announced that it was not worth the excercise because he has no jurisdiction over the case.

It is my view that this was a very unsavoury precedent even for the standards of our semi-independent judicial system that is recovering from the institutional crumbling caused by the state collapse.

Hikam Dahir, Switzerland